PHILIPPINE sportswriting just lost another institution.
Elizabeth Celis, the grand dame of sportswriting in the country, passed away on Thursday night after a lingering illness.
She was 73.
Beth to friends and Madame Beth or Mama Beth to people in sports, Celis began her writing career in 1971 with the Sunday Times Magazine, becoming among the first women sportswriters in the country.
She was tall and quite a stunner, and wrote in a style uniquely her own.
Her breaking stories and scoops - she was the first one to write about the disbandment of Toyota - as well as interesting inside stories enabled Celis to carve her own niche in a male-dominated field.
Celis' In Huddle column was widely-read from the time it began in Tempo. She wrote the same column for People's Journal, Bulletin, Malaya, and finally, the Philippine Daily Inquirer, where it appeared for the last time on Wednesday.
"Beth was an icon and institution in sportswriting," said sports columnist and broadcaster Quinito Henson, a close friend of the late sportswriter.
"She regaled her wide audience with juicy stories that only she could unravel. She humanized athletes and brought out their best qualities to inspire others."
Celis also authored the sports book Legends and Heroes of Philippne Basketball and for a long time managed the publication of Hardcourt, the official annual of the PBA.
She also served longtime president of the media organization SCOOP as as well as mentor and critic to some of the country's sportswriters and columnists, among them veteran broadcaster Ed Picson.
"She was always very supportive of my late and unlamented foray into column writing years back," said Picson, now the secretary-general of the Association of Boxing Alliances in the Philippines (ABAP), whose family is close to Celis.
"She gave honest, valuable, and helpful feedback which I will always treasure."
Beth was married to former Crispa player Jun Celis, with whom she had four children, including Mon Celis, the former UP Maroon guard and now team manager of NLEX in the PBA.
"Her life revolved around sports which she loved to be around those who shared her passion for sports," Henson continued.
But more than being the respected writer and columnist that she was, Celis was a dear friend and confidante who anyone can count on.
"With Beth as a friend, you could expect kindness, fierce loyalty, and affection," said Picson. "My wife Karina and I are saddened by her passing. Praying for her eternal repose."
Added Henson: "Moreover, she was a special friend. Beth will be very much missed."
Celis' remains will lie in state at St Peter's Chapel along Quezon Ave. beginning on Saturday. Cremation is set for Wednesday.