UNKNOWN to many, a statue in the likeness of Filipino great Rafael ‘Paeng’ Nepomuceno proudly stands in front of the International Bowling Hall of Fame and Museum in Arlington, Texas.
Although privileged with the honor bestowed on him, the only player to win the World Cup four times in three different decades had mixed feelings about it.
“Every athlete’s goal is to be in the Hall of Fame. Ako po ang nasa entrance ng Bowling Hall of Fame and Museum,” shared Nepomuceno, who ruled the World Cup in 1976, 1980, 1992, and 1996.
Unfortunately, Nepomuceno said the same can’t be said here as Filipino sports heroes is not given that kind of attention in the country.
And that’s because sports is the least of priorities not just in government but also in the private sector, according to the youngest bowler ever to win the World Cup at age 19.
The bowling legend, whose accomplishments are all entered in the Guinness Book of World Records, said there are a lot of potential talents in the Philippines who can be tapped to represent the country in international competitions.
Sadly, though, they remained undiscovered or not nurtured to become a better athlete, pointed out the 57-year-old lefty.
“Noong araw, pinag-kakaguluhan kami (bowlers),” Nepomuceno said. “We are a world power in the 70s and the 80s. “Pero sad to say, although we have a lot of talents na puwedeng ma-improve and ma-develop, low ang priority ng sports sa ating bansa.”
“’Yan ang reality,” he added.
Nepomuceno will be one of the 19 Filipino sports legends to be honored in `Pagpupugay’, a noble project spearheaded by noted sports broadcaster Chino Trinidad that hopes to create awareness among Philippine sports heroes who brought home and provide glory to the country.
Others to be feted in the June 12 gala event at the Resorts World Manila are footballer Paulino Alcantara, swimmers Teofilo Yldefonso, Simeon Toribio, and Miguel White, netter Felicisimo Ampon, golfer Ben Arda, bowlers Lita Dela Rosa, Arianne Cerdena, and Bong Coo, billiards legend Efren ‘Bata’ Reyes, basketball star Caloy Loyzaga, and boxers Anthony Villanueva, Mansueto `Onyok’ Velasco, Pancho Villa, Ceferino Garcia, Gabriel ‘Flash’ Elorde, and Manny Pacquiao.
Trinidad said the ‘Pagpupugay’ tribute hopes to inspire the current and future Filipino generation through these sports heroes.
“Gusto ko lang matuto ang kasalukuyang generation. Kapag sinasabing Pilipino kasi, ano ang sinasabi? Vice Ganda, Janet Napoles, Kris Aquino, Cedric Lee, Vhong Navarro, ano ang madudukot natin na greatness sa mga taong ito na pino-portray na as if sila na ang ‘and all’ ng ating lahi,” said Trinidad.
“(These 19 sports legends) hindi lang sila mahuhusay na atleta, ibang klase ang humility nila. We have to learn the value of humility,” said Trinidad.
Nepomuceno, the first male international bowler to be enshrined in the Hall of Fame in 1993, said he’s all-out in supporting Trinidad’s cause.
“Ang Pagpupugay ay timeline ng Philippine sports. Importante at malaking bagay ito. Ang Piliipino people, ma-i-inspire sila sa kakayahan ng Pilipino sa sports with honor and pride,” said the great bowler.