THE man greatly responsible for reviving the amateur boxing program in the country quietly passed away on New Year’s Day.
Former Philippine Sports Commission (PSC) chairman and Amateur Boxing Association of the Philippines (ABAP) president Gemiliano ‘Mel’ Lopez died of cardiac arrest on the first day of the year 2017. He was 81.
His son, Manila 1st district congressman Manny Lopez, relayed the sad news to SPIN.ph on Monday, and said it was truly a ‘bleak New Year’ for the entire family.
“He passed away 6:18 p.m. on Sunday at the St. Luke’s hospital. Nakakalungkot pero ganyan talaga ang buhay,” said the younger Lopez, who succeeded his father as ABAP prexy in 1993 until 2009.
Manny said the Christmas season could have taken its toll on his father, who travelled all the way to Bulacan to join relatives for the holiday festivities.
“Alam mo naman ngayong Christmas season,” he said. “Napagod din siya.”
The Lopez patriarch, a two-time Manila Mayor, assemblyman, and councilor, was head of the country’s amateur boxing association from 1987 to 1993, a term that was highlighted by the consecutive bronze medals won by Leopoldo Serrants and Roel Velasco in the 1988 and 1992 Seoul and Barcelona Olympics, respectively.
Under his watch, ABAP also introduced its popular program ‘Go-For-Gold’ aimed at tapping aspiring and potential members of the national boxing team nationwide.
Lopez stepped down from ABAP in 1993 when he was appointed by former President Ramos as chairman of the PSC, a post he held until 1996.
“He had a vision for Philippine sports and he attained that through the various medals we obtained in the Olympics, Asian Games, and other international events,” said Lopez.
The elder Lopez, among those hurt during the infamous 1971 Plaza Miranda bombing when he was still a Manila councilor, boxed for a few fights as an amateur, according to Manny. He was also into swimming and basketball, who suited up for the Jose Rizal Heavy Bombers in the NCAA.
And yes, he’s also into car racing.
“Marami ang hindi nakakaalam, nag car racing din si Daddy during the time of Dodjie Laurel,” Manny recalled.
The ex-Manila Mayor, namesake of former Lt. Col. Gemiliano Lopez Sr., graduated with a bachelor of science in commercial science at JRU
But Lopez was more known for his work in public office, having been a councilor, assemblyman in the old Batasang Pambansa (1984-86) and Manila mayor (1986-92).
He last served as chairman of the Philippine National Oil Exploration Corporation (PNOEC), an upstream oil, gas, and coal subsidiary of the state-owned Philippine National Oil Company.
As a fitting tribute, Lopez proudly said that his father served the country well both as a sportsman and public servant.
“I think generally speaking he served his country with blind colors,” said the Manila congressman. “He stood for democracy, fought for it, and fought for everyone’s rights, especially the oppressed.”
His body currently lies at Heritage Park in Taguig and will be brought in Tondo – where the family had its roots – on Wednesday. It will then be carried to the Manila City hall by Thursday before going back at Heritage Park in time for Saturday’s burial.