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Olympic medals best gift to UB on its 73rd year

OUR HOME. Aira Villegas, 2nd left, poses with former Baguio mayor Reinaldo Bautista, Jr., a member of the Bautista clan that owns University of Baguio. With them are former UB and national boxing coach Glicerio Catolico, Jr. (right) and athletic director Alan Elegado. Pigeon Lobien / RNG Luzon

Three medals – two silver and a bronze – are the best gift the University of Baguio received on its 73rd year.

The gold medals may not have materialized when Nesthy Petecio fell to Sena Irie last August 3, and Carlo Paalam came short of a third round rally from a first round knockdown last August 7, but UB officials are quite happy.

“This is the best gift for us,” said UB athletic director Alan Elegado, right after Paalam lost to Great Britain’s Galal Yafai in the men’s flyweight championship at the Kokugikan Arena.

Elegado turned on the two giant led walls at the UB Cardinals gym where school executives, teachers, former hotel and restaurant professor and former Baguio city mayor Reinaldo Bautista, Jr. came to watch their student athlete vie for the elusive gold for the Philippine boxing team.

He failed when a flurry of punches Yafai rained on him connected at the corner during the first round that saw the former scavenger from Cagayan de Oro hit the floor. His last round effort netted wins on all five judges’ card but not enough to overturn the lead the Yemeni immigrant built in the first two rounds.

“But that is still a win. We have two silver medals and bronze,” summed Elegado.

Petecio finished an associate course at the School of International Hotel Management of UB and was enrolled after her Amateur International Boxing Association win in October 2019, but training and fights abroad to qualify for the Tokyo Olympics took precedence.

And with the Covid-19 pandemic that practically shuttered school doors leading to online classes, Petecio went home to train under her father, Norlan, in Davao del Sur during the latter half of 2020.

“They had to take a leave of absence,” said Elegado.

“I have been here for nine years and ate Nesthy, ate Irish (Magno) and ate Josie (Gabuco) were all ahead of me,” said the 25 year old Aira Villegas, who in the 2019 Southeast Asian Games won a bronze medal.

The bantamweight from Tacloban City, Leyte may not be homegrown, “but I call Baguio my home now. I was only 16 when I got here and they (Petecio, Magno and Gabuco) were already here,” she said in the vernacular.

She said that she arrived in December 2012, before typhoon Yolanda inundated much of her home city. “I vote here and I have been residing here,” added Villegas who has moved out of the Philippine boxing team quarters at the Baguio Teachers Camp.

Magno and Gabuco, a former world champion, are criminology students, while Villegas is to set foot at UB’s School of Education and Liberal Arts. UB has started accepting enrollees for the first semester of the 2021-2022 academic year.

Villegas was acknowledged a Baguio athlete last January when she received the PhP10,000 for a bronze medalist in the SEAG. Petecio and Paalam got PhP30,000 each and Magno got PhP20,000. It was thanks to the city council which approved their athletes’ incentive after Magno’s younger sister, Cheryl, a former member of UB’s women’s basketball team presented their documents including voter’s ID card. The younger Magno received their pay-off since they were already in Calamba, Laguna at the Inspire Sports Academy for their bubble training.

Eumir Marcial, who lost to Ukranian Oleksandr Khyzhniak in the semifinals to settle for bronze, was enrolled at UB’s SIHTM in 2015. But it was only a semester and was then gone due to his commitment to train and fight abroad.

The youngest, Paalam, at 23, was at the school’s senior high school when he was called to fight for country and flag in 2018.

“He took up in cookery and we used to help him pay for the ingredients,” said Elegado, whose staff of coaches from the different sport discipline used to feast on Paalam’s cooking.

In fact, the school even shelled out for their allowance when they left, Petecio, Paalam and Magno received PhP20,000 each, while Marcial, whose request came a little late, was given half of that.

Education While in Baguio

“What UB gives them is education. It is the best we can give,” said former mayor Bautista, head of the Association of Boxing Alliances in the Cordillera and Northern Luzon.

Bautista made the call and urged his relatives to take in the national boxers as student scholars while training here, since the BTC has been the boxing headquarters in the country.

The third generation member of the school founded in August 8, 1948 by his grandfather Fernando, Sr. only wanted to continue with the legacy by his forebear.

“It was Lolo Tatay (Fernando, Sr.) who started it due to his love for sport and when the athletes started training here during the Gintong Alay days, he thought that it would be best if they will have education too,” said Reinaldo, Jr.

But it was his father, Reynaldo, Sr., who set the deal in stone as he was then the school president.

“It was my father who opened the doors to the athletes,” he said referring to sports legends Lydia de Vega, Isidro del Prado and Mountain Province born but Baguio developed Hector Begeo and several of their runners who later on become national athletes under Gintong Alay.

“When coach Tony Benzon said that high altitude training is a must for all Gintong Alay athletes, then Lydia de Vega cross enrolled in UB, together with the rest,” said Reynaldo, Sr.

Former UB president Herminio, younger brother of Reynaldo, Sr. and father of present president Javier Herminio said that “all track and field athletes always got a small monetary gift from Tatay.”

He added that Tatay would give running shoes for them including Olympic athlete and all “athletes training in Baguio City are given scholarships at the University of Baguio so that their academic programs are not interrupted.”

“I used to remember a long line of athletes going to international competitions at our old house where Tatay gave them a pair of spike shoes (Asics brand) and US$100 each for their allowance,” said Reinaldo, Jr.

He added that the athletes get a little extra when the UB founder sees them in the competition, since he practically does not want to miss see the Philippines competing.

Fernando, Sr. died in 2002, sadly before the Games 100th year at Athens, Greece in 2004.

In a video message to Elegado last Saturday by Petecio, she thanked UB the support to all student – athletes.

Speaking in behalf of her co-Olympian, she greeted the school on its 73rd year as well as relay the message of all present and past UB student-athletes in whishing the school the best. UB is one of the biggest schools in Northern Luzon with more than 15,000 students.

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