It was a supposed to be a surprise.
That they needed to go to the Baguio athletic bowl to buy lemons.
There, University of the Cordilleras athletics director Danilo Cong-o was already waiting. Cong-o just arrived from Dagupan, Pangasinan on a supposed tour at the Colegio de Dagupan to check on the giant fan that the school hopes to purchase for its gym which is undergoing improvement.
Danny, John and Joy, all children of the late Pedro Mendoza, had asked Cong-o to meet them there with their mom Luzviminda and them withholding the reason for the “date”.
The waiting was longer since Cong-o was a little delayed from his trip. This writer too was late due to work and the traffic. And Danny, Mendoza, had to park somewhere.
It was until the group reached the Heroes Legends walls that the Mendoza children asked if their mother recognizes one of the faces painted on the wall.
Shocked, she sat down a few steps from the Mendoza mural and started crying softly. Looking once in while at the mural, she let the tears flow as Cong-o sat beside her and put his right hand on her shoulder, comforting her.
“It’s him. I miss him,” she said softly in Filipino as tears flowed from her eyes.
Mendoza died in 2017 with him still head of the Philippine Volleyball Federation and after helping the sport to what it is now – the sport that could rival the popularity of basketball.
Before that, he was the Philippine Amateur Track and Field Association regional director for the Cordilleras and at the same time the athletic director of the Baguio Colleges Foundation, now UC, and Cong-o as his heir.
Cong-o not only “inherited” his post at the school but also as the de facto leader of what remains of the PVF-Cordillera, now the Cordillera Volleyball Association.
“I am like a son to sir Pete and his wife, that is why we are here and before John leaves for good for Canada. They wanted to surprise her,” Cong-o said.
Mendoza is one of the 12 athletes/sportsmen painted under the Legends portion of the 32 mural Heroes Wall of Fame at the bleachers of the Baguio athletic bowl.
Launched last Wednesday, June 29, he joins fellow sportsmen University of Baguio founder Fernando Bautista, Jr., who opened the doors to national athletes training here like Lydia de Vega, Isidro del Prado, Eric Buhain, Elma Muros and Hector Begeo when they were part of the Project Gintong Alay where the late councilor and mediaman Narciso Padilla was the camp director.
Painted beside Mendoza is actor Tsing Tong Tsai, Tony Candelaria in real life, who formed an alliance with Mendoza to make BCF home to the Philippine wushu team, since the latter is and remains to be the association president for the Cordilleras.
Together they formed a formidable wushu sanda team that included Mark Sangiao, Eduard Folayang, Mark Eddiva, Rhea May Rifani, and even Jean Claude Saclag, who are also among those painted at the athletic bowl walls. And of course the Olympic medalists Benjie Rivera and Mariane Mariano and Divine Wally as well as wushu taolu leader Daniel Parantac. All are Southeast Asian Games gold medalist. Some are Asian Games medalists and two are Olympics bronze medalists.
Mendoza, as BCF/UC athletic director, could be one of the top producers of national athletes who brought home with them the bacon home.
With him at the helm of the school’s sports program, BCF/UC has become one of the best producers of champions in the country.
He was one of the forces also in local collegiate sports as a founding member of the Baguio Educational Athletic League when the Baguio Benguet College Athletic Association drew its last breath at the end of the 1995-1996 season.
He formed a rivalry with UB also in basketball, men’s to be exact, which was and always be the cream of the BBEAL.
And he reaped success as PVF president when his school was the most dominant in the city and region in the first decade of the new millennium – beating old powerhouses Saint Louis University and UB.
The National Inter-Collegiate Volleyball Championship is proof where the UC Lady Jaguars was a force to reckon with and with championship matches against top University Athletic Association of the Philippines teams like the Lady Eagles or the Lady Spikers of Ateneo de Manila University and De la Salle University, respectively.
On Saturday afternoon, Cong-o like a proud son, showed to the Mendoza family that their father is well loved and indeed a legend in Baguio sports.
And his works are not forgotten as being one of the 32, nay 46, persons depicted in the Heroes Wall of Fame by the eponymous Publications and Media Works and backed by the city of Baguio, the Bureau of Copyright and Related Rights of the Intellectual Property Office of the Philippines and Davies Paints.
Beside Gladys Labsan, who did the Heroes Legends, the other artists are former UC wushu team and national junior wushu sanda team member Harold Banario for Heroes Martial Arts and Ged Alangui for Heroes All Sports