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Sunday, June 16, 2024

Pinoy pro athletes as modern-day OFWs

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Consider the Filipino professional athletes as the latest version of Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs).

With limited opportunities at home due to strict Covid-19 health and economic protocols, professional Filipino athletes are plying their trade and making big waves abroad.

A large number of professional boxers have been traveling all over the world to find fame and fortune through their skills on the ring.

Mark Magsayo is currently in the US training under Hall of Fame coach Freddie Roach for the biggest fight in his boxing career.

There’s no doubt that the Philippines ‘ prime example of boxing OFW was Manny Pacquiao who brought honors and millions of dollars to the country.

A lot of pro boxers, aspiring for world titles, are currently in the United States, working hard for their dream fights.

Mark Magsayo from Bohol is staring at the biggest challenge of his career.

He will be up against Gary Russel Jr., for the World Boxing Council (WBC) featherweight title on Jan. 22 at the Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa in Atlantic City, N.J.

Magsayo is training under Hall of Famer Freddie Roach and promoted by Pacquiao’s MP Promotions.

Unlike the traditional OFWs whose rights are taken care of by the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA), the professional athletes report regularly to the Games and Amusements (GAB), not just for licenses but especially when problems arise.

The most recent case was that of former World Boxing Association (WBA) world minimumweight champion Victorio Saludar who lost his title to Eric Rosa last Dec. 21 in the Dominican Republic.

But instead of getting paid the $35, 000 contract prize, the Filipino was given only $13,000 after the fight.

GAB Chairman Baham Mitra immediately pleaded Saludar’s case with the WBA and even considered not allowing Filipino boxers in future WBA bouts if the case won’t be resolved.

On Jan. 5, the promoter sent the remaining balance of Saludar’s purse.

Globetrotters

It has been noted long ago that the Philippines has rich, overflowing talents in basketball.

With the rising global popularity of basketball, countries like Australia, Japan, Taiwan, and even Serbia have turned to the Philippines for highly skilled players.

In the National Basketball League in Australia, Philippine phenom 7-3 Kai Sotto is slowly making a place for himself with the Adelaide 36ers.

Thirdy Ravena, Kobe Paras, and Bobby Parks are among the eight Filipino players playing as Asian imports in the Japan B League (Photos courtesy of Japan B League)

In Japan’s B league tournament, eight Filipino players are strutting their stuff and earning handsome pays.

Thirdy Ravena paved the way for the entry of seven other Filipino cagers in the growing cage league with his brother Kiefer following suit as well as Kobe Paras, Dwight Ramos, Bobby Parks Jr.

Jack Animam, a many-time member of the Gilas Women squad, became the first Filipina basketball import when she suit up for the Radnicki Kragujevac in the First Women’s Basketball League of Serbia where she is currently making big waves.

Spikers in Japan

When we speak about Japan, it would not be complete without mentioning the names Marck Espejo and Bryan Bagunas who played for Japan’s V League.

Espejo, the Ateneo star that won three-peat for his team in the UAAP volleyball tournament, played for a season in Japan before going to Thailand also as an import.

But it was the success story of Jaja Santiago with the Ageo Medics in the Japan women’s V League that made its mark for the fans. The 6-5 Santiago led her team Ageo Medics to a bronze medal finish in Division 1.

Parbusters

Dottie Ardina and Bianca Pagdanangan have cemented their LPGA 2022 membership

Before Yuka Saso elected to become a Japanese citizen, she was playing for the Philippine team as a Filipino citizen. Her last hurrah carrying the country’s color was in the 2017 Jakarta Asian Games where she emerged gold medal winner in the women’s singles play and gold in the team event, together with Bianca Pagdanganan.

Shortly after that, while still a Filipina on paper, the then 19-year-old Saso became the toast of the world golf community following her US Open conquest in June last year. Although she has recently chosen to become a Japanese citizen, even as she professed to remain a Filipina at heart.

The rise of Filipina golfers in the global golf scene began with the entry of Jennifer Rosales to the LPGA in the year 2000.

In 2004, Rosales achieved her highest finish of 4th place in the US Open. Two decades after, several Filipina players are campaigning in the US circuit like Dottie Ardina, Princess Superal, and recently Saso and Pagdanganan.

Cue Masters

Currently hot on the global billiards trail is Carlo Biado, who had recently bagged the prestigious US Open title.

Biado, a national team campaigner, stays most of the time in the US and travels to other parts of the world where there are big tournaments.

Carlo Biado travels around the world to play big-time billiards

Just a few months after his US Open conquest, Biado went to Dubai and won the rich Abu Dhabi Open 9-Ball Championship in November last year.

Biado became the only Filipino US Open king since Efren “Bata” Reyes ruled it in 1994. What’s interesting was that Biado defeated a fellow sports OFW in Jordan Banares, 13-6, in the final to top the tourney.

In Dubai, Biado also had to contend with fellow Filipino cue masters Venancio Tanio, Roland Garcia, Harry Vergara, and Arnel Bautista, whom he had all beaten to bag the win.

Another Filipino billiards legend, Dennis Orcullo, was doing great with his billiards tour in the US until he was deported just recently due to alleged overstaying.

Orcollo, nicknamed Robocop in the billiards circuit, said he has already hired a legal counsel to fix the problem.

“Through my wonderful supporters in the United States, I have now hired legal counsel who has explained to me why the officer may have had the impression that I was doing something wrong. I am fortunate to have much support in the United States and in the Philippines, and with that support, we are actively working on a solution to fix this misunderstanding, so that something like this will not happen again in the future,” Orcullo explained through his official social media page.

The legendary Jose “Amang” Parica was among the first cue masters from the Philippines that plied their trade in the United States. He was part of what they called the “Filipino Invasion” in the American billiards scene in the late 70s.

They shuttle from one States to another going for money games, especially in nine-balls.

A few years later, Efren “Bata” Reyes followed suit and also strutted his wares in the US. It was only in later years when billiards was recognized as an organized pro sport that Filipinos began earning honors.

Parica became the World Player of the Year in 1997.

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