WHEN our names were called and we prepared to mount the stage, I saw Hidilyn Diaz rise from the presidential table. We would pass her by. She was smiling at us.
We stopped just before the podium climb. I was last of the four in the queue.
I stood just a breadth away from Hidilyn Diaz in this electric moment at the jam-packed gala ballroom of the swanky Diamond Hotel in Manila.
As if on cue, I shook the hand of Hidilyn Diaz.
I told her, “Gratitude for all the honors you have given our country, from the 2020 Tokyo Olympics to the World Championships last year.”
“Thank you very much, Sir,” she said, smiling sweetly as ever, resplendent in her flowing gown of flesh.
It took a while before I would let go of her massive hand that had gripped the world to give the country its first Olympic gold medal in 2020, ending nearly a century of fruitless campaign in the quadrennial Summer Games.
Her palm so precious I seemed to want to cling to it till eternity, no matter that it was as coarse as sand paper. What a feeling.
And then came her bombshell: “Pardon my asking, Sir, but are you all former Olympians, too?”
We did appear old.
Recah Trinidad and Eddie Alinea are octogenarians, and Percy Della and I are septuagenarians.
And we didn’t mind being mistaken for Olympians. Swell by me.
“No, Ma’am,” I said to Hidilyn Diaz. “We are sportswriters.”
“Awww!” she said. “Congratulations, Sir.”
Yes, us grizzled wordsmiths were to be feted, too, this night of nights alongside the nation’s finest athletes who shone brightest in 2022. It was the San Miguel Corporation-Philippine Sportswriters Association (PSA) Awards, an event held yearly to honor primarily the brilliant feats of our heroes in sports.
Why the PSA officers deviated from tradition and also honored us, Rey Virgilio C. Lachica, the association president, had this to say: “About time you guys are given due recognition, after giving us almost a lifetime of good read in sports writing.”
Fellow honorees Ding Marcelo, 77, and Jun Engracia, 71, failed to attend. Jun was in Australia, Ding holed at home after having golfed in the morning.
“Typically Ding,” said Percy, blurting expletives, during our ride home in the company of wine-loaded Jake P. Ayson.
We write stories about winners and losers as our way of living. Suddenly, we are the story.
Elma Muros, a track and field legend like Lydia de Vega before Hidilyn Diaz’s time, came to me for a selfie, accompanied by Jean Malanum.
“She asked me to bring her to you, Sir,” said Jean, a female scribe of note.
“I have framed many of your stories about me, Sir,” said Elma.
It tugged at the heart.
THAT’S IT Our “Lifetime Award in Sports Journalism” plaque reads: “For his indelible contributions to Philippine sports journalism, serving as one of the pillars and helping pave the way for several generations of sportswriters.” How I wish.
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