|THE LEGEND Carlos ‘Caloy’ Loyzaga snatches the ball in one of his campaign for the Philippines. At right, he proudly displays a book as a tribute to his accomplishments for the country.
By EDDIE G. ALINEA
MANILA (via PhilAmPress) – The first thing to know about Carlos Loyzaga, who passed away last week after lingering illness, is that he was for real. He stood 6-foot-3 inches, he had five fingers on each hand, five toes on each foot. He was handsome, dashing owing to the Cuban-Filipino-Spanish blood which flowed in his veins.
He played at center but can also play as ably and well as guard and forward. As one who manned the slot, it was not so much his ceiling as his asset, but, his “abilidad,” timing, ability to box out the enemies under the boards enabling him to outmaneuver, outposition, outjump his opponents.
He earned the moniker “The Big Difference” during his more than two-decade long career playing basketball because he was big, not only in size but the way he played. He spelled the difference in many title victories of the Philippines in the Asian Games and Asian Basketball Confederation tournaments as well as the honors and respect the country gained in he Olympics and world fronts.
Caloy served as cog in the Philippine campaign in the 1954 World Championship held in Rio de Janeiro in Brazil where the country brought home the bronze medal, the highest fashioned out by any Asian country in the biggest basketbhall event outside of the Olympic Games.
He even outdid himself in that meet by emerging one of the three top scorers in the entire tournament with an average 16.4 per game next to Uruguay’s Oscars Moglia (18.6) and Carl Ridd of Canada (18.2)
Caloy’s feat earned for him a slot in the world team along with Kirby Minter of the United States, Moglia, Zenny de Azevedo and Wlamir Marques, both of the host country Brazil, an honor only one other Asian, Yao Ming, would duplicate five decades later.
Reason why many believe that Loyzaga shoud be recognized as “the greatest Filipino and Asian”, for that matter, to ever played the game.
How good a player Loyzaga was can be gauged when he hang up his no. 41 uniform in 1964 when the Philippines lost its in supremacy in the sport his countrymen love most. The Filipino basketeers, once the apple of the eyes of Asians, likewise, lost their slots in the Olympic Games where they last saw action five decades earlier.
A two-time Olympian, King Caloy powered he Philippines to a ninth place finish in 1952 in Helsinki and seventh, the counry’s third highest in Melbourne in 1956.
The first time Loyzaga wore the country’s red, white and blue colors at a tender age 21, he led the Filipino cagers’ gold medal triumph in the inaugural staging of the Asian Games in 1951 in New Delhi, the same way he did in the subsequent title defending campaign in 1954 in Manila, 1958 in Tokyo and in 1962 in Jakarta.
Before losing the Asiad Crown Jewel, the Philippines, again starring the beanpole product of sandlot basketball in Teresa ni Sampaloc District of Manila, shifted its supremacy in the Asian Basketball Confederation, a regional organization, which, like the Asian Games, Filipino sports leaders helped establish.
Like the Asiad, Caloy and teammates ruled the First ABC right in front of their countrymen in 1960, defended the title the next time around in Taipei in 1963 before relinquishing it in 1965 in Kuala Lumpur. Loyzaga. again, was reponsible for the Philippines’ regaining the title in 1967, this time as head coach. He was the assistant coach when the country again won it in 1973 here in Manila.
Caloy’s first love, actualy was football, a sport which was his father Joaquin’s forte having served many a national teams during the Far Eastern Games, percursor of the now Asian Games from 1913 to 1934.
Caloy was 15 when he first learned the rudiments of basketball playing on the courts in Teresa-Valenzuela (Tervalac) where he was spotted by Gabby Fajardo, one of the leading coaches in the collegiate and commercial leagues, who saw the potentials of the lanky but skinny protege.
Fajardo, upon seeing his mestizo discovery, offered the teener a slot in his PRATRA junior squad in the then Manila Industrial-Commercial Athletic Association basketball tournament. Caloy quit schooling at the National University and accepted Fajardo’s offer. That was 1949, the year Loyzaga led PRATRA the MICAA junior diadem in his baptism of fire of sort as a minor leaguer.
The following year, he was already seeing action with the PRATRA senior squad with then more of illustrious Lauro “The Fox” Mumar, Ignacio “Ning” Ramos and Caddy Tanquintic that Caloy started to spread his wings that soon enough, he caught the attention of no less than coach Fely Fajardo, brother of Gabby and mentor of the San Beda Red Lions in the NCAA.
That opened the gate for the former Tervalac boy to play in the country’s collegiate glamour league and at the same time a chance to continue his studies. He was already 20 and in second year high school. He was still in high school, in other words, when he started playing collegiate ball.
From there, the rest is history as the old saying goes. From PRATRA, then PRISCO, then San Beda, Caloy extended his wings further until he landed a place in the lineup of the famous Yco Painters, the team he helped in winning 49 straight games in 1956, an awesome streak by any language in any league in any country.
He was also at the forefront of the Painters’ seven straight title conquest of the National Open at the height their historic rivalry with the equally-famous Ysmael Steel quintet from 1954 to 1960.
When the Philippines copped third place in the 1954 World Championship and Loyzaga earned his place in the Mythical Five, he was named “Athlete of the Year” by the Philippine Sportswriters Association,
Upon his retirement due to recurring knee injury, “King” Caloy was honored by the MICAA during the appreciation day for his “outstanding services to Philippine basketball, in particular, an Philippine sports, in general.”
In between conquering the different local and international basketball arenas either on the hardcourt as a player or on the bench as tactician, Caloy, then 27, married a beautiful University of Santo Tomas beauty Victoria Cuerva, 18. The union bore a brood of five — Cachito (Chito), Russo (Joey), Princess, Theresa and Bing.
While Caloy emerged the biggest and the brightest star of Philippine baskeball, he was a big, bouncy, 11-pound boy when her mother Carmen Loyzaga (nee Matute) gave birth to him on August 29, 1930. In fact, it wasn’t until after a month following his coming to earth that Carmen saw him for the first time. For failure to bear the strain during delivery, the mother had to survive the battle between life and death.
Both father Joaquin and mother Carmen were born in the Philippines of Cuban-Filipinos-Spanish descent.(Eddie G. Alinea/PhilAmPress)