The University of Baguio founder’s Olympic vision was realized in the 2020 Olympics.
Since the Philippines sent its delegation to the Paris Olympics for the 1924 Games, the country aimed for a gold medal. Weightlifter Hidilyn Diaz made that a reality at the Tokyo Olympics for the 2020 intake. In a surprising and exciting turn of events, Diaz’s performance was furthered by the three boxers in the delegation. For the first time since the 1932 Los Angeles Olympics, the Philippines finished with multiple medals.
Enthusiasts, sports commentators, and critics were quick to note that all the Filipino boxers have similarities: a strategic start that gets stronger with every round, their ability to recover quickly, and passionate and spirited performances that can only spring from heavy and dedicated training. As the country watched and cheered with the world how our boxers advanced from one level to another, Baguio City could have been one of the proudest. Another common denominator for the boxers was that they have resided in the City of Pines at some point. They are also alumni of the University of Baguio’s Cardinals Team.
Silver medalist Nesthy Petecio in the women’s featherweight was an alumna of the School of International Hospitality and Tourism Management. Silver medalist Carlo Paalam in the men’s flyweight division finished his senior high school education in the university. Eumir Marcial, who took home a bronze in the men’s middleweight, studied in the university mid-training for a semester, and Irish Magno, who competed in the women’s flyweight round of 16 bout, was an alumna of the School of Criminal Justice and Public Safety. Glicerio Catolico Jr., a former national boxing coach, has been instrumental in scouting boxers including these four Olympians to the University of Baguio.
Tatay Fernando Bautista, the patriarchal founder of the University of Baguio, has always championed the holistic development of its students. Upon building what is now UB from the ground up, Tatay also envisioned a goal: athletes bred by UB to the international arena, most prestigiously, the Olympics. The Cardinal’s Gym is a testament to this dedication and support for athletes. Akin to being a smaller, local version of the Araneta Coliseum, the gym was the venue for regional and national sports events, concerts, and conferences. The Cardinal’s Gym has trained hundreds of athletes every year, including the four boxers sent to Tokyo for the 2020 games.
Another UB and Cardinals alumni, Ferdinand “Bong” Pascual, a veteran of several FIBA events and the supervisor of referees in the PBA, participated in the 2020 Games. He officiated basketball games for the second time in this year’s Olympics. The first time was in the 2016 Rio Olympics in Brazil, where he officiated up to the quarterfinals. He has also been to two FIBA World Cup events: the 2014 edition in Spain and the 2019 staging in China.
The University’s Sports Scholarship Program gave the athletes the support and training needed while finishing their education. Eumir Marcial, in a video message to the University, opened up about his student life, saying, “Naintindihan niyo po ang sitwasyon naming mga boksingero. Malaking tulong po iyon dahil naintindihan niyo ang kalagayan namin. Proud po kami na jan kami nakapag-aral.” (You understood our situations as boxers. You have helped us immensely by understanding our condition. We are proud to have studied there.)
Despite the regular academic load and the daily and strenuous athletic training, all student-athletes had to persevere to finish their education nary a word of excuse. “She took time to finish her studies,” Marty Odasing, the boxing coach who succeeded Catolico in 2017 said about Nesthy.
“She took that opportunity na tapusin niya yun, nag-OJT siya at dinaanan niya lahat ng proseso. Walang excuses, walang easy way para makapasa siya. Talagang pinasa niya yun as a regular student,” Odasing remarked. (She took that opportunity to finish her degree. She completed her OJT and went through the process. No excuses, no easy way out to finish her degree. She finished a degree as a regular student.)
Aside from the motivation, fitness, and performance training that the University of Baguio coaches inspired in the athletes, the accommodating faculty and the welcoming and pleasant climate of Baguio City make it a desirable atmosphere for training and education.
“Since their training is often in early mornings and late in the afternoon, these athletes were all encouraged to go to school and finish their degrees,” UB athletic director Alan Elegado told Spin.ph in an interview.
After their Olympics stint, the City Council honored Nesthy Petecio and Carlo Paalam as Baguio’s “adopted residents.”
It is exciting what awaits the four athletes as they push forward and train for their next endeavors and competitions. The University of Baguio, despite the current situation, still houses student-athletes and has involved some of them in bubble training. Thanks to the four Olympians, UB is building a stronger community for athletes.
Petecio, the flagbearer in the 2020 Olympics’ closing, greeted the University on its 73rd foundation anniversary. “Sobrang salamat,” she said, “sa suporta po ninyo sa aming student-athletes po, mapa-international o local man po iyon.” (Utmost thanks for the support you have given to us, student athletes, for international or local events.)
“Hindi dahil nasa national team sila, they looked at themselves one step higher from the others. Pag may mga boxers din dito na gustong mag-train with them, kung may gustong itanong, they will openly share what they have and what they know. And probably isa yun sa na-contribute nila sa school, na nakita sila ng mga bata dito na student-athletes na nagawa nila yung ganung level but at the same time, nag-aaral pa rin. So nakaka-inspire sila sa fellow student-athletes nila,” Odasing shared about the Olympians. (Not because they have been part of the national team did they look at themselves as one step higher from others. If there are boxers who want to train with them, if there are questions budding boxers want to ask, they openly share what they have and what they know. That is probably one of the things the Olympians contribute to the school: they were able to go far in competition even while studying at the same time. That is inspiring to their fellow student-athletes).