By Bert Eljera
LAS VEGAS – While working with the Manila Bulletin, I became an active member of a band of warriors who called themselves sportswriters.
They were mighty with their pens and liked to believe they were the best reporters in all sections of Manila newspapers. They were so clannish that if you don’t hold the title of sportswriter, you have no business messing with them.
In reality, they were mostly half-drunks, who wonder why they were getting paid for watching games they themselves would be happy to pay for, in the first place.
They attained some prestige and respectability by banding together as the Philippine Sportswriters Association (PSA), a group that now is bigger and younger, but actually one of the oldest press associations in the Philippines.
The group’s alumni, admittedly however, are some of of the best newspaper and magazine writers ever to wield a pen – and the list maybe too long here.
Into this fray I threw myself in 1975 – naive of the ways of the big city but too baduy and probinsyano to even realize it. Yet, as you will notice, I developed friendship among these folks, who were some of the first to come to my rescue, now that I needed some help.
Chito Manuel, Joe Antonio, and Reggie Amigo were some of my earliest and closest friends. They are still in sports and have made donations or pledged help for the Bert Eljera Kidney Transplant Fund.
Lito Tacujan, a fierce competitor while he worked for the Times Journal, has reminded me every chance he gets of my once-thick tongue as a Visayan, little does he know that now I can trade barbs with any American without tripping with my accent.
He was one of the first to send monetary donation, going through the hassle of doing it through Western Union.
Congressman Ben Evardone of Eastern Samar, a former Malaya reporter whose career in journalism started about the same time mine did, sent in $200 as his contribution.
Ben’s elder brother, Phillip, was a sportswriter, a close buddy and colleague at the Manila Bulletin.
Congressman Evardone has always been gracious and open through the years, even when I wrote controversial stories about him and his district.
Thanks for your and your lovely wife’s support, Ben.
With their support through their writings, revered sportswriters Percy Della and Val Abelgas, both now based outside the Philippines, have helped raise awareness about the fund-raising effort.
Miramon Nuevo, Ely Tumbaga, Cris Maralit, Eddie Alinea, and Ed Andaya are helping too, particularly in the effort to solicit signed sports memorabilia from Filipino sports greats that will be included in an auction planned later in the year in Las Vegas for the benefit of the Bert Eljera Kidney Transplant Fund.
Outside of my circle of sportswriter friends are two sports-minded ladies who were the earliest supporters of the fund-raiser.
Alice Bonoan Balangue, who once worked for Danding Cojungco’s press relation office, and Ella Puno Garcia, formerly the Philippine Basketball Association’s press liaison, contributed $100 each for the fund.
The key whether the fund-raiser will achieve the $15,000 goal is how the sportswriters group can put together the memorabilia auction. If the project can pull in at least a third of the amount, we’ll reach shore.
We write best when the game is on the line with less than two minutes left. We can go for a trey or a Hail Mary pass, or a last-second lucky knock-out punch, but the best way is still a hard grinding drive to the goal line, running the clock out in the process.
Sportswriters love metaphors – even to the point of horribly mixing them.