The country’s no. 1 sports—basketball—has produced outstanding Kapampangan icons through the years—names like Hector Calma, Ato Agustin, Yeng Guiao, Jojo Duncil come to mind. But one young Kapampangan stands out for being a legend in his own time, winning honors for the Philippines and for himself in not one, but two sports—football and basketball. It is in the latter discipline that he came to international prominence, earning the title of “Mr. Basketball of 1960” at age 22. His name: Edgardo L. Ocampo.
Eddie or "Ed" Luciano Ocampo, born on 5 October 1938, was one of four children of the “father of modern Philippine Architecture”, the acclaimed Fernando Hizon Ocampo (San Fernando) and the renown Pampanga beauty, Lourdes Magdangal Luciano (Magalang). His siblings included Fernando Jr., also an architect, Oscar, his football team mate at Ateneo and sister Maria Pilar.
Basketball and football caught the young Ocampo’s fancy almost at the same time while enrolled at the Ateneo Grade School. He tried out for the school’s midget basketball team but did not pass the height requirement. Instead, he made it to the football squad where his brilliance in the field became much apparent. By age 17, Ed was acclaimed by sportswriters as “Mr. Football”. Ed qualified for the Philippine national football team that toured Korea and Spain in 1956.
But in that same year, Ed broke his clavicle during a rough game, promoting doctors to advise him to take off from the sports for half a year. But even before those six months were up, Ed was back in school, joining the basketball tryout for the school’s NCAA (National Collegiate Athletics Association) team. This time, he made it after several Blue Eagles dropped out from the squad. Ed first played in the second round of the 1957 NCAA series.
At five feet seven inches and 157 pounds, Ed was certainly not considered tall enough in the sports where “height is might”. But his stamina,power, speed and quick reflexes made him the man to watch on the court. He managed to captain the Blue Eagles to two NCAA championships in 1957 and 1958.
One of his most memorable stints as a basketball collegian was when the Blue Eagles played against the tough Keh Nan team from China in the World Boy Scouts Jamboree benefit at the Rizal Coliseum. The Chinese dribblers were stunned when they saw Ocampo bounce his chest on the floot, intercept a pass and score on the same play. Six thousand roaring fans rose to their ferr to give him a standing ovation.
Ed was recruited by YCO where he played as a guard, becoming a key figure in the team’s 1960 victory in the MICAA (Manila Industrial and Commercial Athletic Association), the top basketball league in the 60s. It was Ed who limited Narciso Bernardo of Ysmael Steel—then considered as the country’s best forward—to just 9 measly points in a critical game. For his performance, he was dubbed as “Mr. Basketball” in 1960.
At the peak of his career, young Ed was a member of the national basketball team 4 times, played in the world championship in Chile, competed in the Asian Basketball Conference and competed in 3 Olympics (1960-1968-1972). At the 1960 Olympiad in Rome, the Philippines placed a creditable 11th place. Newspaper accounts glowed at how “Ocampo played magnificently, with brilliant reprising and rebounding”.
What has also earned his fans’ admiration is his sportsmanship on and off court. Not even once in any game did he figure in a brawl. That is a feat in itself considering the nature of the fast and furious game. When his playing years ended, he turned to coaching, guiding the San Miguel Beermen, the Toyota Tamaraws and the Pepsi Bottlers of the PBA (Philippine Basketball Association). As coach, he led his teams to 4 championships.
Ed Ocampo was married to the former Maria Lourdes Trinidad. Pampanga’s basketball legend and Hall of Famer passed away in 1999 at age 61.