Sunday, June 24, 2012


HIT AND MISS. An inter-school outdoor women's softball competition gets underway in San Fernando. Ca. mid 1920s.

The region’s premiere inter-provincial athletic meet began in 1908, when American school superintendents from Bulacan, Nueva Ecija, Pampanga, Tarlac and the Central Luzon Agricultural School organized a sporting competition in Malolos, as a way of promoting sports consciousness towards developing a sound mind and a healthy body. The athletic meet also aimed to foster goodwill and the spirit of sportsmanship and fair play among the youth. Thus, the first ever Central Luzon Athletic Association was held on 22 February 1908, in Malolos. As expected, the host province of Bulacan ruled the centerpiece track and field events, emerging as the overall champion. The pioneer games featured a few number of sports including baseball (outdoor and indoor, for girls), basketball and volleyball.

From the time of the inception of the CLAA meet, Pampanga’s athletes rose to the occasion by consistently delivering gold medal-worthy performances for the home province, clinching their first championship in 1913. In the early editions of the meet, Kapampangan ball players dominated the basketball events starting in 1915, with a 4-year winning streak from 1917-20. Pampanga’s women’s softball teams snapped Bulacan’s 4-year championship run (1916-1919) by capturing the crown in 1920, defending the title for 8 amazing years. So much for girl power! The boy’s volleyball team, on the other hand, smashed their way to three-peat victories in 1932, 1933 and 1934.

Notable Kapampangan athletes who left their mark on the cinder track include Pedro Chanco, who, in 1913, ruled the 50 Yard dash in 5.6 secs. The time remained unbeaten until the event was subsequently discontinued. Only one managed to equal the record in 1915—Rufino Dimson—also of Pampanga! All-time records were set by Salvador Garcia, whose time of 10 secs. Flat in the 100 Yard Dash in 1923, stood for 12 years. He also held the record for the 220 Yards, with a time of 23.4 secs. Meanwhile, Pampanga’s 880 Yard Relay Teams first established the meet record of 1 min. 38.6 secs. in 1915, which was equaled in the 1917 and 1918 outings of the games. The great runner, Wenceslao Dizon was a member of the relay team in all those winning years.

 In 1925, Francisco David set a meet record of 11 secs. in the 100 Meter Dash, equaled only in 1934 by kabalen, Roberto Buñag. Buñag did one better by running the 100 Meter High Hurdles in 16 secs.—a new meet record. Then, he anchored the 400 Meter Relay race with Cayetano Coronel, Abel Quiwa and Eustaquio Sunga to establish a new meet mark of 46.6 secs. Just a year before, team mate Sunga rewrote the record for the Running Broad Jump with his leap of 6.31 meters.

Out on the field, Pampanga’s Andres Arceo tied wit Nueva Ecija’s Miguel Sujeco in setting a Pole Vault record of 11 feet, 4 inches in 1926—a new meet standard. The hefty teener Amando P. Quioc heaved the 16 lb. Shot Put to a record-breaking distance of 9.73 meters in 1934. Quioc would later become a future mayor of Mabalacat in the late 1950s.

The CLAA meets continued through the 40s. interrupted only by the War. By the 1950s, all 7 Central Luzon provinces—Bulacan, Bataan, Zambales, Pampanga, Tarlac, Nueva Ecija, Pangasinan-- were active participants of the “carnival of sports among the public yuoths of Central Luzon”. Pampang first hosted the annual meet on 20 January 1912, in the capital town of San Fernando.

Many changes have been instituted in the meet by the time the 1958 edition was staged again in Malolos—the second post-Liberation games hosted by the province. Other than the popular ball games and athletics, medals were also contested for the native game of “sipa”. Stand-outs that years was Pampanga’s Basketball Team coached by Rafael Aguilar. On the list of track stars were: Jesus Marcelo, Rufino Henson, Andres Soto, Ricardo Singian, Vicente Sampang, Pablo Batac, Rosa Mercado, Leticia Tolentino, Filipinas Tulabut, Elizabeth Pike, Encarnacion Magat and Gloria Simeon.

The meets of CLAA were re-named as Central Luzon Regional Atheltic Association Meets (CLRAA) in the 60s. Pangasinan was reclassified as part of the Ilocos Region; its athletes thus, were absorbed by the Ilocos Regional Athletic Association. By the 70s, the expanded program of events include disciplines such as Cycling, Aquatics, Gymnastics and Martial Arts. The games also accommodated athletes from both the Elementary and Secondary Divisions. Medallists go on to represent the region in the national games, the Palarong Pambansa-- from which future members of the Philippine Olympic team are identified for training in the national pool.

 The most recent staging of the CLRAA meet was held at the Zambales Sports Complex in Iba, from 20-25 February 2012. The event drew over 13,000 athletes from all Central Luzon provinces that now include Aurora, and from the cities of Angeles, San Fernando, Cabanatuan, Gapan, Muñoz, San Jose (N.E.) , Malolos, San Jose del Monte, Tarlac and Balanga. Pampanga placed second to the overall champion, Bulacan.

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