View Full Version : Carlos Loyzaga - The Great Difference

08-25-2009, 03:37 PM
from the book "Philippine Sports Greats" (1972)

Carlos Loyzaga
by Elizabeth Celis

As the only nation in Asia where basketball is the national sport, the Philippines has produced many great basketball players ever since before the Second World War when our country dominated the basketball event in the Far East Olympics.

The names of many Filipino cagers are famous in basketball circles throughout Asia, and there would be endless controversies in selecting the all-time Filipino mythical selection. But there is one whose choice would be unanimous for such a selection, because there is no doubt that he was the greatest basketball star ever produced by the Philippines.

Carlos Loyzaga was called "The Great Difference." That is because he not only dominated Philippine basketball for more than a decade, but because his presence in the court practically assured Philippines supremacy in Asian basketball during his time.

How good a player Loyzaga was, how much he made a djfference between victory and defeat in the keenly contested Asian basketball tournaments in the 1950's and early 1960's can perhaps be measured by the fact that soon after he retired in 1964, the Philippines lost its Asian supremacy. In 1966 we were sixth in basketball in the Asian Games in Bangkok. We recovered the crown the next year, 1967, at the Asian Basketball Conference in Seoul, South Korea, but slipped down again to third place at the 1969 ABC championships at Bangkok and fifth place at the 1970 Asian Games also in Bangkok.

In the Philippines, there are roughly three periods in the development of basketball. The pre-war era, the post-war era, and the present.

In the pre-war era which was dominated by forwards like Charlie Borck and guards like Jack Ciria Cruz, there were very few basketball playing nations in Asia and the Philippines was always champion. Notably, it was also during this era in 1936, that the Philippines placed fifth in basketball in the World Olympics.

During the post-war period and the fifties, basketball became a full blown sport all over the world and the Philippines got tougher and tougher competition abroad especially from Nationalist China, Japan, and Korea. There never was any doubt however, of Philippine supremacy. This was Caloy's era in basketball. Often, players of other Asian teams admitted in press statements that they had very tittle chance for victory because of Caloy Loyzaga's presence in the Philippine team.

Although Caloy could play equally well in any position, he was primarily a center and he proved for a whole decade the theory that "he who dominates the lane dominates the game."

As a slot man, it was not so much his height as his technique and timing that made him a great center. At 6'3" he did not exactly tower over the opposition, but his timing under the boards was so delicate that he often outmanoeuvred, out positioned, out jumped. and outscored the opposing center.

If they crowded him in the lane, he could go out and rifle from long range as well as any outside shooter. He was a center who could maneuver in the wings and drive in like a forward. Tall, burly but fast, Caloy would also ballhandle and defend like a guard.

Indeed, Loyzaga was the all-around player who has been credited by many basketball buffs as being a powerful rebounder, the best ballhandrer, and a complete courtman.

He was also considered the toughest pillar of Philippine basketball, and his teammates in national, collegiate, and commercial teams confirm this.

According to ex-Olympian Loreto Carbonell who played with Caloy in San Beda College, Yco, and international tournaments, the team's morale was always high when Caloy was inside the hardcourt.

"Caloy's presence in the offensive lane gives us confidence. We know that even if we shoot from outside and do not make it, Caloy will be there for the rebound or the tip-in. The team had come to rely greatly on his presence in the court to the point of dependence," Carbonell said.

It seems that the greatest asset of Caloy was psychological. His teammates had so much confidence in him that in building the play around him, they became cohesive. A born leader of men, the aggressive court general always "carried" his team.

How well he did is attested by the fantastic record established by the Yco Painters whom he led to 49 straight wins in 1956. In any league in any country where basketball is well played and there is plenty of competition, a 49 game-winning streak is an awe-inspiring record.

Today it seems like a forgotten feat - although in the opinion of many basketball experts, it was a greater triumph than the seven straight national championships the Painters won from 1954 to 1960.

Caloy's sport had not always been basketball. His father, Joaquin Loyzaga, had been an outstanding football player in his time, and was a member of the national team twice.

At first it seemed that Caloy was developing a strong interest along the same lines. He was starting to build an impressive collection of football medals when the war suddenly broke out. In the turmoil and confusion that ensued the sport was completely forgotten.

Caloy was 15 when he first learned to play basketball in one of the neighbourhood courts in Teresa, Sampaloc. Oddly enough, right after he started playing, the pigeon breasted Caloy shot up like a beanpole.

It was in the very same Tervalac court that he was first "discovered" by Gabby Fajardo, one of the Philippines' leading coaches.

Fajardo saw such promise in the height and ability of the lanky mestizo that without thinking twice, he offered to train Caloy for his junior PRATRA team.

In 1949, Caloy quit high school (he was enrolled at the National University) to play for Gabby's team. They won the Manila Industrial and Commercial Athletic Association junior crown that year and Caloy, donning his first MICAA uniform, had his first taste of success.

Loyzaga's development in basketball was swift – if not meteoric. From a tall, gangling youth who played minor and insignificant tournaments in his neighborhood in Teresa, he mellowed into a graceful and able center within a few month's time.

The following year 1950, saw Caloy among the ranks of the big-leaguers of PRATRA, that year's MICAA senior champion. The nucleus of the team had been built around Lauro "The Fox" Mumar, Ignacio "Ning" Ramos, and Cady Tanquintic.

In his first few tournaments, Caloy performed so well that he finally caught the attention of Fely Fajardo, coach of the San Beda Red Lions and the brother of Gabby. As a young lad, it had been Caloy's dream to play with the Red Lions. Right after the liberation while he was working as an apprentice mechanic for United Motors, Caloy used to pass by San Beda College in Mendiola on his way home. At around the same time, the Red Lions would start their daily practice, and Caloy would linger awhile to watch his favorite team play. Once in a while, when the urge to play became so intense, Caloy would sneak into the hardcourt and practice with his idols. In his mind he was imagining himself to be a real member of the team.

And now here was the San Beda coach himself convincing Caloy to pursue his studies so he could play with the team he had always dreamed to play with.

Without any hesitation Caloy accepted the proposition. He was already 20 and only in second year high school when he decided to resume his education.

Proud in his bright red new uniform, Caloy justified his draft by leading the Red Lions to the NCAA crown twice in a row, 1951 and 1952.

It was in his first year in the NCAA that Caloy made his first national team. At 21 he won his first gold medal at the first Asiad in New Delhi.

But there were bigger things in store for the great basketball ace. In 1952 he put San Beda College on a pedestal when he led his team to the Philippines' national crown and by 1953 Fely Fajardo had all but brought out the best in the 6'3" bulk of his protégé.

Gracing the senior bench of the MICAA for the second time, Caloy's hardcourt calibre soared great heights as he played side by side with the star-studded PRISCO team. His team mates included Olympians Lauro Mumar, Mariano Tolentino, Florentino Bautista, Ning Ramos, and Edward Dee. With such a formidable line up, conquest of the MICAA crown became an easy task.

The Philippine Air Lines Skyliners who were aiming for their third consecutive MICAA crown also boasted of a gleaming bench that included Olympian Pocholo Ramirez, Moro Lorenzo, Louie Tabuena and Cholo Gaston, but the final playoff was forged between PRISCO and the equally talent-studded Yco Painters. The later's nucleus was built around defense men Eddie Lim and Rafael Hechanova, forward Ramon Campos, and "fireballs" Tito Eduque and Tony Genato, but they eventually lost to PRISCO in the last two games of the best of three playoff.

The following year, Loyzaga hopped to another team – the Yco Painters. This time, former hardcourt rivals Genato, Lim, Hechanova, Jess Bito and others became allies, forming one of the strongest and most cohesive teams in the MICAA. It was a dream bench-but equally awesome was another new team being formed. The Republic Super Market Greyhounds made its first debut with a near-mythical lineup: Mumar, Tolentino, Alfredo Sagarbarria, Emilio Achacoso, Luis Gavieres, and Mike Littaua.

Despite its impressive roster however, the Greyhounds were toppled, undoubtedly because of Loyzaga's imposing presence in the Yco bench. He scored a total of 195 points in 13 games, amounting to a per game average of 15 points which at that time was one of the best figures in local basketball.

When the Philippines capped the bronze medal in the second world basketball championship in Brazil in 1954, Loyzaga was among the top scorers in the competitions. In addition, he was selected one of the ten best players of the world and was awarded the title, "Athlete of the Year" by the Philippine Sportswriters Association of the Philippines. With the popularity and distinction he was fast acquiring, Caloy gave the impression that he was getting to be a snob, But friends who knew him well refute this.

"He was often accused of arrogance," said Mario Ballesteros, one-time Olympic player who often gave Caloy a hard time in the lane. (Ballesteros played for Ateneo, Seven-Up, and Ysmael Steel), "but his personality is just the opposite. He is humble, friendly, and very helpful."

Carbonell reaffirmed this. "When I arrived from Davao to resume my studies at San Beda," he said, "I had no place to go to. But Caloy came to my rescue. He immediately offered to take me in to live with his family. That's how we got to be very close friends."

In 1955 Loyzaga went back to college. Apparently what had been San Beda's gain became Yco's loss, for the Painters finished an unimpressive third in that year's MICAA league while San Beda, in contrast gained possession of the huge Zamora trophy which had been donated to the NCAA.

Loyzaga returned to Yco in 1956, and with the able assistance of rookies Loreto Carbonell and Francis Wilson, mainstays Genato, Campos, Lim and Hechanova, the Painters barreled through and retrieved the MICAA throne which they had earlier lost to Seven-Up.

The next year, a Philippine Olympic team to Melbourne was formed composed of 11 basketeers from the MICAA (Loyzaga, Lim, Campos, Urra, Carbonell, Tolentino, Marquicias, Villamor and Ballesteros) and a lone player from the NCAA ranks, Mapua Tech Cardinal Carlos Badion. Caloy's most revered and admired coach, Leo Prieto, was chosen bench mentor of the RP quintet.

1957 was quite a good year for the Philippines for despite the growing competition in the Olympics, the national squad ended in the seventh berth.

But if the Philippine squad was lucky, the Yco Painters were even luckier. Despite the presence of powerful American imports Bob Seitz and Phil Dinardo in the Chelsea bench, and Albert Weibusch and Duane Asplund in Yellow Taxi's, the determined Red shirts were able to defend and retain their crown for the second straight year.

The years 1951 to 1959 marked the golden days of Carlos Loyzaga in basketball. Amazingly agile, flexible and fast despite his height and bulk, Caloy could be both tall and short in the hardcourt. A utility man, he could handle all three cage roles capably if not excellently, As a center, he used his height to great advantage; as a point-maker he was deadly in layups and long toms; in the backcourt, the fast and clever Caloy could practically shrink to any size and manuever like a small guard.

All in all, Caloy's inborn skills, his sound knowledge of basketball fundamentals, the intensive training he underwent with Coaches Fely and Gabby Fajardo, plus the added years of experience and seasoning, all blended wonderfully to produce a great athlete who was described by Manila Times sportswriter Tony Siddayao as "unique and in a class all by himself."

His friends and colleagues describe Caloy as a real sportsman. Domingo Celis Jr., an Yco team mate who also played under him later, defines the great Philippine ace as the kind of player that takes every game seriously. "To Caloy," Celis said, "every game is important. Even in a game against a weak team, he plays just as he would against a formidable one. There is no complacency for him he considers every team a team to beat"

Jealousy in cagedom is common place, but Caloy was an exception. As a player, he never considered any center (in his team or otherwise) competition. On the contrary, if he spotted a promising player, he would even offer to teach and develop him.

"He was exceptionally well-disciplined," Celis observed. "Often, we would find him jogging and practicing by himself. He practically had no vice-he drinks and smokes at a minimum."

to be continued

08-26-2009, 09:26 AM

Loyzaga carried his team to its third straight MICAA victory in 1959. Playing and coaching simultaneously in 1960, he led the Painters to a sweep of two of the nation's major crowns-the MICAA for the fourth straight, and the Philippine Open.

Since 1951, Loyzaga has participated in four Asian Games (1951 in New Delhi, 1954 in Manila, 1958 in Tokyo, and 1962 in Jakarta); in two Olympics (1952 in Helsinki and 1956 in Melbourne); two world championships (1954 in Rio de Janeiro and 1959 in Santiago, Chile); and two Asian Basketball Conference championships (1960 in Manila and 1963 in Taipei). He was also in the line-up of the Philippine team to the Rome Olympics but had to stay behind because of a fractured wrist he incurred while playing softball.

Following this injury, Caloy and the Painters dropped out of the limelight. They failed to harvest any title that year, 1961, and because of this, word was going around basketball circles that Caloy should be contemplating on his retirement.

First of all, contended some observers, Caloy's injury had slowed down his performance to such an extent that he was unable to bring the Yco Painters to another stirring MICAA victory.

But most of all they claimed, it had seemed that Caloy was too preoccupied with his appliance repair business (Dunzaga Enterprises) which he was running with the new Yco coach, Albert Dunbar.

But on the contrary however retirement was furthest from Caloy's mind. He had made a secret agreement with close friend Martin Urra that they would be retiring together, and neither one had thought of it yet.

Instead of brooding over his injury, Caloy cheerfully set out special drills for himself so he could play just as brilliantly as he used to. While his fractured right hand was healing, he learned to shoot with his left.

In time Caloy was back to his old form, and perhaps even better. He saw action in eight more tournaments which included the Jakarta Asian Games, one international invitational, and the Asian Basketball Conference in Taipeh in 1960.

But despite Caloy's rejuvenation, the Painters failed to click. They ended in second place in the 1962 MICAA championship.

In 1963 Caloy made up for the previous year's loss by leading the star-studded Ycoans to another glittering MICAA victory. By this time, new faces had come up in the Yco bench. There were Olympians Edgardo Ocampo and Charlie Badion, Cristino Arroyo, Bert Yburan and Arturo Valenzona. Adding experience to the team were seasoned veterans Loreto Carbonell and Nano Tolentino.

Ironically enough, this event brought to an end 15 years of solid performance in local and international courts and a record which no one in Asia may be able to match. Loyzaga was still valuable to his team and in good playing form when he decided to stage a graceful exit from the court upon the advice of concerned friends who believed that he had enough of "the injuries and throes that are the price of glory."

Loyzaga bowed out of the limelight with his right knee still being bothered by the injury he got in Taipei when the Philippines retained the ABC crown in 1963. He was 34.

A few months later, a Carlos Loyzaga appreciation day was held by the MICAA for the king's "outstanding services to Philippine basketball in particular, and Philippine sports in general."

If Caloy's emergence on the hoop scaffold had been dramatic, his appearance into this world was even more dynamic.

Carmen Matute Loyzaga nearly lost her life bringing her 11-pound baby boy into the light. Caloy was born big, bouncing, and menacing, and Carmen's womb had been unable to bear the strain.

The young mother hemmorhaged, her pressure dropped, and the succeeding days saw a ferocious battle between life and death. It wasn't until after a month later that Carmen saw her bouncing baby boy-for the first time.

Caloy is the third in a family of three boys and a girl. His parents, both Philippine born, were of Cuban-Filipino-Spanish descent.

The Loyzagas made their living largely from the rentals of a few small buildings that the family owned. Joaquin Loyzaga, an accountant, also made good money from a pawnshop he owned in Binondo.

Caloy's family had been fairly well off. They could even afford to send their children to good schools. In the elementary grades, Caloy was educated at San Beda and La Salle Colleges.

However, when the war broke out in December 1941, the Loyzagas had to evacuate to Baguio, leaving their properties in Teresa and Binondo.

After the war, the family went back to Manila, only to find out that all their properties had been lost and destroyed in the war. There was virtually nothing left-except the clothes which they were wearing.

As Caloy's elder brother had earlier joined the Navy, Caloy felt that the responsibility of caring for his family now fell on his hands, being the eldest boy left in the family.

To support his brothers, sister, and widowed mother he held a series of odd jobs, one after the other. His first job was a dishwasher earning P15 a month in a Russian bar called the "Marfuzcha." When the bar closed, Caloy moved to another establishment in the same street, R. Hidalgo.

At Farmacia Oro, he worked as a bottle washer. The job was so mechanical and boring that in his spare time, he would try to break the monotony by scanning the drug price list. In time he learned the prices by heart, and accordingly, he was promoted to salesman of the company.

He was quite content with his status and his job, when a cousin from Davao came for a visit one day. The cousin, who owned two boats that ferried passengers around the islands, offered Caloy a job, and being the adventurer that he was, Caloy accepted the position of assistant purser.

Mariner Loyzaga was at sea for one and a half years until the corroding vessel had to be finally dried up and all the sailors had to go on furlough. Caloy went home to Teresa.

While on vacation, Caloy spent his time playing basketball with Tervalac youth in one of the neighbourhood courts. He became so enamoured with the sport that when it was time to go back to sea, Caloy chose to stay and concentrate on looking for a job in the city so he could indulge in the game that he had learned to love.

Caloy was the most popular and most revered basketeer in the country when he was first introduced to lovely mestiza Victoria Cuerva. Vickie, who was only 13 at the tlme, was one of Caloy's most avid fans. She was at the Jai Alai Keg Room to ask for her idol's autograph to complete her Carlos Loyzaga album.

The hardcourt hero and the Santo Tomas lass did not see each other again until five years later. She was by then in full bloom and very beautiful.

After a whirlwind courtship, the two eloped and got married. Vickie was 16, Caloy 27. Carmen Matule Loyzaga was happy to finally see his son settle down.

It had been a blissful marriage. Caloy was the ideal family man-and mate-attentive and loving to his wife and children. He had had enough of the pleasures of life as a bachelor and now he made it a point to come home early, if possible, punctually at six in the evening.

Even while abroad, Caloy's friends aver that the longtime ex-bachelor hardly went out with the boys on an evening spree. He was content to curl up in bed and go to sleep early.

After 14 years of marriage, the set-up has hardly changed. Except for a few additions to the family. Augmenting the Loyzaga tribe were Cachito, their eldest, Russo, Princess, Duchess, and Bingbing.

Meanwhile, all of Caloy's relatives, including his mother, migrated to Australia. Caloy chose to stay because he felt that it was in this country that he belonged.

Right after his retirement from the hardcourt in April 1964, Caloy replaced Fely Fajardo as coach of the UST team. He led the underdog Goldies in a sensational campaign that won for them the UAAP championship that year.

In 1966 he took over the mentorship of the Yco Painters and in 1967 sparked them to the national championship the title that had eluded two of his predecessors since 1961.

On his third year as coach of the UST Goldies, Caloy decided to seek relief so he could concentrate on his job as coach of the Philippine team to a world invitational in Barcelona, Spain.

1967 was an exciting and glorious year for Caloy who was now 37. Definitely back in the limelight as a coach, he was chosen to mentor the 1967 ABC team to Seoul, Korea.

Crown less in two previous ABC's, Loyzaga and his boys were determined to take the title this time. And they did.

Perceptive observers agreed that Caloy was the key to the Philippines' success. There had been no doubt that the balding, 38-year-old coach succeeded in disciplining and giving the RP crew a spirit of competition and the will to win.

More than anything else, thc ABC victory was attributed to two things: teamwork in every game and a spirit of camaraderie among the players.

According to Adriano Papa Jr., member of the 1967 ABC team, Loyzaga had acted as father to everyone of his players. In court he was a strict disciplinarian but outside he joked, laughed, played cards and had a lot of fun with the boys. An optimist, he never failed to remind them that confidence is always a big factor in a team's success.

With formidable materials like Danny Florencio, Edgardo Roque, Jaime Mariano, Rogelio Melencio, Renato Reyes, Big Boy Reynoso, Nariso Bernardo, Eddie Ocampo, Orlando Bauzon, Bobby Jaworski, Joaquin Rojas and Jun Papa, Loyzaga successfully molded his boys to a hustling, shooting, aggressive team.

If Caloy as a player, had been the symbol of Philippine supremacy in Asia basketball, he was now starting manifest signs of coaching excellence in this hemisphere.

But 1967 had even bigger surprises in store for the lucky Caloy. Persuaded by friends Freddie Elizalde and incumbent congressman of the fourth district of Manila Pablo Ocampo. Caloy decided to try his hands in politics and ran courageously as an independent candidate for councilor in the third district of Manila.

Undoubtedly the Loyzaga charisma was still there. The November 1967 elections earned for him the distinction of being the first independent candidate to win in the third district of Manila.

The 38-year•old sportsman, who was practically pushed into politics, frankly admitted that he did not know the A from B of government. He never in his life had gone to City Hall, and he felt lost.

But even while he was learning the ropes in the world of politics the world of sports clung to him and he could not give it up.

He was still with Yco when he was selected to coach the Philippine team to the Mexico Olympics in 1968. Caloy and his boys ended in the thirteenth place.

Three years later, Caloy was promoted Athletic Moderator of the Yco Athletic Club. He gave up coaching completely and concentrated on his job as Manila Councilor and NCAA Commissioner.

The NCAA had been suspended owing to unruly incidents at the games, in 1966, the NCAA resumed full-scale league-type operations, instead of home-and-away gym dual meets, and the NCAA authorities turned to Caloy for help.

They made him NCAA Commissioner, confident that his great popularity with the players as well as with the spectators would give him the moral authority to preserve order at the Coliseum. They were right. Caloy's presence as Commissioner proved to be an overwhelming disciplinary influence - and the NCAA got back on its feet.

Carlos Loyzaga has not quite made up his mind whether he would like to continue in politics, whether he has learned enough of the art or acquired enough of the skills necessary to stay on top of the slippery world of the politicians. But one thing is sure, basketball will not give him up and he will not give up basketball.

As long as he can, Caloy will continue to be "The Great Difference" in Philippine basketball -if no longer as a player, then as an inspiration and a moral authority to the numberless young Filipinos who love basketball and would like to play it well.

the end

08-26-2009, 12:39 PM
49-game winning streak, an incredible feat, there would only be one "King Caloy."

08-26-2009, 06:12 PM
Ganda ng biography ah! Saan fineature yan?