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02-21-2010, 07:21 PM
Wednesday, July 9, 2003
Philippine Daily Inquirer
The legacy of Manolet Araneta
Clean Living
by Manolo R. Iņigo

The name Manolet Araneta may not ring a bell to the present generation of basketball fans, but to the oldtimers, the name Manolet Araneta will always be a source of national pride and inspiration. Manolet died on July 4 at the age of 76 after a lingering illness.

"Manolet is worth emulating, a worthy candidate for enshrinement in the Basketball Hall of Fame," said Cesar Jota, one-time shooting star of San Beda College and Ysmael Steel. "He served the country well as a member of the national team in 1948 London Olympic Games together with, among others, Hall of Famers Lauro Mumar, Fely and Gabby Fajardo, Ramoncito Campos, Francisco Vestil and Pocholo Martinez."

Manolet Araneta marked his illustrious basketball career while playing for Philippine Air Lines in 1947 when he was named Most Valuable Player of the first postwar MICAA (Manila Industrial Commercial Athletic Association), forerunner of the Philippine BAsketball Association.

For winnning the MVP award, recalled the ageless Col. Julian Malonso, a former president of the Philippine Olympic Committee, Manolet received a Lord Elgin black dial wristwatch.

Born on Dec. 8, 1926 in Iloilo to Manuel Araneta and Rosario Ledesma, Manolet's upbringing was not particularly lowly. His family lived comfortably, earning enough money to last the rainy days. While his parents were residing at Negros Occidental, Manolet studied at Bago Elementary School where he started playing basketball at the town plaza. He continued playing the game before the outbreak of Pacific War as a member of Iloilo's Colegio de San Agustin team that also included the famous Hechanova brothers, Ramon and Paeng. During the Japanese occupation, Manolet joined the Mapua Tech high school squad which was considered really strong as it was composed of "imported players," among them George Reid, a sweet-shooting Japanese nisei, six-footer Max Frauendorf, a German-American cager, and Bill Spelivski, another six-foot player of Polish-American descent. Also in the powerhouse cast was tall and deadly Emilio "Miling" Rodriguez, a Negrense who would have been the other Carlos Loyzaga had he survived the war.

Rodriguez was bayoneted to death by a Japanese soldier who was with the group that roamed the streets of Paco that also killed La Salle player Armando "Mandy" Eduque, elder brother of Tito Eduque, Manolet's teammate at La Salle in the late 1940s and until 1950.

Manolet and Tito Eduque has such incredible teamwork weaving across the court that they were called "sinulid at karayom." Manolet was a very fast guard and earned the moniker "Twinkle Toes." He was 24 years old when he married Mila Cacho in 1950. They have eight children, all married now, and 14 grandchildren.

According to his daughter Christine, "Dad always had many stories to tell about his basketball days."

Reminiscing his happy days with Mapua Tech, Manolet said the high school team was so good that some of the players were integrated into the senior selection that competed in the intercollegiate championship.

"I remember my grandfather buying an entire box section at the Rizal Coliseum and filling it up with my cousins and friends to watch me play against Ateneo," he said. "I was a starter assigned to guard Ateneo star Simon LaO. In the first ten minutes, Ateneo took a 6-to-nothing lead, with LaO scoring all six points. After that, I was benched for the entire game," Manolet added good-naturedly.

After the war, he joined Far Eastern University where he was team captain. From FEU, Manolet transferred to La Salle where he had a most satisfying stint having won several major national championships.

After his marriage in 1950, Manolet worked at the Bacolod Murcia Sugar Central in Negros Occidental where he continued his passion for sports, basketball in particular, by organizing inter-department tournaments at the sugar mills and promoting basketball and baseball games throughout the province. He always reminded the players that it's not winning but competing and playing fair that is important in life. When Bago city celebrated its 100th anniversary, Manolet was honored as "Outstanding Son of Bago for Sports."

On March 1988 Manolet was found to be diabetic and had a lung operation, retiring in 1989 to his coffee farm in Baguio City. In November 1997 he underwent a colon cancer operation and received chemotherapy treatment in the United States for about a year. He won that battle against the Big C, but on December 2001, his kidneys malfunctioned due to the long years of being a diabetic.

Manolet Araneta, basketball star and gentleman, died last July 4. May he rest in peace.