Madam Beth

The Philippine Star - - SPORTS - LITO A. TACUJAN (Notes: The re­mains of Beth Celis lie in state at St. Peters Me­mo­rial Chapel in Que­zon Ave., with wake and view­ing be­gin­ning to­day. In­ter­ment is ten­ta­tively set Tues­day...She is sur­vived by chil­dren Ray­mond, Stephanie Celis Her­rera, Claud

When did the calls cease to come? Phone calls from Beth Celis that would in­vari­ably change in tone – jovial, con­spir­a­to­rial, some with sense of ur­gency. Of­ten­times friendly.

The calls would lead to lively

dis­cus­sion of cur­rent bas­ket­ball is­sues and lib­er­ally spiked with scan­dalous yarns about the love life of a baller, of­fi­cial, coach, etc.

Long be­fore Mocha Uson and “fake news,” there was Madam Beth Celis and blind items in her “In Hud­dle” col­umn.

That col­umn, writ­ten in straight­for­ward and no frills style, would be for years the sta­ple of bas­ket­ball fans all over and it would make the rounds of sports jour­nals like Sports World, WE Fo­rum and in the tabloid Tempo and Peo­ple’s Jour­nal and na­tional dailies Manila Daily Bul­letin and Philip­pine Daily In­quirer. She wrote for nearly five decades and opened the beat to fu­ture women sportswrit­ers.

Beth Celis was a bas­ket­ball per­son all her life. She was prodi­gious, break­ing into sports jour­nal­ism at a young age, a beau­teous scribe out of UP and mar­ried to Jun Celis, a fire­brand of a point guard who played for Yco and Crispa in the de­funct com­mer­cial league, the MICAA, the pre­de­ces­sor of the PBA.

She would cut her teeth on sports writ­ing dur­ing the pre-Mar­tial Law years, do­ing lengthy fea­tures for the Sun­day Times mag­a­zine of the Manila Times.

She would even­tu­ally write the “In Hud­dle” col­umn that be­came quite pop­u­lar among the PBA teams, play­ers and fans for its in­ci­sive anal­y­sis of games and delved on con­tro­ver­sies in­volv­ing play­ers. She also ran a sports ra­dio pro­gram for some­time.

It was a mea­sure of her pop­u­lar­ity and “no­to­ri­ety” that PBA and me­dia friends would come in big num­bers to at­tend her an­nual Dec. 14 birth­day bash at a club­house in an ex­clu­sive en­clave in Que­zon City.

But then came her long bouts with di­a­betes, which took their toll, en­dur­ing the com­pli­ca­tions stem­ming from it and try­ing to ease their on­set by do­ing long fu­ri­ous walks around her neigh­bor­hood.

That’s when the phone calls came in­ter­mit­tently, long and far in be­tween.

The other night, on the eve of the highly an­tic­i­pated PBA ti­tle show­down be­tween Barangay Gine­bra and Mer­alco, she slipped away. She was 73.

For sure, she would have been ex­cited about the se­ries and would be aching to fire away and re­gale her read­ers on some be­hind-thescene de­tails about the games the morn­ing af­ter.

And I could al­most hear the phone ring­ing and her husky voice an­i­mated on the other end. “Hello.” “Lito Tacujan!” “Beth Celis”!

“Alam mo...” her voice would taper off and would come, in whis­per, the blind items.

Good­bye Beth. Good­bye, friend.

Beth Celis

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