The le­gend lives on

The Philippine Star - - SPORTS - By JOAQUIN M. HEN­SON

In yes­ter­day’s col­umn, we rein­tro­duced three-time Olympic bas­ket­ball star Ra­moncito Cam­pos who passed away peace­fully in his sleep at home last Mon­day. He was 92. Tito Ra­moncito, as I called him, was cre­mated last Tues­day and his re­mains will be at the De La Salle chapel on Taft Av­enue from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. to­mor­row. A Re­quiem Mass will be cel­e­brated at 6 p.m. af­ter which friends and fam­ily will de­liver their farewell tributes. The La Salle Alumni As­so­ci­a­tion will host a dinner fol­low­ing the eu­lo­gies.

One of Cam­pos’ clos­est friends was Tony Ge­nato whom he fondly nick­named Bulilit. Cam­pos and Ge­nato were team­mates on the Philip­pine team that played at the 1952 and 1956 Olympics. Ge­nato’s older brother Dr. Jose was Cam­pos’ team­mate on the un­beaten UST squad that won the UAAP se­nior bas­ket­ball crown in 1946.

“Ra­moncito and I used to talk to each other a lot on the phone,” said Ge­nato who turns 88 on June 9. “But we al­ways ended up cry­ing. We rem­i­nisced about old times. We re­mem­bered our team­mates who’ve gone ahead. Ra­moncito was a very ac­tive guy and when he was too weak to move around over the past year, it took a toll. But he never lost his sense of hu­mor. When one of our Olympic team­mates Po­cholo (Martinez) died late last year, Ra­moncito couldn’t come to the wake. Ra­moncito felt Po­cholo’s loss. They were team­mates at the 1948 and 1952 Olympics, with UST and YCO. It’s sad but that’s life.”

**** It was Tito Ra­moncito whom I ran to when no­body could re­mem­ber Martinez’ nick­name at his wake. I later phoned him to ask what it was and he quickly replied P-38, the all-pur­pose Amer­i­can fighter plane in World War II also known as Light­ning. When Tito Ra­moncito wanted to vent his dis­gust over the pol­i­tics in sports, he called on the phone and we ex­changed thoughts. When I needed in­for­ma­tion on the Olympics, he was the best re­source per­son to con­tact be­cause of his in­cred­i­ble mem­ory.

One of Tito Ra­moncito’s fa­vorite sto­ries was his ex­pe­ri­ence in the 1948 Lon­don Olympics. “It took us five days to travel from Manila to Lon­don,” he said. “We rode on a pro­pel­ler plane on the first Philip­pine Air­lines flight to Europe. We had overnight stops in Bangkok, Burma, Karachi, Greece and Spain be­fore fi­nally ar­riv­ing in Lon­don. The same flight at­ten­dants were with us through­out the trip. We were 23 ath­letes in all. Our del­e­ga­tion in­cluded Am­bro­sio Padilla, Jorge Var­gas, Simeon Toribio, my fa­ther Dr. Ra­mon Cam­pos, Sr., the team doctor, bas­ket­ball coach Chito Calvo and box­ing coach Aling En­riquez.”

Lon­don had not fully re­cov­ered from the dev­as­ta­tion of World War II and the Olympics were called the Aus­ter­ity Games as food and milk were ra­tioned. The Philip­pine del­e­ga­tion was bil­leted at a Royal Air Force installation in Uxbridge, about a two-hour bus ride to the Har­ringay Arena where bas­ket­ball was played. “There was still rub­ble in the streets,” said Cam­pos. “We could eat only one dish in restau­rants. Sugar, eggs and milk were lim­ited.”

The Philip­pines fin­ished 12th of 23 with a 4-4 record and its 102-30 de­ci­sion over Iraq marked the first time any coun­try scored at least 100 points in an Olympic game. “It was a won­der­ful ex­pe­ri­ence,” said Cam­pos. “Trav­el­ing is a great form of ed­u­ca­tion, equiv­a­lent to a year in class. You broaden your knowl­edge. We made lots of friends and that’s what’s im­por­tant. The Olympics are all about in­ter­na­tional good­will.”

**** Cam­pos worked hard to make it to the 1948 Olympic team but was left out of the na­tional squad for the 1950 Asian Games. “I was so dis­ap­pointed that I wanted to prove I could make it to a sec­ond Olympics,” he said. “So for three weeks be­fore the try­outs, I trained in Ba­colod. I did over 120 laps with­out stop­ping in my cousin’s pool and played bad­minton to sharpen my re­flexes. When I showed up for try­outs, I was in the best shape of my life. My ex­pe­ri­ence in Lon­don was my mo­ti­va­tion to qual­ify for two more Olympics.”

Rep­re­sent­ing the coun­try in the Olympics was a cher­ished mem­ory for Cam­pos. “I did it thrice and ev­ery time I walked on that field, my hair stood up,” he said. “I saw the crowd cheer­ing, peo­ple tak­ing pic­tures. Thou­sands of peo­ple were in the sta­dium. It was a great feel­ing to be with the best ath­letes in the world. My eyes were wide open. The at­mos­phere was un­be­liev­able, be­yond words. I hope more of our coun­try­men could ex­pe­ri­ence the feel­ing, es­pe­cially our bas­ket­ball stars be­cause they’re our he­roes.”

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