Al S. mendoza
DR. Philip del Carmen introduced him to me “because he has a good story to tell, I believe.”
Sabas Hafalla turned 84 last Dec. 5. Lean and fat-free, he walks with a cane now. He was accompanied this day by his son, Tommy, a brilliant, internationally-awarded photographer.
Sabas limps, a result of two shrapnel and bullet wounds on his thigh suffered during the last War where he fought alongside the Americans.
Sabas is hard of breathing, and has been essentially weakened by emphysema.
But his memory remains razor-sharp.
“I own the record in the Fil-Am golf at Baguio Country Club (BCC),” he said, his eyes twinkling as in a kid boasting of his victory in a spelling bee contest.
The BCC was par-63 in the 1954 Fil-Am tournament.
“I shot 54 that year,” he said. “I broke the record 55 of Mr. Celso Tuason.”
Tuason (may his soul rest in peace) is the patriarch and founder of Valley Golf Club in Antipolo City.
Hafalla’s 9-under was, by any yardstick of excellence, simply awesome.
Sabas was then a member of the Camp John Hay team.
In those days, only Americans compose John Hay teams in the Fil-Am golf, which began in 1948 upon the urgings of actor Rogelio de la Rosa, who had many Americans as close friends.
But because Sabas was exceptionally adept at playing the game—no matter that he was self-taught—John Hay officials tapped him for the event.
“I learned to play the game quick by just watching the Americans play it,” he said.
He was lent a 5-iron and with it, he would out-drive ‘em Yanks using drivers.
In his first game in the Fil-Am as a John Hay team member, Sabas, a security guard, shot 60 at John Hay.
That shocked everybody. His 60 was 5-under.
“Them Americans couldn’t believe a Filipino could beat them all,” he said.
But he smoked a lot, drank a lot, and fell ill.
“I smoked five packs a day, gulped brandy a lot,” he said.
He migrated to the U.S. and, back in the country for good in 2000, now receives a hefty pension in dollars.
His secret to long life?
“I guess my being a heavy drinker,” he said. “And also, I eat everything—from beef to pork. Everyday.”