I’VE been covering the PAL Interclub for over 15 years now and I thought I knew the stories of the people covering the Philippines’ biggest club tournament.
It turns out, I didn’t.
During Wednesday’s awarding ceremony of the PAL media tournament, Interclub legend Al Mendoza told me the brief history of Rey Fortaleza, a nodding acquaintance of mine who also regularly flies from Canada to cover the tournament.
My first impression of him a few years ago was that he’s built like a retired boxer and it turns out he is.
And not just an ordinary boxer. An Olympian at that. Imagine my surprise.
“Maybe you were too young to remember him. He fought in the Montreal Olympics,” Al told me.
“Montreal 76? I was born in 1979,” I said and they both laughed at being reminded of their age.
Rey told me about his contemporaries in Cebu--Juanito Ablaca, Brix Flores and Efren Tabanas--and said he’s planning a get-together with them but circumstances aren’t kind. Ablaca made the news a few months ago as his friends were busy launching a fund-raising activity for him, while Tabanas used to be with the Cebu City Sports Commission boxing team.
Flores is still busy with his gym and is regularly sending fighters abroad.
After I got home, I tried to get all the info I could get about him online and I was more impressed. His amateur career saw him winning six golds, one silver and three bronzes in 11 international competitions. He emigrated to Canada in 1990 and had a silk-screening job for minimum wage.
Now, he’s the publisher of Philippine Asian News Today and Living Today magazine. How he did that will be the subject of talks in future inter clubs.
As usual, I didn’t join the media tournament—my one and done experience in Bacolod is enough for a lifetime—but SunStar Cebu was represented by the father and daughter tandem of Jayjay and Tiffany Neri.
Said Al of Tiffany: Tiffany two days in a row na na ka-flight ko. Ang sayang kasama! Ang bait. Very respectful, polite and always smiling sweetly.”
Tiffany played with a bum ankle and wasn’t a contender. Hopefully that changes next year.
Of course, a PAL interclub event wouldn’t be complete without Charlie Erojo, whose unfortunate absence three years ago made for an unremarkable interclub experience. Now with MacroAsia, it has become a given that the man with the golden voice gets “loaned” (to use a football term) to PAL to help run the interclub, and make sure there are ample supplies of red wine and Mandaue City water in the designated press room.
As Al and the equally legendary Jake Ayson would say, “Take it away, Charlie of Davao!”