Despite leaving the Sinulog Foundation and the Cebu City Sports Center (CCSC), Ricky Ballesteros never stopped working for Sinulog and Cebu sports.
For most, Ricky was the face of the Sinulog, transforming the annual celebration into the world-class event it is now with his myriad of ideas, but for me, Ricky was that rare sportsman who strengthened the bond of the local sports community.
He was just starting at the CCSC, when I started writing for SunStar Cebu over two decades ago, and I’d regularly stop by his office. He’d never fail to give me tips and story ideas and later, when we got to know each other well, he’d give me tips on what the other writers were doing.
One time, while we were talking in his office, I noticed a document on his desk. It was upside down from my perspective, but I knew it was the financial report of the CCSC’s monthly earnings and I immediately knew the news value of such.
So I grabbed it and told him, “This will make a good story.”
It did and there was no attempt from him to hide it nor did he ask that I omit certain portions as some would. When the story broke out the next day, to the chagrin of the other reporters who got scooped, I sent him a message to thank him.
Most Palarong Pambansa venues are mothballed after the event but not the CCSC and I think it is no coincidence that it became the hub for the local sports community in Cebu. I’m not talking about the CCSC hosting tournaments for various events, I’m talking about it becoming the go-to venue for those who want to jog, practice martial arts, dance or what-have-you.
“Nananghid na ming Ricky,” is the usual reply whenever a new group props up at the CCSC.
There was a time when Ricky earned the ire of the football community when he banned the regular 4 p.m. matches at the “D” of the oval because some runners complained about getting hit.
He stood his ground and eventually, the Abellana boys grudgingly accepted his decision, which, looking back, was the financially sound one. The guys playing football enter the CCSC for free, while the joggers pay their way.
Ricky also changed the way events like the Milo Marathon and Little Olympics were done that I think other hosts began looking at Cebu for ideas. I think it is because of Ricky that Milo decided to hold a national version of their regional Olympics, making Cebu the first host.
During one opening ceremony that evoked scenes of the Summer Olympics, yes that Olympics, I overheard the next host saying, “Dili namo na kaya.”
I was looking forward to the resumption of the Milo Olympics to see Ricky’s innovations post-pandemic. But I guess, it wasn’t meant to be.
Late Saturday afternoon, I was shocked to read a tribute of him written by his niece. That couldn’t be true as I just read something from his account hours earlier. But later, multiple sources confirmed the news. Ricky collapsed in a mall and died in the hospital.
He was 57. So young, he still would have had decades of helping both the Sinulog and Cebu sports — his twin passions. I guess, it’s up to those who support both to continue his legacy by doing what Ricky did best.
Boosting Cebu culture and Cebu sports.
Rest well, Ricky Ballesteros.