By Lily O. Ramos
MANILA, Aug. 23 (PNA)– Who could forget basketball great Philip Cezar, the nemesis of center Ramon Fernandez during the glory days of their Crispa–Toyota rivalry in the PBA in 1973?
After his retirement from hard-court action in the late 1990s, the fish-slim power-forward became enamored with public service and served as San Juan vice mayor to Jinggoy Estrada until 2001.
A friend to the Estrada family, Cezar remained in their circle of activities but took off a while when Jinggoy became a senator and concentrated on his family.
This year, he became a partner of Manila City Hall’s kingpin, Mayor Joseph “Erap” Estrada as top guy of the Manila Sports Council (MASCO) and overseer of 78 sports infrastructure and activities scattered all over the country’s capital city.
He holds office daily, starting at 2 p.m., at the fifth floor of the city hall, with a steady stream of people going in and out for various businesses that keep him preoccupied until late evening.
Nicknamed “King Phillip” as a premier power-forward, he has not changed much physically with his 6’2” lean frame, exceptionally long arms that blocked and swatted many a ball during his heydays.
He is still fair and rosy-skinned, sporting a few lines and creases on his face, especially when he smiles.
Now that he is in his early 60s and two of his three children have become Australian citizens, Cezar insisted that he is through with politics — but not with public service.
He said that should things turn sour, he and his wife April might migrate to wherever the grass is greener.
On the country’s lonesome silver mint in the recently concluded Rio de Janeiro Olympics, Cezar said the athletes tried their best but it was not enough to bring home the much coveted gold in any event they participated in.
”The world of sports has changed a lot; athletes have become bigger, taller, much into the newest technology and advanced strategies in achieving their personal goal. If you look at the Olympics, peopled with the world’s best sports competitors are different and advanced from yesteryear,” he said.
”If we want to keep up with the rest of the world, our sports program should take special attention to our athletes’ nutrition. Look at the size of steak served to world champions — they are big like a double palm. What about vitamins and enriched food to strengthen our future medal candidates?”
Cezar suggested that our sports officials focus on events where we can stand to win — boxing, weightlifting, taekwondo and archery or martial arts “because we are small–sized” but are smart.
He said these sports do not need too much height and bulk, making them suitable for Asians.
Swimming? “Although we are surrounded by waters, I think he who has the height, long bones, wide wingspan, focused training and proper or high-powered diet will have the big advantage in the pool. Iba talaga, maybe in 10 years or more, we can be at par with USA’ Michael Phelps, Arthur Wojhdat of Poland or the 6’9” Matt Biondi or Mark Spitz,” he said.
Training? “We can always copy from advanced countries or ask for the help of good coaches with proven techniques for transfer of technology. There are now young people who can easily learn and apply it to the local setting.”
Incentives/perks are always welcomed by aspiring athletes, he said. To hear of Rio Olympics silver medalist Hidilyn Diaz receiving PHP7 million and other gifts is a heavenly dream. An athlete who gets his own house and lot plus, plus is ‘made’ in the eyes of his family and environs, according to Cezar.
”But the most important thing is the heart, determination, devotion and focus of a youngster in his chosen field —- be it in the academe or sports. He/she must be willing to sacrifice personal comfort, youth, personal joy and entertainment to get to the top. World champs have that one-track mindedness to succeed before reaping their rewards with aplomb,” said Cezar.