For this grandma, romance with sports began in the City of Pines

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The author with her grandson Jason, her ‘date’ to the November 4 football game between  the University of Southern California and the University of Arizona. Ludy was a teacher at USC for three decades.

The author with her grandson Jason, her ‘date’ to the November 4 football game between the University of Southern California and the University of Arizona. Ludy held academically-tenured positions at USC for more than three decades: as a graduate school faculty member and as managing editor of an academic journal for social research.

By Ludy Astraquillo Ongkeko, Ph.D.

Who knew that growing up in Baguio — amid the city’s parks, bowls, race tracks, and, of course, the famed Burnham Park — would turn me into a sports enthusiast?

My love for sports would nurture me through half a century of being an American citizen, where my Superbowl Sundays and World Series weeks were spent in front of the television with my husband and our children.

Of course, it’s not much fun to watch sports alone after my husband died, but I join my immediate family as they cheer for their own schools. My son is a UC-Berkeley product. My granddaughters are CAL grads too. When CAL lost badly to USC recently, we never talked about winners and losers. Such is the world of sports in my family.

I remember how Burnham Park, Baguio City’s pride and joy, didn’t need to announce how crowded its schedule would be when it hosted a series of sporting events with athletes coming from all over Northern Luzon.

As a child of that era, fear of security and safety never crossed our parents’ minds. They would always be with us while they cheered for their teams.

I first got acquainted with the sport of softball. It was easy to see how one would try to hit the ball and run to the first base without being caught. Moving along the second and third bases, on to the home base added to the excitement. We cheer for our homegrown players. That’s how we learned to sing: “Hit a home run, hit a home run, hit a home run, hit a home run, all the way.”

I went on to learn basketball, baseball, soccer, track and field. Viewing sports came with the added treat of being surrounded by food vendors who roamed the sites.

When World War II broke out, athletic events came to a halt. Athletes from nearby schools avoided Baguio for security reasons. The presence of the occupation forces was enough to curtail all kinds of athletic activities. Baseball bats were confiscated. Those who refused to surrender them were punished severely. Likewise, basketballs that could be mistaken for defense weapons were prohibited.

Sports returned after the war. Schools re-opened their doors to events and competitions. Once more, we who loved sports returned to the bleachers and kept tabs on sports activities on the university calendars.

Baguio’s Burnham Park: Where it all started.

Baguio’s Burnham Park: Where it all started.

My sports cravings continued into my college years in Manila. The Rizal Memorial Stadium had activities lined up, but finishing our education was uppermost in our minds.

As a young reporter for the Manila Daily Bulletin, I managed to write a few stories on sports that I knew best. It allowed me access to events where tickets were mostly expensive.

Football was entirely new to me when I came to America in the 1960s. But it was enough to lure me to purchase a manual so I could learn more about the game that is said to be the Americans’ “religion.” I watched on television. I watched whatever sports was available on TV

Of course, my knowledge of football was greatly enhanced by explanations from my husband who was likewise a lover of sports. He was a member of the basketball team of his alma mater, the Philippine Military Academy.

We are fortunate to have three children, all of them sports fans. Our only son joined soccer teams in high school and in college. When they became parents, all their children joined sports’ opportunities likewise. As grandparents, we saw to it that they were present at their children’s events and that they made it their weekend commitment.

Once, at a soccer tournament, two of our grandsons were both goalies. That was a challenge for their grandparents. We could not root for but one team; so, we ended up rooting for both.

The most recent football game I witnessed was unforgettable.

My grandson, an alumnus of the U.S. Naval Academy, class 2005, spent November 4, arriving from an out-of-state assignment, to accompany his ‘lola’ to the homecoming game between the University of Arizona (the Wildcats) and her alma mater, the University of Southern California (USC). The match took place at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.

The game was a competition for the Pacific 12 South Division championship between the two aforementioned teams. Fortunately, USC won.

Indeed, between socials and athletic performances, the choice is never in doubt for this writer. As an octogenarian grandmother, I’ve been cutting down on my activities, but it’s hard to turn down an invitation to watch a game. I still derive humongous joy from watching sports, and this affection started from growing up in my beautiful city of Baguio.

© 2017 The FilAm

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