Bong Coo Bong Coo: MVP.

World bowling champion Bong Coo pays it forward

March 26, 2022 Ed Andaya 919 views
Coo with GAB Chairman Baham Mitra, PSC Chairman Butch Ramirez and POC president Ricky Vargas during the Philippine Sports Hall of Fame induction ceremony.
Coo: Most decorated Filipino athlete.

OLIVIA “Bong” Coo dominated women’s bowling in the way few have in the long history of the sport.

God gave her the talent to excel in her sport, she took care of the rest.

And with her awe-inspiring and standing ovation-worthy performances from the 1970s up to 2000, Coo remains an unstoppable force in the sport — both on and off the bowling lanes.

She is also now the Chairperson of the Women in Sports Commission of the Philippine Olympic Committee (POC).

“Napakaganda ng buhay ko dahil sa bowling starting in the 70s until my retirement and now I try to pay it forward whenever I can,” said Coo during her special appearance in the “Women’s Month” episode of “Sports On Air” last March 19.

Coo, now 73, said she hopes to provide inspiration to a new generation of Filipino female sports heroes by sharing her experiences as country’s most decorated Filipino athlete based on the Philippine Republic Act 9064 also known as “Athletes Incentives Act of 2001”.

“As the Chairperson of the Women in Sports Commission of the Philippine Olympic Committee (POC), madami kaming isinusulong na programa na magtataguyod ng ating mga female athletes,” said Coo, who was voted to the World Bowling Writers International Bowling Hall of Fame at the International Bowling Hall of Fame and Museum in St. Louis, Missouri in 1993.

“Matagal na talagang dapat binigyang-pansin ang mga women athletes natin. Pareho din naman ang initiative, pareho ang puso, pareho ang kagustuhang lumaban at magbigay ng karangalan sa bansa. Gender equality means equal rights, equal responsibilities and equal opportunities,” recalled Coo, who is also the first Filipino athlete to make it to the Guinness Book of World Records twice

“During our time, less sponsorships, less prizes, less coaches na babae. Pero ngayon madami na ding pagbabago,,” added Coo, who was also named one of the “Greatest International Bowlers of All-Time” by the prestigious Bowlers Journal International in its 100-year anniversary issue in 2013 issue.

Coo thanked the Philippine Sports Commission (PSC) thru Chairman William “Butch” Ramirez and Women Oversight Committee chair Celia Kiram, for pushing for more women-oriented activities.

“Kaya naman nagpapasalamat kami sa PSC, lalo na kay Commissioner Kiram dahil nagpasa sila ng resolution na tuwing magbibiyahe ang isang national sports association, basta may women’s team, dapat may atleast isang women’s coach lagi,” added Coo, who has amassed a total of 78 medals — including 37 golds — in both world and regional competitions.

“Comm. Kiram is doing a lot of pushing into women in sports as well kaya nagpapasalamat ako sa kanya. Ngayon nakikita natin yun mga magandang resulta. Mas madaming babae ang nananalo.

Si Hidilyn (Diaz) sa Olympics. Sa boxing si Nesthy Petecio, sa golf si Yuka Saso. Pati women’s football team.”

Coo, who was also enshrined in the Philippine Sports Hall of Fame by the PSC in 2018, said Filipino female athletes should now take advantage of the generous support that they are getting from both the government and private sector to try and improve their skills.

“During the time na naglalaro kami nung 70s until 90s, wala pa talaga yung mga ganyang financial rewards. I think yung Republic Act 9064 (Incentives Act) parang year 2001 na naipasa sa government,” recalled Coo, who is currently the secretary general of the Philippine Bowling Federation.

“Pero hindi namin masyado naisip yun mga incentives. Kahit ako tuwing pupunta sa isang tournament, nasa isip ko lagi para akong isang sundalo na pinadala para lumaban para sa bayan. Lagi ko iniisip na dapat bumalik ako na panalo.”

Yun mga teammates ko na sina Arianne (Cerdeña), Lita (Dela Rosa) at Bec (Watanabe), ganun din. Lahat kami nasa puso yun laban. We may be rivals sa competition dito sa Pilipinas, pero paglabas ng bansa para lumaban, we’re one team. Nagtutulungan kami at walang sisihan ang lahat. Our focus is to give glory to God and make our country proud.”

Coo, who was also immortalized with a commemorative stamp as part of the Philippine Postal Corporation’s 75th anniversary last month, said her biggest wish is always making her children proud.

“As a single parent, malaki ang naging sakripisyo ng pamilya ko, lalo na yun dalawang anak ko. I was not always there for my two sons sa eskwela nila, sa mga PTA meetings. Lumaki sila na halos nasa tournament ako every month,” explained Coo, who last played in the 1999 Brunei Southeast Asian Games.

“Kaya nga nung nabigyan ako ng commemorative stamp ng Philpost, I dedicated it to them. Kasi nga malaki ang pagkukulang ko sa kanila. I am just hoping that, although they are very proud of me, someday, somehow, I can make it up to them sa lahat ng mga sakripisyo nila.”

Coo, who attended St. Scholastica’s College and Philippine Women’s University, is elated that the efforts of the bowling federation is now reaping dividends.

“Madami tayong potential bowlers ngayon, lalo na sa mga kabataan. Ang hirap lang ngayon talaga ay malaki na din ang pagbabago in terms of equipment. Yun technology masyadong nag-evolve.

Tapos financially, we’re very limited talaga kahit pa ang dami sanang tournaments na pwede natin salihan at madaming training centers na pwedeng puntahan sa US or sa Europe,” admitted Coo.

“Let’s admit it, our training equipment here is not at par sa mga training equipment overseas. Kaya nga malaking tulong yun sa PSC, na magbubukas sila ng Philippine Sports Training Center sa Bataan. Sabi nga nila, the best of the best dahil lahat ng training equipment ay high-tech, pati yun sa bowling center dun. That’s a very big step kasi nga yun ang kailangan natin kaya gusto natin lumabas at magpunta sa US.”

“Meron silang nilalagay dun ngayon na equipment na kayang ma-measure yung mental condition habang naglalaro, hindi lang yun yung mga tinatamaan mong target. You will know how consistent you are. It’s all computerized, so mas madaling sabihin sa player kung hindi tinamaan yung target. Minsan yun ang nagiging problema, lalo na sa mga kabataan, na makipag-argue pa dahil walang proof kung natamaan. Ngayon may equipment na magsasabi.”

Coo cited Merwin Tan, one of the country’s best players in the men’s division.

“We just sent out Merwin Tan, who is our best player in the men’s division dahil madami na siyang napanalunan, to the US three weeks ago. Na-overwhelmed siya pagdating dun dahil yun mga nakalaban niya, pinanonood nya lang dati sa TV.

Although he didn’t make it, he performed well with 200 average. Ang diperensya lang is that yung mga kalaban niya 240 average dahil mga pro na talaga. But it’s an eye-opener for him. ”

Another major development in sports is the presence of sports psychologists and nutritionists to help in the athletes’ training thru the help of the PSC and Philippine Olympic Committee

“Way back in 2018, meron kaming sports psychologist for bowling. He is Marcus Manalo, also now the secretary-general of ABAP. So during the pandemic, tuloy-tuloy sila sa mental conditioning pati sa strength conditioning,” she said.

“Our athletes are lucky to have them now. Dati sa tulong ng Project Gintong Alay nun, ang ginawa namin ni Paeng (Nepomuceno) we looked for our own coach. Meron akong sariling mental coach. Meron akong sariling doctor na nag-aalaga sa akin, si Dr. Tyron Reyes, for strength and conditioning,” explained Coo

“Sa bowling kasi, hindi pwedeng muscle development. Dapat muscle strengthening lang kasi hindi kami pwede masyadong lumaki. So.with the PSC providing this need, the athletes should now take advantage.”

Asked about the possibility of running as president of PBF in the coming elections, Coo said she is leaving it all to her peers.

“Sa PBF election, we will elect a board. From there, mag elect naman ng president and other officers. If they want me there, OK lang. Ang gusto ko talaga makapag serve in whatever capacity,” stressed Coo.

“Sabi ko nga, I just want to pay it forward.” With reports ftom Gab Ferreras