Limpag: The curious case of Wesley So

Mike T. Limpag

CHESS prodigy Wesley So’s troubles began with his success. He won the gold medal in the Universiade, a sort of Olympics for university students in 2013. But his stint there were against the wishes of the National Chess Federation of the Philippines (NCFP), which wanted him to compete in the Asian Indoor Games.

So thought his gold medal was worth at least P1 million but he didn’t get it. Not only did the NCFP not endorse the incentive, he was told the Universiade wasn’t covered in the Incentive Act of 2001, which awards P1 million for a gold medal in a world-level meet that is held every two years and that has at least 25 countries participating.

In Russia 2013, the Universiade, held every two years, had 162 countries participating. That should qualify him for the incentive, right?

The Universiade is run by Fisu, the International University Sports Federation, and its member for the Philippines is the Federation of School Sports Association of the Philippines, of which the Cebu Schools Athletic Foundation Inc. is a member. The Philippine Olympic Committee (POC) and the Philippine Sports Commission have no role in the formation of the Philippine team in the Universiade. I think that played a role in So’s original disgruntlement with Philippine sports.

Filipino athletes who win world championships receive incentives readily because they were sent their by their national sport association, which is under the POC umbrella.

So, who was early as then was tipped to become a world champion, thought of switching federations. His struggles with that were limited to the chess community or to those who followed his story.

But now, it seems everyone has something to say against the Random Chess world champion, who for some has turned his back from his country.

We shouldn’t celebrate his victory. We don’t deserve recognition since we played no part. These are but two of the arguments put forth.

Sometimes I shake my head. This from a country that readily gives the red carpet treatment to any celebrity who can speak Tagalog phrases or who has a drop of Filipino blood? Didn’t thousands share an article about the third-string keeper of the world champion France because his parents are Pinoy?

So is Filipino. At least the last time his citizenship was discussed in 2017, he said he still was Filipino and had no plans of acquiring US citizenship. This is in spite of the fact the he was playing for the US team. (International chess rules regarding who can play for a country is unique)

So, should we not celebrate So’s victory because his playing for the US? Sure, but let us also stop hoping that a homegrown Filipino will some day suit up for an NBA team. Let’s stop celebrating Filipinos who succeed in the world stage, while working for non-PH companies. And most certainly, let’s stop hyping and following every Tom, Dick and Harry who can sing a local song.

He left for the US to improve his personal situation and his game. And for a nation of Overseas Filipino Workers, that is something we can relate on a personal level.