Wenceslao: Wesley So

Bong O. Wenceslao

CALL me a sports fan. I grew up celebrating the triumph of Filipino sports icons here and abroad, and agonizing with every defeat. I momentarily left the hospital to view the live coverage of the third Manny Paquiao-Erik Morales fight, leaving alone my wife who had given birth to our second child. After Pacman’s win, I would often head for the internet cafe nearby in my free time to surf all articles related to the bout.

Recently, I got glued to YouTube and everything about Pinoy billiards legend Efren “Bata” Reyes, who had admitted he has gotten too old for major international competitions. Bata is fortunate to have his exploits recorded not only by traditional media outlets but more so by social media. So I was able to spend time reliving his career’s good moments.

So why am I not ecstatic over Wesley So’s recent win, defeating world chess No. 1 Magnuss Carlsen in the process? So admittedly belongs to a not-so-popular sport in the country, but so are billiards and bowling (I also look up to the former world champion Paeng Nepumoceno). And I idolized growing up our first chess grandmaster Eugene Torre, so much so that I ended up learning chess in the process.

So has reached heights Torre couldn’t. He is ranked world No. 2 and could some day rule international chess. He is to chess what Pacquiao is to boxing. Interestingly, one report described So as, “originally from the Philippines.” So is based in the US and represents the US chess federation in tournaments. Politicking in the chess federation in the Philippines left him disillusioned, thus the transfer.

I won’t dwell on this matter because I don’t have all of the facts at hand. I read somewhere about Torre saying that So must not have reached these heights had he not transferred to the US. For Torre, So made the right decision. But there are actually others who consider the decision as wrong. I myself lost a chunk of my admiration for the young man. But that’s only me.

For me, patriotism, like religion, is not like items in your neighborhood “ukay-ukay.” How many times have I heard Catholics threaten to transfer to another religion because they don’t like the manner the parish priest is running the parish? To be fair, I think So still considers himself a Filipino citizen. Other reports describe him as Filipino-American. This way I am still a fan, although my admiration for him is just not intense as my admiration of, say, the Pacman, Bata and Paeng.

By the way, have our sports bodies learned from the So episode? Is the Philippine chess federation still in the hands of suckers and former politicians? I understand the country will soon be hosting the Southeast Asian Games and House Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano is dipping his finger into it. Apil-apilon gyud ning mga pulitiko. As we Cebuanos would say, “Magda lang sa tigaw.”

I think Wesley So is not about to embrace the chess organization in the Philippines again now or in the future. That means I would also remain as not-much-of-a-fan but, okay, a fan nevertheless.