2019 Recap Part 2: The other top stories of the year

By Dugout Philippines

THE year 2019 was not just all about the SEA Games.

Prior to the start and even after the end of the said games, a lot of Philippine sporting stories took place, so we compiled some of the most memorable stories of the year outside of the SEA Games in the second installment of our year-end report.

June Mar makes history
June Mar Fajardo set a new standard in the greatness of a PBA player. Dennis Acosta (file photo)
Essentially, this was a thing of 2018 since the MVP race was based on what happened the previous PBA season.

But for the first time, the Leo Awards was inserted as the first activity for the opening ceremonies of the current season, which started on Jan. 13. That is why June Mar Fajardo got to sneak into this yearender.

Fajardo became the first player ever to win the league's top individual prize five times, breaking a tie with fellow Cebuano Mon Fernandez and Alvin Patrimonio for the most MVP awards. In addition, Fajardo did that in consecutive seasons, which was already an unprecedented feat.

Fernandez, who is now a current commissioner of the PSC, already anticipated that. In fact, he said in a previous interview that the 30-year-old Fajardo can win the MVP award up to eight times.

With the way he is playing this season, though, the San Miguel center is on track of doing so. Fajardo, who won the Best Player award in the Philippine Cup, is ahead in the BPC race for the Governors' Cup even if his team was denied of a grand slam after losing in the quarterfinals.

Fajardo actually capped the year with a championship as he helped Gilas Pilipinas Men capture the gold in the SEA Games. Simply put, MVP number six is now on the way. -Ivan Saldajeno

The "Phenom" is back (the general edit)
Kiefer Ravena returned to the hardwood with a bang. Ivan Saldajeno (file photo)
From technically something 2018 to a legit something 2019. This year marked the return of Kiefer Ravena from an 18-month suspension slapped by FIBA after failing a drug test.

And there is no way to hold the return of the "Phenom" but in the grandest basketball stage of all, the FIBA World Cup in China.

Although Gilas Men crashed to the bottom of the said tournament, Ravena seemed like he was not absent at all as he displayed good, if not great, basketball.

He then carried it to the PBA Governors' Cup, towing NLEX to the top seed of the playoffs, and to the SEA Games, where he scored his fifth consecutive gold for Gilas Men.

Looking at his statistical points during the Governors' Cup, Ravena could pose as a threat to June Mar Fajardo's continuous reign as MVP next decade. -Ivan Saldajeno

PH gets own 3x3 league
Balanga Chooks was a stellar force during the inaugural Chooks-To-Go Pilipinas 3x3 season. Ivan Saldajeno (file photo)
This year also marked a huge development in Philippine 3x3 basketball as the Chooks-To-Go Pilipinas 3x3 was launched.

The league was founded as a means for the Philippines to rack up enough FIBA 3x3 points to make the first ever OQT for 3x3 basketball.

After four tournaments and various stints by powerhouse teams Pasig, Balanga, and Basilan in the FIBA 3x3 Challengers and World Tour Masters, the Philippines' seat in the OQT was secured.

Also, with most, if not all, of the players in the Chooks 3x3 league also playing in the MPBL, Chooks-To-Go did not have a hard time sealing a partnership with the MPBL to become the main sponsor of its ongoing Lakan Season. -Ivan Saldajeno

Letran stops the sweep
Letran survived the grueling stepladder playoffs and completely spoiled San Beda's bid to sweep the NCAA season. Xy-Zha Cabanlong (file photo)
They believed, they came prepared and walked away with probably one of the most epic upsets in college basketball history.

Nobody expected the third-seeded Letran Knights to book a date with their heavily-favoured arch-nemesis, the San Beda Red Lions, in the finals of NCAA Season 95.

The Knights had to pass through the tough tests of the San Sebastian Stags and the Lyceum Pirates in the stepladder playoffs before facing the Red Lions.

Taking advantage of the 27-day break of the Red Lions, the Knights took the first game of the finals via a 1-point thriller.

Although San Beda bounced back in Game 2, come the third and final game of the finals, Letran proved that they wanted to win more, with Jerrick Balanza and Bonbon Batiller leading the way for the Knights to come close to their goal but it was Fran Yu, the eventual Finals MVP that sealed the deal.

San Beda's aim for a complete sweep and 4-peat was spoiled by Letran's 81-79 win, earning their 18th championship banner after 4 years. -Xy-Zha Cabanlong

Ceres Negros' undefeated double
Ceres Negros was unstoppable in local play all year long. Ivan Saldajeno (file photo)
The Philippine pro football circuit was on survival mode during the summer season when various road blocks marred what could have been the first season of the PPL.

Eventually, last May, the PFF decided to cut ties with the PPL, which folded after just one playdate, and revived the PFL.

The PFL this year, however, saw a total domination from Ceres Negros as the club completed an "invincible" season, going undefeated with 22 wins and two draws.

The now three-peat league champ stretched its unbeaten run to the Copa Paulino Alcantara, winning all of its remaining four matches after a shock draw against Mendiola to capture the title there and complete the domestic double.

Ceres Negros will quickly swing back to action on Jan. 14 when it hosts Shan United in the first round of the AFC Champions League qualifiers at the Rizal Memorial Stadium in Manila. -Ivan Saldajeno

All-Filipino world title fights at home
Pedro Taduran won an all-Filipino bout for the then vacant IBF minimumweight title. Ivan Saldajeno (file photo)
The year 2019 also saw Filipinos witnessing not one but two major world combat sports title fights at home.

First up was the IBF minimumweight title bout between Pedro Taduran and Samuel Salva in Taguig last September. Taduran survived an early knockdown to knock Salva out en route to capturing the then vacant title.

Two months later in Pasay, Joshua Pacio faced off with Rene Catalan for the One MMA strawweight title. Like Taduran, Pacio also had to stave off an early threat from Catalan to win via submission.

Although seeing two Filipinos battle for the same title belt seems like an awkward sight for the boxing and MMA-crazy Filipino fans, it is a sign that more and more local pugs are making their way to the world championship scene. -Ivan Saldajeno

An old record broken... thrice!
Kristina Knott reset the Philippine record in the 200-meter run twice in the same day. SEA Games pool photo
This would have made the SEA Games postmortem if not for a clarification from PATAFA right after Kristina Knott first broke the national 200-meter race record.

But regardless of who last held the record for the said race, there is no denying that what Knott and her predecessor, Zion Corrales-Nelson, did was a historic one.

What many thought as an unbreakable record of 23.35 seconds set by Lydia De Vega-Mercado in 1986 was finally shattered last April when Nelson finished her 200-meter run in the US NCAA athletic tournament with the time of 23.16 seconds. PATAFA, through president Philip Juico, acknowledged the said feat but only announced it after Knott's own record breaker.

Knott bettered Nelson's record in Heat 1 of the SEA Games women's 200-meter race when she clocked in at 23.07 seconds, and she broke her own record in the final when she captured the gold at 23.01.

With Mercado's once invincible record broken thrice in the same year—and twice in just a few hours—we could be looking at the future of Philippine athletics now. -Ivan Saldajeno

The future looks bright for PH sports
Caloy Yulo will be an athlete to watch next decade. Jojo Lirio (file photo)
Speaking of the future, let's end this yearender with the first two Philippine team members for the Tokyo Olympics.

Pole vaulter EJ Obiena first made his mark by not just ruling an international event in Italy but also breaching the Olympic qualifying mark of 5.8 meters by going 5.81 in his gold medal clinching soar.

Although he only got 5.45 meters in the SEA Games months later, it was still enough for him to win the gold and set the new record in the said games as he continues his triumphant return from an ACL injury.

On the other hand, gymnast Caloy Yulo made headlines by becoming the first Filipino to win a gold in a global gymnastics event, that is, the FIG Artistic Gymnastics World Championships.

Yulo would add two golds from the SEA Games, but the work does not stop there as the Olympics is coming up.

Still, the upcoming decade could be the time we might see the Philippines rack up Olympic medals and possibly that elusive gold. -Ivan Saldajeno

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