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First is last, last is first

(This was the first “All The Way,” which saw print here on March 4, 2010)

FROM boxer to publisher.

In the Seventies, Rey Fortaleza won medals from bronze to gold as a bantamweight (119 lbs) and a featherweight (122) in the Youth, SEA and Asian Games.

Who said boxers would simply retire and then slip into a quiet nothingness afterwards?

Not Rey Fortaleza.

In 1990, more than a decade after he left boxing, Rey migrated to Vancouver, Canada. In no time, he would put up his Reyfort Media Group there.  Today, his outfit publishes the Philippine Times Today, the Philippine Showbiz Today and Living Today magazine.

Only a while back, Gregor Robertson, the mayor of Vancouver, honored Rey with a banquet dinner in a plush hotel in Vancouver.

“Before Manny Pacquiao, there was a great Filipino boxer and who was an Olympian at that,” Robertson said from the podium.  “He is now right here with us – Mr. Rey Fortaleza!”

Standing ovation.

Rey, coached by the legendary Flash Elorde, also fought in the 1976 Montreal Olympics, where he lost in the quarters to the division’s top seed, a North Korean who would eventually win the gold.

I saw Rey in 1992 in Vancouver during my coverage of the World Team Golf Championship.  With beer as our brew, Rey and I would bar-hop till we dropped.

Our succeeding encounter would next happen at the PAL Interclub Golf.  This tournament would eventually become the reason for our yearly reunion as Rey would regularly play in the PAL Interclub, starting in the late Nineties.  Just last week, we were in Bacolod for the event.

On Tuesday (March 2), Vic Agustin, this paper’s distinguished chairman of the editorial board, called me up to say I should begin my “All The Way” column here “right away.”

When Vic’s call came, I was playing golf with Rey and Jake P. Ayson, the executive director of the National Golf Association of the Philippines, and Jimmy Panganiban, the diminutive and well-respected businessman from Basilan.

I must confess that Riera Mallari, the exceedingly unassuming and your kindly sports editor, had a huge role in my entry here and for which I will be eternally grateful for the trust.

“This is history,” said Jimmy, a distinguished member of the Manila Golf Club, in reference to my new job as a Manila Standard-TODAY sports columnist, as we were stepping out of MGC’s second green.  “I’m glad to be among the first to learn about your new column. That calls for a celebration.”

After our round, Jimmy surprised us with a rare bottle of Beringer (Pinot Noir), circa 2006.

“Special occasions call for a special drink,” Jimmy said.

At the wind-kissed MGC verandah, with Taguig’s lighted skyscrapers serving as solemn background in the breezy evening, Mr. Beringer transformed the foursome from somber to soused-up (a bit only, of course).

“When I’m back in Vancouver, I’ll check your columns in the internet, pare,” Rey said, raising his stemmed glass.  “Valentin Dakuykoy has been my idol for a long, long time now.”

“Let’s drink to that,” said Jake.

*   *   *

(The above also serves as my last column here.  Thank you boss a.k.a. Mr. Judge for your precious time all these years, and to all the kindred souls of MST who made it all happen “all the way.”  Farewell and…till then.)

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