PRO golfer Yuka Saso vowed to provide inspiration to Philippine sports in the light of the mounting challenges it face brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Patuloy po akong magbibigay ng karangalan sa ating bansa. Mabuhay ang atletang Pilipino,” said the 19-year-old Saso in her short acceptance speech from Japan after being recognized with the Athlete of the Year honor Saturday during the San Miguel Corporation-Philippine Sportswriters Association (PSA) Awards Night at the TV5 Media Center.
Saso considered his second Athlete of the Year Award in the last three years as a big honor to her career and family. She received the same award from the country’s oldest media organization headed by its President and Manila Bulletin sports editor Tito S. Talao in 2018, which she shared with fellow golfers Biance Pagdanganan and Lois Kaye Go, along with Olympic silver medal winner Hidilyn Diaz and Margielyn Didal.
“Maraming salamat sa Philippine Sportswriters Association sa pagbigay at pagkilala sa akin bilang Athlete of the Year ulit,” she added.
Saso currently campaigns in the rich Japan LPGA Tour and is eyeing to clinch a spot in the coming Tokyo Olympics as she is currently ranked no. 44 in the world.
Also receiving a piece of the limelight in the program presented by San Miguel Corporation (SMC) and backed by the Philippine Sports Commission (PSC) and Cignal TV, were Philippine Olympic Committee (POC) President Abraham ‘Bambol’ Tolentino as recipient of the President’s Award, PBA Commissioner Willie Marcial, hailed as Executive of the Year, and the Association of Boxing Alliances in the Philippines (ABAP), which was named National Sports Association (NSA) of the Year, and whose award was accepted by its President Ricky Vargas.
Recognized with a Lifetime Achievement Award meanwhile, were the late Ambassador and basketball godfather Eduardo ‘Danding’ Cojuangco, former PBA Commissioner and Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas (SBP) Executide Director Renauld ‘Sonny’ Barrios, and former Project Gintong Alay Director Jose Romasanta.
PSC Chairman William ‘Butch’ Ramirez was the special guest speaker of the first ever virtual awards night in PSA history hosted by Gretchen Ho and Paolo Del Rosario, with 1Pacman Partylist, Chooks-to-Go, and Rain or Shine as major backers.
In his brief but meaningful speech, Ramirez lauded the Filipino athletes for ‘keeping their stars shine even brighter in this dark times.’
“The future is so uncertain, the past is out of reach, and so I wish that we all savor the present where we all found ourselves now with family, friends, celebrating our heroes in sports,” said the country’s top government sports official.
Boxing great and Senator Manny Pacquiao was also in the honor roll as the Chooks-to-Go Fan Favorite Manok ng Bayan, together with the trio of Alex Eala, Johnriel Casimero, and Pedro Taduran, who were accorded with Major Awards, respectively.
A total of 20 personalities and entities were handed out with citations, while a special recognition was given to athletes who served as frontliners in this time of the pandemic.
A touching part of the program came when athletes, officials, and friends of the sportswriting fraternity who passed away last year were honored with a posthumous recognition.