• GILBERT P. BAYORAN
After winning the 2023 Junior League Softball World Series title on August 5 in Kirkland, Washington, USA, the softbelles from Bago City, Negros Occidental, yesterday returned to their home province, where they were accorded a hero’s welcome by fellow Negrenses.
The Bago City softbelles, representing the Asia Pacific Region, defeated seven other regions in the softball tournament to bring home the country’s second title in 20 years.
Bago City Mayor Nicholas Yulo, who joined the softbelles’ coaches from Ramon Torres National High School for their games in the United States, yesterday assured them of cash incentives, with the amount to be determined by the City Council during its regular session on Wednesday next week.
“I can promise you, there will be incentives,” Yulo told the softbelles, eliciting applause from them.
Vice Mayor Ramon Torres recalled that it was 27 years ago that Bago City hogged the limelight in the international sports arena, after boxer Mansueto “Onyok” Velasco, took the silver medal in the 1996 Atlanta Olympics.
Velasco, of Brgy. Atipuloan, Bago City, was also accorded with a hero’s welcome by his province mates.
Prior to their return to the province, Bago softbelles also paid a courtesy call at the Senate, where they were honored through a resolution.
Senate Resolution 723 sponsored by Senate President Juan Miguel Zubiri stated that the Junior League world champions “deserve praise, recognition, and commendation for bringing pride and inspiration to the Filipino people and for showing to the world the unrelenting spirit of Filipinos.”
“We are immensely proud of our girls for not only representing Asia-Pacific and the Philippines but also Negros Occidental as well. They remain undefeated in their whole junior league run,” Zubiri said. “We salute the whole team for putting Negros Occidental back on top of the softball scene.”
They were also honored and welcomed by officials of the Philippine Sports Commission, led by Chairperson Richard Bachmann and Women in Sports Oversight Commissioner Bong Coo, at the Rizal Memorial Sports Complex in Manila.
In a statement, Michael Zialcita, district administrator of Little League Philippines, lauded the country’s Junior League world champions for “achieving a remarkable milestone in their softball journey.”
Upon arrival at the Silay Bacolod Airport, the team proceeded to the Provincial Capitol in Bacolod City, where they were welcomed and congratulated by Gov. Eugenio Jose Lacson for a job well done.
By winning the championship title, Lacson said “it only proves that we Filipinos, can compete in the international level.”
Lacson said he was told by their coaches that they will start their training in two weeks, to maintain the level they are in right now, or improve further as they will defend the championship next year.
Pitcher Erica Arnaiz, who led the team with 85 strikeouts, said she is glad to be home and grateful for the grand welcome accorded to them.
“We didn’t expect to become champions but with God’s help, we did it,” she said.
They swept their first six matches to arrange a championship showdown with the team from Milford, Connecticut.
Arnaiz said determination, hard work, and discipline were the keys to their victory.
Head coach Francis Fuentes said he is thankful to bring the championship back to the Philippines after two decades, as he acknowledged the support of the city government of Bago, led by Mayor Nicholas Yulo.* with reports from PNA