The Cesafi Returns

On the last day of April in 2020, the Cebu Schools Athletic Foundation Inc. board decided to cancel the season because of the pandemic. At that time, I thought it was a premature move as I thought to myself, surely this pandemic will be over come September.

How wrong I was.

And how fitting that in the last week of April in 2022, Cebu’s collegiate league returns, albeit with limited events. That the Cesafi is returning is a feat in itself.

THE ONE AND ONLY. Long-time Commissioner Felix Tiukinhoy, who has served the Cesafi since it started in 2001, speaks during its re-launch.

A couple of months into the lockdown and with schools and students struggling to adjust to an online setup, I heard news of schools–not only in Cebu—dropping sports programs all together. I tried to confirm them but gave up. I mean, we were living with daily doses of bad news, who wants to add to it?

And you have to remember, in 2020, the private colleges and universities were just starting to get over the K12 hump, when they had two years of no incoming students.

Then Covid 19 hit.

And now we’re back, to square one.

At this time, to have schools offering athletic scholarships is a feat in itself and I salute the members of Cesafi for doing so.

This season, the latest that Cesafi has started since in replaced the Cebu Amateur Athletic Association, is basically the league getting its feet wet. Basketball, reduced to a three-point shootout, is usually the first to start in August, followed by the rest of the events a month later.

I hope the Cesafi does well in its test events this year. Well enough to go full blast next year. A lot of coaches, officials, uniform providers and even vendors lost their income stream because there was no Cesafi and I’m sure they, aside from the players, are looking forward to a Cesafi season that will have a full calendar of events.

I’m just a bit sad though that my friend Rico Navarro isn’t around anymore. Though he writes for the Freeman, he sent a lot of scoops my way over the years and they were not even limited to about news of players from his school.

And whenever there’s a controversy in basketball, he’d provide me the details then we both end the discussion with a laugh, “Labad na sad ang ulo ni Sir Tiukinhoy ani.”

The pandemic changed all of us and when the next Cesafi basketball controversy comes around—there’s always bound to be one every season that’s it has become a running joke between the media and Commissioner Felix Tiukinhoy—I’ll just smile and think, “aaah, the Cesafi is really back.”

And I know my friend Rico, would also be looking down and smiling.

Also, I had a brief chat with Jon Ralph Jiao Inot, who will be succeeding Rico as the athletic director of Sacred Heart School-Ateneo de Cebu and it looks like he share the same values with Rico. (More on him in the next column.)

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