Le Tour Organizer
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ANTONIO ARZALA DIED ON JANUARY 1 2011 AT #2014 APOLIONIA ST. MAPULANG LUPA VALENZUELA CITY.
As a tribute to RP Cycling’s first Tour Champ ANTONIO ARZALA who passed away last January 1, I took the liberty of posting this article from the Manila Times dated May 14,1960.
As a primer for the 1960 Tour of Luzon, three former Tour Champ , Antonio Arzala, Rufino Gabot and Mamerto Eden wrote first person account of their autobiographies…
Here we can have an idea of the humble beginnings of Mang Tony Arzala,how he started cycling..He was 32 years old then when he wrote this (1960)…
This is my way of honoring a cycling champion…..GorioB
THREE TOUR TITLISTS
Manila Times – May 14,1960
“I do not have an anting-anting to strengthen me”
I was born in barrio Balibago, Santo Rosa, Laguna on June 13,1928.
My parents are Jose Arzala and Pilar Cuevas, both form Sta. Rosa. I am an orphan – my mother died when I was seven months while my father died in 1947.
I finished my primary education in the town’s public elementary school.
Although my hometown is only some 40 kilometers away from Manila, I never set foot on the big city until 1945. this came when I decided to continue my studies but financial difficulties stepped in. Instead, I began to look for a job.
Fortunately, I landed a caretaker’s job at the North Cemetery. My duties consisted of taking care of the cemetery grounds, collecting bills and guiding funerals to final resting places. To save time and effort, I bought a racer-bike for P130 from a certain Punzalan who had a bicycle shop on Espaňa Boulevard.
When I bought it, it was also with the idea of landing a courier’s job with the Voz de Manila. I succeeded. Thus, I quit my caretaker’s position. And after several months, I worked with The Manila Times, also as a courier.
That was in 1951 when I had just married Rosalina Dacanay of barrio San Jose, Quezon City. I was 22 then and she was 14. Our marriage has already produced nine children, six of them are living: Armando, 11 ½; Artemio, 10; the twins, Rosaura and Rosauro, 6; Jose (named in memory of my father) 4; and Junior, eight months.
My initial crack at cycling took me in such company as Leonardo Abdon, Sixto Bola, Pompeyo Dingding, well-known standouts. I consistently beat them in races and soon , in Manila I became known. The purses then were bicycle tires and spare parts.
Then came 1955, I heard of the Manila-to –Vigan bicycle race. It was held in connection with the Tobacco Festival in that year. I won first place and the top prize of P1,000.
I particularly remember that four-lap race. The rules were different, contrast to the rules now. At that time, the rules stated that a lap winner could go ahead of the other cyclists instead of starting with them. When James Herman won the first lap to Tarlac, Tarlac in four hours and 36 minutes, his time advantage over Edgardo Lopez, the runner-up, was 25 minutes; over third-placer Sixto Bola, 34 minutes and in my case, Herman was ahead by 34 minutes and seven seconds. The next morning, Herman was the first to go ahead. Lopez followed after 25 minutes were up. Bola followed after nine minutes and so on. This rule was tough since it allowed no one, particularly the lap winner, to coast along.
The following year saw the birth of the Tour of Luzon. I won the top prize of P3,000.
I lost my title in 1957. My heartbreak occurred in Tagaytay City when I broke the fork of my bike, toppling me over. I received bruises and contusions on the arms and legs and this accident forced me out of the race in the first lap for good. My detractors considered me already as a has-been.
I redeemed myself in 1958 when I placed fourth and last year , won the Tour for the second time.
In all, I’ve won more than P14,000 in prize money in cycling. I bought a piece of land and left some more for my family, I won P4,525 – my biggest purse yet – in regaining the Tour of Luzon title last year.
No, I do not have an “anting-anting” (amulet). This is contrary to reports circulated by my sympathizers that I have one which accounts for my cycling achievements. If I did have, I wouldn’t have somersaulted in 1957, the only Tour where I was forced to quit.
I consider Sumalde, Abaquita, de Guzman, Moring Jr. and some Pangasinan and Visayan men that would crowd me for honors this year.
During the Tour, I prefer the rain because it refreshes me. The slippery roads pose no handicaps. Mountain-climbing or flat source makes no difference.
The Tour has brought me fame and money and certainly it is the most wonderful thing that happened to me in 32 years.
It has not swelled my head a bit. An incident which oftentimes occur during my courier duties is always fresh; when I’m cycling, children would shout “Arzala! There’s Arzala!” I feel complimented and smile at them. Then from the same children came the taunt: “He thinks he’s Arzala!”
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