“THERE are places I’ll remember, all my life, though some have changed. Some forever not for better…. are poignant lines from the Beatles’ song ” In My Life” ( Rubber Soul, 1965).
As we journey through life, we catch a glimpse of the rearview mirror, and revisit a blurry montage of familiar places we’ve been to ages ago. Among the many thousands, there were few, rare and special ones, that overshadowed others in terms of excitement, breaking us free from the boredom and drudgery of life, paving the way to enjoy the thrills and spills of the moment. Along this line, the CYO gym, a venue that showcased entertainment and excitement for almost 50 years, easily takes the cake.
While the original CYO “topless” basketball court along San Pedro and Claveria Sts was still getting a good mileage in hosting basketball tournaments during summer breaks, a new plan to put up a bigger indoor sports venue in the Santa Ana District was in the works. In the late ’50s the new CYO gym was constructed through the initiative of the PME, Catholic Missionaries from Quebec, based in the Archdiocese of Davao. (It was also in 1956 that the PME authored the founding of St. Francis Seminary in Catalunan Grande).
The 3,000 seating capacity indoor venue’s location was right up the alley of the Holy Cross of Davao campus adjacent to the Santa Ana Church. In the late 50s, the CYO gym, by any standard, was already considered a state-of-the-art sports facility, especially for an infrastructure of such magnitude outside of Metro Manila. That’s taking into account its huge seating capacity, the low impact, knee, and ankle-friendly wooden flooring, with transparent fiberglass boards mounted high on each end of the basketball court and an electric game clock set up on a high wall in the spectators’ comfortable line of vision.
All these modern basketball trappings and gadgets just blew away our local players who never saw, much more bounced a leather ball on a wooden surface or banked a shot off a crisp, transparent fiberglass board. The gym also incorporated a 4 lane bowling alley on the right-wing of the ground floor beneath the bleachers. The left-wing ground floor was the Holy Cross Printing Office. Parallel and adjacent to the upper bleachers housed the Judo instructional training quarters.
CYO had become synonymous with big-time events in Davao City. The PTA stadium of the late 40s vintage, the old MC gym at Legaspi St. of the 50s, Davao Y Gym of the late 60s, RMC gym and Almendras gym of early 70s, or the JS Gaisano gym in the 2000s all fell short either in terms of seating capacity, comfort, amenities, and accessibility. CYO as the premiere events center of the city, hosted national, international shows, musical concerts, exhibits, business conventions, religious and social functions.
Among the few hundred famous events in the span of almost 50 years, the San Francisco Dons (USF, Hall of Famer Celtic star, Bill Russell’s College Team) was the first foreign basketball team that played in CYO in the late 50s. The Philippine Olympic team, various MICAA teams, Crispa, Toyota, Ysmael, YCO, Ateneo de Manila and De La Salle basketball juggernauts were regular visitors of this famous venue.
The 1975 National Inter-Collegiate Tournament was held at the CYO gym where Ateneo de Davao U lost to the University of Visayas (UV) in that unforgettable, jaw-dropping, last-second foiled shot in the semi-final match which the latter won. The world-renowned, Abe Saperstein’s Harlem Globetrotters came to town, blending their sheer talent with hilarious acts, clowning with the spectators in the early 80’s at CYO. They had their maiden trip to Davao in the late 50s at the PTA stadium. A few years ago, on their visit to the Vatican, they toyed with Pope Francis on how to spin the ball on his finger.
From the early 60s, the Davao commercial Leagues were always held at CYO, bannered by big firms, Alcantara, Sarmiento, Sta Ines Melale, Marsman, Dalisay, Valderrama, Cua Ceen, Robert Marketing, Bunaply, etc. Multi-titled Bomberos de Davao Athletic Club, perennial champions of PAL Intersports League composed of Davao business executives and professionals held their weekly work-outs and tournaments in CYO.
Professional boxing never had it so good in Davao, holding championship bouts by boxers from famous stables all over the country. Navarette, Clementes, Nene Jun, Quijano, Bernadas, Carupo, and other world rated and Orient title holders jam-packed the gym on sultry Saturday evenings.
World-renowned UK pop bands, Herman’s Hermits ( Mrs. Brown you’ve got a lovely daughter by Peter Noone) and the Zombies ( She’s not there) also performed before a huge crowd in the late 60s. Other bands, orchestras, artists, and vocalists always preferred to book at CYO for their performances.
Due to the spike in the student population in early 2000, the school found it necessary to tear down CYO gym and construct new buildings for additional offices and classrooms in its place.
With all its sub-standard physical layout, building plan design, and other imperfections, CYO still stood tall in Davao’s entertainment landscape for having warmed the hearts and thrilled the Davaoenos for almost 5 decades.
But as the saying goes, even the good things must come to an end. In early 2000, the curtains finally fell for the CYO gym, leaving a deep hole in the city’s sports landscape and memories of unforgettable performances. To be continued