Rafael “Paeng” Nepomuceno is a Filipino bowler who won four World Cup of Bowling and was declared by both Philippine Senate and House of Representatives as the “Greatest Philippine Athlete of All Time”. He was also named Philippine Athlete of the Century by the Philippine Sportswriters Association in 1999.
Paeng was born in Quezon City to Angel Nepomuceno, a bowling coach, and to Teresa Villareal, a former Miss Philippines. His first sport was golf but when he turned 10 years old, he later switch into bowling. Even though his father was a bowling coach, his love for the sport was started accidentally. Paeng and his father was in Baguio at that time when they needed to find a shelter for continuous raining, and they eventually end up in Mile High Bowling Center.
His first formal training for bowling started when he urged his dad to enroll him in a junior league held at Coronado Lanes in Metro Manila. He won is first official bowling tournament at the age of 15 and that was the Philippine Junior Masters Championship. He also became the youngest winner of the Philippine International Masters at age 17.
His bowling prodigy continued at international level when he became the youngest world bowling champion at the age of 19 in 1976 Bowling World Cup. He eventually won 3 more titles in three different decades (1976, 1980, 1992, and 1996). He also became the most career title holder for bowling with 124 titles into his name.
He also represented the Philippines for the Southeast Asian Games winning 1 gold, 2 silvers and 2 bronzes. For the Asian Games, he gathered 1 gold in 2002 and 1 silver in 1994. He also played for Bowling at the World Games for men’s singles winning bronze for both 1993 and 1997 edition.
His dedication for the game continued when he was declared as the oldest winner in the Philippine International Masters at age of 54. His latest title in bowling resulted to be his 131st last September 2016 in PSB Open Bowling Championships Senior Masters. He broke again his old record of 124 titles in 2013 edition of Guinness World Record but his additional 7 titles was not yet recognized at this point.
Guinness World Record
- Youngest world bowling champion at age of 19
- Became a world champion in three different decades (70s, 80s, 90s)
- Most career titles with 124. (2013 edition)
Southeast Asian Games
- Gold Medal – 1991 Manila (Singles)
- Silver Medal – 1991 Manila (All-around)
- Silver Medal – 1993 Singapore (Trio)
- Bronze Medal – 1993 Singapore (Masters)
- Bronze Medal – 1993 Singapore (All-around)
- Gold Medal – 2002 Busan (Doubles)
- Silver Medal – 1994 Hiroshima (Team of five)
- Bronze Medal – 1993 Lahti (Singles)
- Bronze Medal – 1997 Hague (Singles)
- Presidential Medal of Merit by Ferdinand Marcos
- Philippine Legion of Honor by Joseph Estrada
- Order of Lakandula with Class of Champion for Life by Gloria Macapagal Arroyo
- Greatest Philippine Athlete of All Time by Philippine Senate and House of Representatives
- Athlete of the Year (1976, 1980, 1984, 1992, and 1996) by Philippine Sportswriters Association
- Hall of Fame Class of 1997 by Philippine Sportswriters Association
- Athletes of the Millennium Class of 1999 by Philippine Sportswriters Association
- Mort Luby Jr. Distinguished Service Award by World Bowling Writers
- World Bowler of the Year (1984, 1985, and 1992) by World Bowling Writers
- Hall of Fame Class of 1993 by World Bowling Writers
It’s a wrap
Paeng Nepomuceno arguably is the greatest Filipino athlete of 20th Century based on his records and achievements for dominating the world of bowling. At some point, there would be a discussion in the Senate and Congress of who really is the “Greatest Filipino Athlete of All Time” after declaring Paeng before the rise of Manny Pacquiao in the boxing ring. But still when we talk about Bowling, we think about Paeng Nepomuceno and his great contribution in Philippine bowling. And for that, Paeng Nepomuceno rightfully belongs as one of the legends of Philippine Sports History.