MANILA, March 7 – The triumph of Francisco ‘Django’ Bustamante in last year’s World 9-Ball Championship and the gold medal achievements of Biboy Rivera, Rey Saludar and Dennis Orcollo in the 16th Asian Games are living testament that Philippine sports remains dynamic and vibrant.

No less than boxing superstar and the country’s greatest athlete ever, Manny Pacquiao, stressed the point in his speech during Saturday’s PSA-Coca-Cola Annual Awards Night at the Manila Hotel where he served as guest of honor and keynote speaker.

Bustamante, Rivera, Saludar and Orcollo were honored during the two-hour special night as the 2010 Athletes of the Year by the country’s oldest media organization for their heroic exploits in two major international competitions.

“In your presence, I proudly declare that there is so much to Philippine sports than boxing. Ako na mismo ang nagsasabi, there is so much to Philippine sports than Manny Pacquiao,” said the noted congressman from Sarangani, the first-ever active Filipino athlete who addressed the yearly PSA rite as guest of honor.

“Ang gabing ito ay isa lamang sa patunay na maraming magagaling na atletang Pilipino.”

Dapper in his gray suit with black trimmings, the 32-year-old Pacquiao, universally considered as the world’s top pound-for-pound boxer, later on personally presented the Athlete of the Year trophies to all four awardees.

“Thank you for bringing pride and honor to our country. Because of you, I have more reasons to say that I am proud to be a Filipino,” added the boxing billionaire during the affair also presented by the Philippine Sports Commission (PSC), San Miguel Corp., Samsung, AirAsia-ABL-Harbour Centre, Philippine Basketball Association (PBA), Philippine Amusements and Gaming Corp (PAGCOR), Nihao Mineral Resources International Inc., Accel, and International Container Terminal Services Inc. (ICTSI).

Pacquiao joined Bustamante, Saludar, Rivera and Orcollo at the presidential table together with top sports officials led by Philippine Olympic Committee (POC) president Jose `Peping’ Cojuangco, International Olympic Committee (IOC) representative to the Philippines Frank Elizalde, PSC chairman Ritchie Garcia, election lawyer Atty. Romulo Makalintal and Senator Vicente `Tito’ Sotto III.

In a moment that easily warmed the hearts, singer-actress Karylle serenaded her grandfather, Carlos Padilla Jr., on stage, the renowned international referee being the recipient of a Lifetime Achievement Award. The two later sang together with Karylle’s mother, singer-actress Zsa Zsa Padilla.

“Sa tanang buhay ko ng pag-re-referee, ngayon lang po ako nakatanggap ng award sa larangan ng palakasan. Kaya itinatangi ko po itong iginawad sa akin ng Philippine Sportswriters Association,” said Padilla, who came to Manila from Las Vegas, where he is now based, to personally receive his award.

Along with Padilla, legendary coach Virgilio `Baby’ Dalupan, 87, was also awarded a Lifetime Achievement honor, which Pacquiao personally presented to him, together with Cojuangco, Garcia, Elizalde, Sotto, PSA president Teddyvic Melendres of the Philippine Daily Inquirer, and former player, two-time PBA MVP William `Bogs’ Adornado.

A big hit as well was the entire men’s football team or Azkals, which received the PSA Presidential Achievement Award, while team manager Dan Palami was honored with the Executive of the Year Award.

Also part of the program was the presentation of a replica check worth P1 million to the PSA Sports Foundation by the M.V.P. (Manny V. Pangilinan) Sports Foundation as a grant for the organization’s different endeavors aimed at helping promote sports and its affiliate activities in the land.

Al Panlilio of the M.V.P. Sports Foundation handed the check to Melendres in behalf of the PSA. (PNA)