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Paeng Nepomuceno: Bowling and beyond

Paeng Nepomuceno is acclaimed as the most decorated bowling athlete of all time

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Bowling World Cup National Finals Champion, 1995. Genting World Highlands International Open Masters Champion, Malaysia 1998. World Tenpin Masters Champion, London 1999. World Bowling Cup National Champion 2009. Philippine Bowling Congress International Open Masters Champion 2011. Four-time Bowling World Cup Champion. A rare grand-slam holder for winning the Philippine, Asian and World titles in a span of five months. A Guinness World Record title holder four times over. Philippine Sportswriter Association Athlete of the Millennium. And the list goes on.

PAENG Nepomuceno in action. / Photographs courtesy of Paeng Nepomuceno

These global bowling awards were not bestowed to members of the National Bowling Team. These are hard-earned achievements by one single gentleman, rightfully acclaimed as the most decorated bowling athlete of all time: Paeng Nepomuceno.

The recent past should not dampen your admiration, for his latest major accomplishment came in 2020, in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic.

The particular title granted him his fourth Guinness World Record certificate — let me repeat, his fourth — for winning the most bowling titles in a career, 113 to be exact, spanning multiple decades. He broke his own record twice now: one in 2007 and then in 2019.

However, due to the challenging times with health and safety protocols, bowling, like many other sports, has been halted. His advocacy, the Paeng Bowling Academy, has been put on hold. Despite this, the athlete continues to stay fit during the pandemic as he swims, cycles and lifts weights.

With father and coach Angel ‘Pappy’ Nepomuceno after clinching his fourth Bowling World Cup.

After his stint as head coach of the Philippine National Bowling Team for three years, he now serves as their trusted advisor. He is likewise a trustee of the Philippine Bowling Federation.
When pressured, Paeng meditates

— twice a day — and exercises. Whenever possible, the beach is the favorite destination of the family.

During his free time, he relishes being at home with Pinky, his wife of 38 years and counting.

We caught up with Paeng and chatted about the latest on his life:

On most memorable moments:
“There are several. A six-time World Bowling Champion and a World Bowling Hall of Famer are among the top ones. The Illinois-based, centuries-old Bowlers Journal International lauded me as its Greatest International Bowler on two separate occasions.

Ticker tape parade around Metro Manila to celebrate his triumph in the Bowling World Cup.

“I am currently the only athlete to be honored by five Philippine presidents, whom conferred me their highest awards — the Presidential Medal of Merit by Ferdinand Marcos, Philippine Legion of Honor by Joseph Estrada, the Order of Lakandula with Class of Champion for Life by Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, plus Presidential Citations from Corazon C. Aquino and Fidel V. Ramos.

“I was also named by the Philippine Sportswriters Association as Athlete of the Century in 1999.”

Paeng and Pinky on holiday in Tokyo.

On most meaningful recognition:
“The prestigious International Olympic Committee (IOC) with the President’s Trophy, the highest sports award given to any athlete. Being named by the Federation Internationale Des Quilleurs (FIQ) as the ‘International Bowling Athlete of the Millennium’ and Ambassador Extraordinaire for the sport of bowling.

“These two are the most meaningful for I am the first and only bowler to have been conferred these awards, especially when we consider that bowling is not yet an Olympic sport. Yet, they chose me for my contributions and achievements in this field.”

Family picture: (from left) Ralph (son-in-law), Saira Margarita, Isabel Angela, Rafael Jr. and wife Pinky.

On experiences with fans:
“During overseas trips, Filipino admirers approach us. They tell me ‘Paeng, maraming salamat sa iyo. Malaking karangalan na nanalo ka at pinasaya mo kami.’ It feels great whenever my kababayan confide in me.

On coaching and education:
“Pre-pandemic, my bowling academy was active on Saturdays. For five years now, University of the Philippines has enlisted me as a Senior Lecturer and a professor. These are my ways to give back to the sport. When the pandemic is over, maybe I can continue teaching and focus on our bowling endeavors.”

Pandemic’s effect
“The pandemic has affected the world of bowling a great deal. The bowling centers have been closed. It would open for a while, then shut down again. It is the same with regards to the training of the national team.”

The world record holder at the Las Vegas Worlds Invitational. / photograph courtesy of Paeng Nepomuceno

On lockdown routines:
“Every night, together with my wife, we hear Mass on TV. This is one practice that we hope to continue.”

Paeng, at 19, with motherTeresita during his first World Cup in Tehran, Iran.

On future tournaments:
“I am happy with what I have achieved in bowling. At the moment, I don’t have any plans to participate in future tournaments. It takes a lot time, dedication and sacrifice to prepare for one. But If I ever compete, I will make certain that I am ready.”

The Philippines’ pride receives the IOC President’s Trophy in Abu Dhabi, UAE.

On advice to aspiring athletes:
“There are no short cuts in sports. Work hard. Practice self-disciple. Make sacrifices. Persevere and believe you can do it. Prayers and glorify God in whatever you do. Nobody is born a champion.”

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