Paeng: He’s the Michael Jordan of His Sport and He’s Filipino


Michael Jordan, an American, might be the G.O.A.T (Greatest of All Time) in basketball but Filipinos have their own G.O.A.T as well.

In bowling.

This living legend goes by the name of Paeng.

Not the best edited video, but the first 22 seconds are worth more than a thousand images.

Paeng Nepomuceno

Rafael “Paeng” Nepomuceno is a true badass in bowling, winning more titles than any other bowler in the world over that past 40 years.

Not even old enough to legally drink, he was the youngest ever to win the Philippine Open in 1974 at age 17.

Imagine your butt getting whooped by a pimple-faced, squeaky-voiced teenager. I’m sure his opponents still remember. If they’re still alive.

After getting tired beating all the Asians in 1975, he decides to roll up to Tehran, Iran. On his FIRST attempt, Paeng wins his first Bowling World Cup, becoming the youngest winner ever at age 19. He still remains the youngest male bowler ever to win the Cup. He totally dominates that year,  also winning both the national and Asia FIQ championships.

If you’re not familiar with the Bowling World Cup, it’s the largest annual bowling event attended by the best bowlers from all over the world. It’s like the FIFA World Cup, but for bowling. It’s considered to be the most prestigious individual bowling championship. Basically, it’s hard as hell to win. And since bowling isn’t an Olympic sport, winning it is the ultimate bragging right and makes you more attractive to the ladies.

Nobody had ever won the Bowling World Cup twice, and when Paeng heard this, he was like, “Oh really?” In 1980, he flies to Jakarta, Indonesia and becomes the first bowler to do so. He didn’t just win it, he wins it in ass-whooping fashion by posting the highest Grand Finals score ever.

He decides to chill for a couple years but then picks up a book. The Guinness Book of World Records that is.

He looks himself up and was like “Damn, I’m only in there once. That ain’t right.”

So in 1992, he heads over to Le Mans, France and wins the World Cup for a third time beating the then current European champion. This gives him his second entry in the Guinness Book of World Records.

Just in case someone else wins three World Cups, he wins the World Cup for a fourth time in Belfast, Ireland in 1996. His entry in the Guinness Book is then updated.

World Cups aren’t enough for his awesome level of awesomeness. He wins other international tournaments as well.

In 1984, Paeng wins the World’s Invitational Tournament in Las Vegas, a global competition held as a side event during 1984 Los Angeles Olympics. In the finals, he beats 1984 Bowling World Cup champion, Jack Jurek, from the US, to claim the gold medal for the Philippines. He beat the dude in his home country. I’m sure that sucked for Jack. But that’s Paeng. He throws a ball down the lane and the next you thing you know, you’ve lost. If bowling was an Olympic sport, Philippines would’ve had a lot of gold medals already.

In 1999, after checking out the Buckingham Palace and the London Eye, he competes in the World Tenpin Masters and  *surprise surprise* wins.

Paeng becomes a six-time world bowling champion spanning three different decades (70, 80’s and 90’s).

That means he held a world title when The Jackson 5, New Kids On the Block, and the Backstreet Boys were all hot. Damn. When you surpass the longevity of famous boy bands, that’s pretty damn awesome right there.

By now, he’s over 40 years old and has been killing the lanes for over 25 years. But to Paeng, age ain’t nothin but a number.

In 2009, he sets a new four-game Philippine national record when he scores 300, 299, 268 and 256 for an insane average of 280.75 per game. After hyping himself up listening to Aaliyah on his Beats headphones hooked up to his iPhone 3G, he starts off by rolling 23 strikes in a row. He was on fire!

This guy is 52 years old and almost bowls TWO perfect games in a row! Imagine all the dudes in their 20’s and 30’s that day thinking they’re hot stuff and getting destroyed by an old dude who can be their dad.

Two years later, at age 54, the Bowling Mamba wins the 2011 Philippine International Open Masters for the eighth freakin’ time and sets yet another new record for being “the oldest and youngest winner of the International Open.”

“Yawn,” says Paeng. Not because he’s used to setting records, but because he’s tired and needs to take a nap. He’s basically “lolo” status and still winning tournaments.

After being so dominant for so long, his list of achievements are ridiculous.

He gets props from the Philippine media.

The Philippine Sportswriters Association (PSA) named him “Athlete of the Year” an unprecedented 5 times and in 1993, he’s the FIRST athlete to be enshrined in the PSA Hall of Fame.

PSA also named him the “Athlete of the Century” at the end of 1999 and then the “Athlete of the Millennium” in 2000.

Millennium? The best athlete over the past 1000 years? That’s a new level of awesomeness right there.

He was unanimously chosen by all the major Philippine newspapers (Philippine Star, Philippine Daily Inquirer, Manila Times, Manila Standard, Today) as their choice for “Athlete of the Century.”

Even the Philippine presidents and Congress know what’s up.

Both houses of Congress (Senate and House of Representatives) named Paeng as the “Greatest Filipino Athlete of All-Time.”

Paeng is the ONLY athlete in the Philippines to be given the highest award to a Filipino by FIVE different Philippine presidents. The dude is like Forrest Gump in real life.

  1. In 1984, Paeng was awarded the Presidential Medal of Merit by President Ferdinand E. Marcos, the highest award given to a Filipino by the President of the Philippines.
  2. In 1989, Paeng Nepomuceno was given a Presidential citation by President Corazon Aquino at the Malacañang Palace for his various victories internationally and locally.
  3. President Fidel V. Ramos honored Paeng at the Malacañang Palace on three separate occasions for his two World Cup wins and for being named “Athlete of the Year” twice during his term as President.
  4. In 1999, he became the FIRST athlete to be bestowed the Philippine Legion of Honor by President Joseph Estrada.
  5. In 2008, President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo conferred on Paeng the Order of Lakandula with the Class of Champion for Life.

As many times he’s visited the Malacañang Palace, he should have his own room.

Fortunately, he’s also been recognized internationally.

In 1999, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) awarded him the prestigious IOC Presidents’ Trophy. It’s the highest sports award and was The FIRST for the sport of bowling. He is the ONLY bowling athlete in the world who has been given this award.

Bowling is not even an Olympic sport! That’s how badass of a bowler he is.

He is the FIRST to be enshrined in the International Bowling Hall of Fame by the World Bowling Writers, an association of more than 300 sportswriters from over 90 countries.

If you ever get the chance to visit the International Bowling Hall of Fame and Museum in the US, you’ll be greeted at the entrance with a big ass picture of his badass self along with some of the memorabilia he used to whoop his opponents’ asses with.

The Federation Internationale des Quilleurs (FIQ), the world governing body of the sport, named Paeng as the “International Bowling Athlete of the Millennium” in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates in 1999.

Another “Millennium” award. Told you this dude is legit.

In its September 2003 issue, the magazine, Bowlers Journal International, named Paeng Nepomuceno as the “Greatest International Bowler of All Time.”

He is listed in the Guinness Book of World Records for three records:

  1. For being the youngest World Bowling Champion at 19 years old.
  2. For the most Bowling World Cup wins at 4.
  3. For winning the most bowling titles in a career at 125!

The scariest thing is the dude still actively competes! “I’m too legit to quit,” he says.

As long as he ain’t dead, don’t expect his titles count to stay at 125. He remains a student of the game and is constantly still trying to improve.

When he’s not competing, he’s either promoting the sport or teaching it to others. What a nice guy.

Paeng has been designated by the USBC (United States Bowling Congress) as its “International Bowling Ambassador” where his job is to promote bowling around the world.

The dude also has like a Ph.D. in Bowling.

He is the FIRST in Asia to earn a USBC Gold Level Coaching Cerification. The USBC Gold certification is the highest certification for coaches, like getting a doctorate in the field of bowling.

There are only 25 people in the entire world with this designation. He’s one of them. And the only Asian.

He’s like the Asian Yoda of Bowling.

Paeng Nepomuceno is Bowling Yoda

He even teaches locally sometimes at his namesake bowling alley, Paeng’s Billiard & Bowling.

You can suffer from his awesomeness as his opponent. Or you can learn how to be awesome as his student.

Even with all this recognition, I still feel he doesn’t get the recognition he truly deserves.

Compared to GOATs in other sports, he’s not as well known.

Paeng is to bowling, like Pele is to soccer, like Michael is to basketball, like Tiger is to golf, like Biggie is to rap, like Oprah is to talk shows, like Ronald is to McDonald.

If you ask someone to name the best bowler in the history of the sport, Paeng’s name doesn’t automatically come up.

But now you know.

Paeng Nepomuceno is not just the greatest Filipino bowler of all time.

Paeng Nepomuceno is the greatest bowler of all time.

Paeng Nepomuceno

“I did NOT really say any of those quotes written above.”

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About Author

Odell Ramirez

A self-educated Ebonics linguist who aspires to teach Honors Ebonics classes one day. Until then, he works as the clown-in-residence at looloo. He has a B.S. in B.S. and was working on a master's degree in playa hatin, but discovered he can just get a Ph.D.