Top 5 Famous Athletes in Philippines

Filipino Pride: Top 5 Famous Athletes

Athletes are considered as modern-day heroes. They may not wear capes or even fly, but they bring a different kind of patriotism and pride to the country. They are the epitome of resilience and passion. Recognizing these top athletes not just boost their morale or serve as an inspiration to other Filipinos, but they also serve as role models for the youth.

In this article, we give the spotlight to the top 5 athletes who showed immense determination in achieving the ultimate goal of putting the Philippines on top when it comes to sports. Let us deep dive into their lives and pay homage to their craft.

While most of the people are asleep, these famous athletes worked relentlessly and poured their hearts out in the name of success, sportsmanship, and honor. The following athletes raised the bar in showing what the real Filipino pride means. They achieved and created numerous world rankings and bested more than 100 contenders on their line of sport. These top athletes also gained popularity whilst earning the top spot.


Emmanuel “Manny” Pacquiao

Emmanuel “Manny” PacquiaoEmmanuel “Manny” Pacquiao or known to many as PacMan is the only eight-division world champion in the history of boxing and won twelve major world titles. As an amateur, he has a record of 60-4 and a record of 62-8-2 as a professional with 39 wins by knockout.

Manny was born in Bukidnon but raised in General Santos, Philippines. He is fourth among his six siblings. He dropped out of high school due to poverty and at the age of 14, he moved to Manila and worked as a construction worker to send money to his mother who was then separated from his father.

While Manny was introduced to boxing at the early age of 12 by his maternal uncle Sardo Meija. He started training with his uncle in a makeshift home gym. After 6 months of intense training, Manny began boxing in a park in General Santos. After that, we eventually started traveling to other cities to compete against higher-ranked opponents. By the age of 15, he was the best junior boxer in the southern Philippines. In January 1995, aged 16, he first made his professional boxing debut as a junior flyweight.

On December 4, 1998 at the age of 19, Manny won his first major title, the  World Boxing Council flyweight title.

Since then, Manny Pacquiao has dominated the boxing scene by making history in winning major world titles in four of the original eight weight classes known as the “glamour divisions” (flyweight, featherweight, lightweight, and welterweight). He was the first ever boxer to become a four-decade world champion, winning titles across four decades from 1990s, 2000s, 2010s, and 2020s.

He was rated as the best active boxer in the world  by most sporting news and boxing websites, including ESPN, Yahoo! Sports, and Sports Illustrated. In 200s, he was named “Fighter of the Decade” by the Boxing Writers Association of America, World Boxing Council, World Boxing Organization, and Home Box Office. In 2006, 2008, and 2009, he was also awarded as the Fighter of the Year by Ring Magazine, ESPN, and BWAA. In 2009 and 2011, he won the Best Fighter ESPY Award. In 2016, Manny ranked no. 2 on ESPN’s list of top pound for pound boxers of the past 25 years. He currently holds six Guinness Book World Records.

According to Forbes, during 2012 and 2015, he was the second highest paid athlete in the world, and eight highest paid in 2010.

Some of his notable fights over the course of his career where he was able to defeat the opponents twice are from Marco Antionio Barrera, Erik Morales, Juan Manuel Marquez, and Timothy Bradley. 

He retired with a total of 72 fights. It includes 62 wins, 39 wins by KO, 8 losses, and 2 draws.

After his retirement, he worked as a senator in the Philippines from 2016 to 2022. He ran for the 2022 Presidency election but was not able to hold the seat. Manny Pacquiao has retired from boxing but his contribution to Philippine sports remains unbeaten when it comes to boxing.


Efren “ Bata”  Reyes

Efren Bata ReyesEfren Manalang Reyes, also known as “Bata” and “The Magician” is a professional pool player. He is regarded as the greatest pool player of all time. He was famed for his skill at the challenging one pocket discipline. He won over 100 international titles in the field of pool.


He was born in Pampanga then moved to Manila at the age of five. Efren lived with his uncle who owned a pool hall. He started to play money games with locals in the 1960s and by 1976, other players were avoiding him. He then started to play games such as three-cushion billiards and balkline in order to find people who would play him for money.

In 1978, Efren competed in the Philippines vs. Japan Rotation Competition. He represented the Philippines alongside four other players. The Philippine team won two years in a row until the event ended.

In 1979, Reyes defeated the Japanese Champion to win the All Japan Championship in nine-ball.

In 1983, he took on Pepito Dacer in the finals of the Philippine Rotation Championship. On the seventh week of play, Reyes defeated Dacer 39-92. During this time, he was named as one of the best players in the country. Some tournaments even restricted him from playing because he was too good.

In 1985, he started his career in the US. He used the alias “ Cesar Morales” so he would be allowed to compete unknown. Shortly after, Reyes was discovered when he won the first tournament in the Houston Red’s 9-Ball Open with 108 of the top players in the country. The same year, he finished third in the U.S Open 9-Ball Championship.

In 1994, Efren defeated Nick Varner and won the U.S Open 9- Ball Championship. He was the first non-America to win the event. In 1996 in HongKong, Efren Reyes and Earl Strickland were chosen as the two best players in the world to compete against each other with a winner-take-all prize of $100,000. The said event was a three-day race-to-120 challenge match of nine-ball. Reyes won the match.

In 1999, he won the first televised World Pool Championship. This made him the second Filipino player to win a world championship in pocket billiards.

In 2001, he participated in the 2001 Tokyo 9-Ball Open with over 700 participants. Efren dominated the event with 15-7 in the finals. In 2002, he won the International Challenge of Champions. In 2004, he reached the finals of WPA World Eight-ball Championship and won. This made Efren the first player to win WPA world championships in more than one discipline. In 2005, he then participated and won the IPT King of the Hill Eight-ball Shootout. The following year, he won the IPT World Open Eight-ball Championship by 8-6 against Rodney Morris.

In the 2006 final of the inaugural World Cup of Pool, Efren partnered with Francisco Bustamante to represent the Philippines and in 2009, they participated in the same event and won again.

Efren is still active up to this day and competes in several professional events. One of the latest events where he participated was the Southeast Asian Games in which he won seven gold medals. In 2023, at the age of 68, Reyes managed to finish at the third spot in the Derby City Classic One Pocket where there were over 400 players.


Hidilyn Diaz

Hidilyn DiazHidilyn Diaz is a Filipino weightlifter and airwoman. She holds two Olympic records in weightlifting at the 2020 Summer Olympics.

Born in Zamboanga, she is a daughter of a farmer. She is the fifth among her six siblings. Growing up, she wants to be a banker and has tried several sports like basketball and volleyball. Her cousin taught her the basics of weightlifting.

Prior to high school, she joined the University of Zamboanga’s program to train in weightlifting. Even though she was not enrolled in University of Zamboanga, she was able to train under the director Elbert Atilano. She worked part-time as a vendor of vegetable and fish and jeepney cleaner to fund her transportation during her practice. Her first competition was in 2002 Batang Pinoy. At the age of 13, Hidilyn became part of the Philippine National Weightlifting team.

In 2007, she won bronze in the SEA Games held in Thailand and placed 10th at the 2006 Asian Games. While she was a student representing Universidad de Zamboanga, she won two golds and one silver in the Asian youth Weightlifting Championship held in South Korea. In the 2008 Summer Olympics, she was the youngest competitor in the women’s 58-kg category.

In 2012, she became the first Filipina weightlifter to compete in two consecutive Olympics. She ranked ninth in her event heading to the Olympics. She lifted a personal best of 97 kg in the snatch and placed 12th among the 19 competitors.

In 2015, Hidilyn decided to drop weight from under 58 kg to under 53kg, which was effective as she was able to win the gold medal in the 1st Southeast Asian Weightlifting Competition held in Bangkok. Meanwhile, in the Asian Weightlifting Championships, she won a gold medal in 2015 and bronze medal in 2016. She also won three bronze medals in the 53 kg division of the IWF World Weightlifting Championship held in Houston, Texas in November 2015 to claim a spot in the 2016 Rio Olympics.

In the 2016 Summer Olympics, she won the silver medal in the 53 kg weight division. She is the first Filipino to win a medal in a non-boxing event since 1936. She also ended the Philippines’ drought of winning the Olympic medal.

In 2018, she participated in the Asian Games women’s 53 kg event held in Indonesia. She had a total lift of 207 kg to win the Philippines’ first gold in the 2018 games. She was the first Filipino weightlifter of any gender to win a gold medal in the said event.

In 2019, she won bronze in the World Championships. She also won a silver in the 2019 Asian Championship, and another gold in the Southeast Asian Games held in Manila. In 2020, she competed in Roma 2020 World Cup held in Italy wherein she won a gold medal in the 55 kg event.

On July 26, 2021, Hidilyn made history at the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo where she won the first ever gold medal for the Philippines in the 55 kg category for weightlifting. She also set an Olympic record for the 55 kg division in the clean and jerk at 127 kg and in the total at 224 kg.

In 2022, Hidilyn won her second gold medal during the 31st Southeast Asian Games. In the same year, she won a gold medal in the women’s 55 kg event at the World Weightlifting Championships held in Columbia.

In 2023, her -53 kg and -55 kg were not included in the weightlifting program for the 2024 Summer Olympics in Paris, she then moved to the -59kg weight class. She made her competitive debut at the 2023 Asian Weightlifting Championships in South Korea where she placed 4th by lifting a total of 221 kg.

In the last 2024 Summer Olympics qualifiers, Hidilyn failed to finish among the top ten in the IWF Olympic Qualification Ranking. She may have fallen short this time, but Hidilyn reassures her supporters that she will not stop in giving inspiration to the youth and she will come back stronger than ever.


Margielyn Didal

Margielyn DidalMargielyn Arda Didal is a Filipino professional street skateboarder. She won a gold medal in the 2018 Asian Games.

She was born in Cebu City and is the fourth among five siblings. In her early years skateboarding, we and her friends would skate at the now-closed Concave Park in Cebu. When it closed, she struggled to find a place to play.

She approached Daniel Bautista, who later became her coach in the 2018 Asian Games. In 2012, she then started competing in local tournaments in Cebu City. In 2014, she injured her right arm and sprained her ankle. Margielyn underwent therapy at Cardia Olympia and intense assessment at the Red Bull High Performance Training Center in Santa Monica, California in 2019.

In 2018, Margielyn became the first Filipino skateboarder to compete in Street League Skateboarding when she participated in the SLS PRO Open in London, England. She was able to finish in fourth place and advanced to the final round to finish eight overall.

In 2019, she was able to reach the semifinals in the SLS World Championship in Brazil. She is the first Philippine representative to do so. She failed to advance to the finals, finishing 14th overall with 20 points,

During the  2018 X Games in Minnesota, U.S, Margielyn was invited to compete. She is the first competitor to formally represent the Philippines. In the same year, Didal won the fourth gold for the Philippines at the 2018 Asian Games. She earned the most points in the women’s street park event.

In 2019, she participated in the inaugural Philippine National Skateboarding Championship held in Sta. Rosa, Laguna, where she won gold for the women’s street event category. She also won two gold medals in the 2019 Southeast Asian Games in the Game of Skate and street skateboarding category.

In 2020, Margielyn joined the 2020 Tampa Pro Women’s Open Finals in Florida where she finished 3rd place. While in the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo, she qualified where skateboarding made its Olympic debut. She then placed 7th.

In October 2022, she competed at the Red Bull Skate Level but she sustained a fractured left ankle and underwent surgery. Due to this, she missed the two qualifying events for the 2024 Summer Olympics. After 11 months, she returned to the 2022 Asian Games in China to defend her title but fell short, finishing last among eight skaters.

Margielyn may have experienced several injuries during her career, but she is set to continue her skateboarding career. Being the first Filipino to represent the Philippines as a pro player in the skateboarding scene, she became an inspiration to all young and amateur skaters across the country.


Ernest John Obiena

Ernest John ObienaErnest John “EJ” Obiena is a Filipino Olympian pole vaulter. He currently ranks second in the world in men’s pole vault, according to World Athletics.

He was born on November 17, 1995. He took his first pole vaulting when he was eight years old, then initially focused on hurdles. His father, Emerson Obiena, served as his coach until he reached 18 years old. In a bid to secure a college scholarship, he decided to return ro pole vaulting during his last years in high school. He attended the University of Santo Tomas where he competed for the University Athletic Association of the Philippines.

In early 2014, EJ learned from Ukrainian pole vaulter Sergey Bubka that there is an opportunity to train in Italy. Within that same year, he traveled to Italy to train for three months under coach Vitaly Petrov. In July 2014, EJ broke the national record for pole vault by registering 5.01 meters.

In 2015, he won a silver medal at the Southeast Asian Games with a leap of 5.25 meters, his then personal record.

In 2016, EJ won a gold medal while breaking his own personal record of 5.47 meters in the Philippine National Games Finals.

In 2019, he won gold in the Summer Universiade setting a new national record of 5.76 meters. He was able to secure a berth in the 2020 Summer Olympics by making a 5.81 meters height in Italy, this was also a national record. He competed in Tokyo at the 2020 Summer Olympics and made it to the finals but failed to make the podium.

In 2021, EJ lifted his best vault where he won with 5.93 meters at the International Golden Roof Challenge in Austria. He set a then Asian record in pole vault.

In 2022, he broke his own record when he lifted his best vault at 5.94 meters at the World Athletics Championship in Oregon where he won bronze. He was the first Filipino to win a medal in the tournament.

In 2023, he managed to place first with 5.90 meters at the Asian Games. In the same year, he won a silver medal in the BAUHAUS-galan in Sweden. Earning him a ticket to the 2024 Olympics in paris.

EJ is the first Filipino athlete to qualify for the Paris 2024 Olympics.

Sports may seem like an easy stint to fame but in reality, it holds a unique power in inspiring people in various ways. It is both fascinating and admirable how an individual can showcase their physical prowess through sports. With their determination in achieving their ultimate goal comes pushing their physical boundaries, strategic innovation, and mental fortitude. These traits serve as a blueprint for the future generation.

While these top athletes raise the bar high for the younger generation, they continue in making history and carving their names across the world. Their journey might seem like it is coming to an end, but their determination and continuous training is a clear proof that this is just the beginning of setting world records in the future.

The pride of being a Filipino heightens up whenever the flag is being raised. Media coverage in sports helps boost the morale and confidence of each player. It broadens the reach of sporting events. It also amplifies their sports, giving them a larger platform to showcase their hard work. It allows athletes to push their boundaries, redefine their sports, and leave a legacy for the younger generations.

It is important to give credit where credit is due. These athletes showcased their athletic prowess not just for personal gain, but for the love of their country. The impact of these athletes in the world of sports is a unifying force as it transcends and unites people in a shared passion. Follow the journey of these athletes as they display their athleticism. Witness how they redefine their sports and serve as an inspiration to younger athletes.