One of only Two Bronze Medals ever won in Athletics was from Simeon Toribio in the Men’s High Jump.
Pinoyathletics has decided to expand on the original article by Joboy Quintos.
A New Life for the Toribio Family in Bohol
Simeon Galvez Toribio was born August 6, 1905 in Loboc, Bohol. He was frail and spare-framed. His playmates call him tukon (stick to local dialect) because he was a beanpole, tall for his age.
He was a newcomer in town, his parents having come from Zamboanga. His father, Luis Toribio, a leader of the Revolutionary Forces, who later became a clerk of court moved the family to Bohol after losing a bitter election protest.
Sports is better than cutting the Grass
He wasn’t particularly interested in sports as a youngster until one day while assigned to cut the grass in the school yard, the school coach announced that those who would train in athletics will be exempted from trimming the lawn.
And since manicuring the lawn was, in those days, a form of punishment for errant acts of school pupils, Toribio took the challenge and soon, to cut the story short, became a regular member of the school track and field team, taking part in schools meets, then provincial, regional and later national meets.
Upon graduation from high school, he enrolled at Siliman University in Dumaguete, Negros Oriental for a bachelor’s degree in science, while working at the University’s furniture shop to earn his, board, lodging and pocket money. He also found time to improve on his expertise in high jump under expert coaching.
By 1926 he was the best High Jumper in the country with a leap of 1.85m breaking the national record of Eliseo Razo 1.83m which he had set winning the 1925 edition of the Far East Asian Games in Manila.
In fact from 1926 to 1930 Toribio was the #1 High Jumper in the Philippines. Razo temporarily regained the title in 1931.
In a sense though he was the most dominant Filipino High Jumper between 1926 to 1936 being the #1 8 of those 11 years. Also an excellent Triple Jumper he had the top jump of 13.87m in 1930.
1927 First Stint Far East Asian Games (FEG)
At age 22, he made the national team to the 8th Far Eastern Games (now Asian Games) held in 1927 in Shanghai in what started his long domination of his favourite event that earned for him a berth in the 9th Olympic Games in Amsterdam.
He won the Asian High Jump title there with a leap of 1.93m setting a games record.
His teammates in his first Olympic appearance were great swimmer Teofilo Yldefonso, who won the country’s first medal in the quadrennial conclave, a bronze, another pool shark Tuburan Tamse and sprinter Anselmo Gonzaga.
Toribio made it to the finals and ended up fourth, having the distinction and satisfaction of beating then world and Olympic champion Harold Osborne. He missed the bronze on a jump off where 2nd to 5th all equalled 1.91m.
Toribio leapt 1.91m at the Olympic Games. At another met earlier in the year he improved his National Record with a 1.95m leap.
He again reigned supreme in high jump in the 9th FEG in 1930 and in the 10th and final edition in 1934 when he set an all-time Asian record of 1.931-meter. For annexing his third FEG victory, he was awarded permanent possession of the Games high jump trophy.
1932 His Greatest Ever Moment and Olympic Bronze
In 1932, before carrying anew the country’s flag in the Los Angeles Games of the Xth Olympiad, he married a comely lass named Maximiana Escobar.
He reached the pinnacle of his career in Los Angeles, where he sailed over 1.97m to win bronze. The 1932 Summer Olympics was the Philippines’ most successful foray into the World’s Greatest Show, with three bronze medals.
Teofilo Yldefonso snared his second Olympic third place finish in as many attempts, while boxer Jose Villanueva grabbed the bronze medal in the bantamweight division.
The high jump competition in Los Angeles was a long drawn battle, taking four hours according to Afable. With the top four jumpers all tied with clearances of 1.97m, another jump-off was held to determine the placings. The competitors all failed to clear 2.007m and 1.99m.
The gold was awarded to Canada’s Daniel McNaughton, who had a first-time clearance over 1.97m,  while Bob Van Osdel of the United States took the silver.
According to author Jorge Afable, Toribio could have won the gold medal, if not only for the “call of nature”. It was a gruelling four-hour competition to jump over the bar raised at six feet and six inches high.
Toribio, who once made the jump, failed to overcome it the second time because he was distressed by call of nature.
Perhaps because of discomfort, the then 26-year old Toribio took three attempts to negotiate 1.94m and 1.97m – heights well within his capabilities.
A helpful Japanese coach lent a blanket for Toribio to cover himself in as he relieved his bladder!
The world record at that time was at 2.03m, with the Olympic record at 1.98m. This is the closest that any Filipino athlete has ever been to an existing world record at the time.
He improved his fourth place wind up four years back to bring home this time the bronze along with Teofilo Yldefonso’s and fighter Jose Villanueva.
That’s spelled out for the country’s finest showing in the quadrennial aggrupation that has never been matched since.
After the LA Games, Toribio strayed behind and enrolled at the University of Southern California where he earned his degree in Bachelor of Science in Civil Engineering.
1936 3rd Olympics
The pride of Loboc made it again to the 1936 Berlin Olympics, his third, becoming the only Filipino athlete to serve the country in three Olympics and as many times in the FEG that earned for him the coveted Helms World Trophy for being Asia’s greatest athlete in 1930.
Unfortunately he was unable to mimic his bronze medal effort in 1932 and wound up 12th in the 1936 Olympics.
Awards and Accolades
Toribio’s name is engraved on the Olympic Tableau de Honneur. He was, too, included in in the 1928 World Biography, published in New York. Also in 1930, he was accorded with the Zizi Shimpo Medal of Honor and voted unanimously as the Filipino Field Athlete of Half Century by the Philippine Sportswriters Association.
Life After Athletics
Following his retirement from active competitions, Toribio served actively in several positions at the Philippine Amateur Athletic Federation, at that time the sports ruling body in the country including its vice president from 1955 to 1959.
During the Japanese occupation, he was active in an underground movement as First Lieutenant in Lieutenant Colonel Edwin Price Ramsey’s guerrillas operating in Bulacan and Central Luzon.
Reason for him and his brother Narciso to be arrested and sent to garrison where they were saved by a Japanese soldier, who saw a framed scroll of him presented by the Japanese Emperor during the 1930 FEG Tokyo.
Toribio was not only an outstanding athlete, he was also a topnotch lawmaker and civil engineer. He served as congressman of Bohol’s Second Congressional district from 1946 to 1953 and was consistently voted one of the 10 outstanding congressmen by men and women covering the Lower House during his term.
Toribio, likewise, received numerous awards from the engineering world. He was elected to the CHI Epsilon (US National Civil engineers) and was a member of the Philippine and American Society of Civil Engineers.
Simeon Toribio passed away on June 5, 1969 at the age of 63 in Carmen, Bohol.
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