|Posted on November 16, 2010 at 10:11 AM|
MMTLBA – THEN AND NOW
By Henry L. Liao
When one talks about Chinese-Filipino high school basketball leagues in the Metro Manila area,
there’s not one that compares to the Metro Manila Tiong Lian Basketball Association.
The Tiong Lian (literal English translation is “an association of high schools” )unquestionably is the
premier Chinese-Filipino high school basketball league in town.
It took some time for the MMTLBA to create a following.
The league, in fact, had a humbling beginning.
In February 1970, seven Metro Manila Chinese schools that were looking to integrate the Tsinoy
youth in the local sporting scene joined hands to form the Greater Manila Filipino-Chinese Secondary
School Basketball Association, the predecessor of the MMTLBA.
The seven trailblazing schools are Chiang Kai Shek High School, Grace Christian High School,
Hope Christian High School, Philippine Cultural High School, St. Stephen’s High School, Uno High
School and Xavier School.
Chiang Kai Shek High School defeated Philippine Cultural High School to capture the inaugural
championship in 1970.
The finals turned out to be a shootout between Lim Eng Beng and Fortunato (Atoy) Co Jr., both of
whom would also later make a name in the collegiate ranks (National Collegiate Athletic Association)
and at the professional level (Philippine Basketball Association).
Co beat Lim in their scoring duel but the former won the league crown.
In 1971, Grace Christian High School succeeded to the throne, trouncing Hope Christian High
School in the finals.
The following season (1972), heavy underdog Xavier School surprised defending titlist and
unbeaten elimination leader Grace Christian High School in two straight games in the finals to snare
the crown for the first time in its tradition-steeped school history.
Grace Christian HS needed to beat Xavier School only once in the finals to repeat as the champion
but the so-called “The Spirit of ‘72” propelled the Golden Stallions to victory in back-to-back contests
where they both trailed by nine points at halftime.
With the declaration of martial law in the country in September 1972, the league suspended its
competitions for the following season.
Action resumed in 1974 and Chiang Kai Shek became the league’s two-time winner after defeating
Uno High School in the championship series.
In 1975, St. Stephen’s High School took the title away from Chiang Kai Shek with a finals’ triumph
over the latter.
For the second time in league history, the tournament was temporarily suspended in 1976 to
prepare for the formal integration of local Chinese schools into the Filipino community.
That year, Xavier School also took an extended leave.
When the games resumed in 1977, the league formally changed its name to Metro Manila Tiong
Lian Basketball Association but St. Stephen’s HS again walked away with the championship
against Chiang Kai Shek.
From thereon, the Tiong Lian crown changed hands through the decades. Hope Christian HS
(1981 and 1983), Philippine Cultural High School (1984) and Uno High School (1986) won for the first
time during the 1980s.
A founding member, Philippine Cultural High School, deserted the Tiong Lian in the late 1980s and
eventually joined a rival league.
Chiang Kai Shek, however, kept the faith and dominated the competitions from the mid-eighties to
From simply being a high school or Juniors Division tournament, the MMTLBA expanded in 1990 to
include an Elementary Division, which later metamorphosed into the Aspirants Division (with an age
limit) in 2001.
After a 17-year sabbatical, Xavier School was back in the MMTLBA fold in 1993.
St. Jude Catholic School joined the league in 2003 but took a leave in 2005.
The following year, founding member Grace Christian HS and St. Jude Catholic School returned to
the Tiong Lian and brought the league’s overall membership back to the current seven teams.
In 2008, the MMTLBA established the Girls High School Division. The Chiang Kai Shek Lady Blue
Dragons emerged victorious in the first two years while Uno High School grabbed the crown in 2010.
In the Juniors Division, Xavier School has romped away with the championship in seven of the past
10 years, including the last three. Its younger counterparts, on the other hand, have won an
unprecedented eight straight titles in the Aspirants Division so far.
The Golden Stallions seek to become the first school in league history to capture four consecutive
titles in the Juniors Division when the 41st MMTLBA season unwraps on December 6, 2010.
The MMTLBA will employ a double round-robin elimination format in the Juniors Division during the
2010-11 campaign. This will mark the first time that such a format will be utilized since the 2005
season that featured only five teams.
This season, each of the seven participating schools (arranged in the order of their 2009-10 finish)
– Xavier School, St. Jude Catholic School, Hope Christian High School, Chiang Kai Shek College, St.
Stephen’s High School, Uno High School and Grace Christian College – will play at least 12