KEY POINTS

  • The Tokyo 2020 Olympics saw the Philippines net its first-ever gold medal
  • Teofilo Yldefonso was the country's first-ever medalist when he won the bronze back in 1928.
  • A local roasted chicken outlet decided to honor his legacy by giving his family 100 oven-roasted chickens per month

The recently-concluded 2020 Tokyo Olympics was a watershed moment for the Philippines.

Competing in the global games since 1924, the Southeast Asian nation has never experienced winning the gold medal, despite coming close multiple times in the past.

Weightlifter Hidilyn Diaz lifted the country on her shoulders en route to the gold medal finish, in what has since been one of the most feel-good stories to emerge from the Philippines during the Tokyo Olympics.

Hidilyn Diaz JULY 26: Hidilyn Diaz of Team Philippines competes during the Weightlifting - Women's 55kg Group A on day three of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games at Tokyo International Forum on July 26, 2021 in Tokyo, Japan. Photo: Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images

Many Filipino Olympians, past and present, were rewarded for their exploits at the quadrennial event and another medalist has joined the list.

Teofilo Yldefonso was the country’s first-ever Olympic medalist who finished in third place in the 200-meter breaststroke event of the 1928 Summer Games in Amsterdam.

Four years later in the 1932 Los Angeles Olympics, Yldefonso would repeat the feat and was christened as the “Ilocano Shark” and “The Father of the Modern Breaststroke”.

Despite his achievements, Yldefonso’s legacy lacks the same recall as other Filipino Olympians like Mansueto “Onyok” Velasco and Leopoldo Serrantes in boxing.

To honor his legacy, local roasted chicken chain Chooks-To-Go pledged to give 100 oven-roasted chickens to Yldefonso’s family, represented by his great-great-grandson Raul Yldefonso, every month, for as long as the business is alive.

"Teofilo is not just a sports hero but also a war hero during World War II," said Chooks-to-Go president Ronald Mascariñas. "He was at the battlefront during World War II where he met his untimely demise.”

As a member of the 57th Infantry Regiment of the Philippine Scouts of the United States Army, Teofilo fought bravely against the Japanese but was among the many soldiers who survived the Bataan Death March.

Yldefonso died at the Capas Concentration Camp on June 19, 1942, at age 38.

“During World War II, he became friends with his former 1936 Olympics Japanese foe, Reizo Koike, in Capas,” recalled Raul. “They met again in Capas and Bataan where they were both officers, one in the Japanese Army, the other in the Philippine Scouts. At that time, the Filipino soldiers were being besieged by the Japanese.”

To this day, Raul and the rest of the Yldefonso clan are fighting to keep the “Ilocano Shark’s” memory alive, in the hopes that future generations will remember his great-great-grandfather.

“As a great grandson of Teófilo Yldefonso, I try to gather all memories of him, news articles, photographs, and see as well if we need to request again for a statue of him in Ilocos Norte because our clan takes pride in his being an Olympian and winning medals twice for the Republic of the Philippines is something that cannot be downplayed,” Raul said.

With the help of the popular local roasted chicken outlet, Yldefonso hopes that more Filipinos will remember his grandfather for his heroism and feats as a Filipino Olympian.