Riders are thrust into the limelight once they bag prizes in competitions. Not all of them, however, are remembered by spectators. Only a few riders like BUTCH CHASE are destined to become sports giants. His superb riding prowess has earned for him the title Living Icon of Philippine Motocross, a title he rightly deserves.
My first few encounters with Butch happened when I frequented the Cycle Sports and Safety Associations of the Philippines (CYSSAP) races in Manila way back when I was still in high school. I kept on wondering then about this bearded white man who seemed to be a bigwig in those races.
I learned about his background through the articles carried by some sports magazines and newspapers at the time.
Butch, an American-Russian, won back-to-back Rider of the Year awards in 1976 and 1977. He had always been drawn to two-wheelers since childhood. He started in motocross when he was 15. His mother and grandmother bought him his first motorcycle when he turned 18.
Butch entered the world of competitive racing in October 1972 through a motocross race at San Miguel Base in Zambales. He had his Honda listed in the beginners’ class and eventually ended up in third place.
Butch is a pioneer in Philippine motocross. He witnessed both the first official race held in 1973 at the Tierra Pura estate in Kalaw, Novaliches and the first international race in Vigan in 1975.
Butch was also instrumental in the resumption of legitimate motocross races in October 1981, two years after the imposition of a law in 1979 which prohibited speed contests and rallies involving the use of motor vehicles, motor-driven watercraft, or aircraft using petroleum based fuels.
He became an official of the National Motorcycle Sports and Safety Association (NAMSSA) which traces its existence to CYSSAP of earlier years.
It was my friend in Lucena though - Rommel Alvos - who told me the man is an icon of local motocross. Rommel was the one who introduced me to the great spectator sport. He once brought me to Metro Manila to watch a CYSSAP race at the Reclamation Area in Pasay which was participated in by his brother Ronald Alvos.
Two years ago, I had the rare chance to talk to Butch courtesy of Oliver Agapito, a former Philippine Basketball Association player who also loves motocross. Oliver is a native of Palawan, and his uncle is a friend of the motocross giant. It was great talking to Butch on the phone though I felt so conscious throughout our conversation. I was so overwhelmed by the thought that I was talking to my legendary sports idol.
The second time I had the chance to talk to Butch on the phone, I told him that my friend Jack Ryan Lorezca’s father Dolan was into motocross also. I told Butch that Dolan adulates him a lot that he keeps a copy of his picture. I revealed to Butch that Dolan also shared that they were both in a race some years ago. Impressed by Dolan’s fondness for the legend, I mustered all the courage to ask Butch if he could impart his greetings to Dolan on his birthday. Kind and humble as he is, Butch did heed my request and called Dolan on his birthday. Dolan and his entire family were astounded upon learning that Butch was calling just to greet his loyal fan.
I finally met Butch Chase in person last February.
I went to Palawan to cover the Asian Motocross Race of NAMSSA. I arrived there in the morning and immediately called him up to check if we could possibly meet for an interview. He agreed and set the interview at noon. We met at his restaurant. I was a bit nervous owing to the fact that I am finally in front of a revered motocross idol, holding an old magazine featuring him for a much-sought autograph.
Butch spent most of his life in Paranaque in Metro Manila and traveled extensively in the Philippine and Asia, doing motocross racing. He set foot on Palawan in January 1998.
The interior of the restaurant looked unique since it reflected its owner’s personality. The bar teemed with motorcycle themes like his pictures on the wall and a real CZ 100 bike on display. There were billiards table, too. He entertained his guests and made sure that everyone was relaxed and enjoying not only the fine food but the cozy ambiance of the place.
He looked different sans his signature beard. We talked a lot about his life and his marvelous insights on the history of motocross in the Philippines. I felt very much at ease during the course of the interview. He was kind, very accommodating and humble.
What endeared me most to him during the interview was his statement on giving ample and due recognition to riders and mechanics instead of putting race organizers on pedestals. How splendid for a national motocross legend to heap praises on what he calls the real heroes of motocross.
We also discussed about the St. Paul Subterranean River of Palawan
, one of the Philippine entries to the recent search for the new wonders of the world. He said a Philippine victory in the search would translate into tourism and economic development.
Butch may be of American-Russian stock but he is very much a Filipino like us. He loves the Philippines so much he gets affected by what is happening to the country, he wishes the country would hurdle the challenges of time.
We parted at the venue of the Asian Motocross Race in Puerto Princesa. He invited me for dinner at his restaurant. Much as I would have wanted to be with him for another quality conversation, my busy schedule wouldn’t grant me the privilege of seeing him again that day. I just promised to see him again some other time.
A few months after that February interview, I did return to Palawan to see Butch and tour the places I failed to visit when I went there before. Butch and I talked about mxd and our invitation for him to be our special consultant. I told him his array of experiences and his vast knowledge about motocross would contribute immensely not only to our website but to the advancement of the sports he loves so well.
The great legend soars because he is a gentle giant after all.###
Click to see Butch Pictures