After 28 years at Wornington Green, Anastacio Maranga is a well-known face in the area. But few of his neighbours are aware of his illustrious past, first as a competitor and then as a coach with the Philippines national archery team. It is a past of which he is justifiably proud.
Having played table tennis throughout his youth, he represented the Philippines at the sport at Asian Games in Tokyo, Jakarta and Singapore before making the switch to bows and arrows. “Once I started losing to younger players at table tennis, I knew it was time for a change,” says Anastacio. “So I took up archery, and never really looked back.” It very quickly became obvious that he had a real talent for archery and he linked up with the Philippines national team, at which point his life became very different. Training camps in Michigan, USA and Rome, Italy saw his improvement continue to the point where he secured the prestigious title of Senior Master Bowman, one of the highest classification grades within the sport. And then, in 1972, he represented his country at the Munich Olympic Games.
Although he didn’t win a medal – “There were many other archers there who were better than I was,” he says, modestly – to compete at an Olympics is clearly a personal high point for him. After the games, he became coach of the Philippines national side, using the skills he had learned to teach the next generation of talent. It was a role he continued with until 1979, when he decided to move to London.
At the start of his new life in England, archery took a back seat for a while, but then in 1980 he started coaching again, this time at the London Archers Club. Working with Londoners as well as Koreans, Americans and Russians who had moved to the city, he happily taught at the club until he retired in 1990.
Today, at 86 years old, he looks an absolute picture of health. “Apart from my knee,” he says, “I can get around absolutely fine. If my knee didn’t hurt I wouldn’t even need this stick,” he adds for good measure. It’s hard to disagree with him, so fit does he look. He even jokes about one day becoming the oldest man in the world; if he carries on in this sort of form, few would put it past him.
He says he goes back to the Philippines, where he still has family, at least once a year, but this year is a bit different. This year, in September, he is moving back to the Far East for good, taking the opportunity to leave prior to the residents of his block being moved into their new homes. But there’s one bit of unfinished business before he goes. “With the Olympics coming to London this year, it’ll be great to see the archery happen in my home city,” he says. ”I could go to the Philippines now, but by flying in September, I’ll get to see the archery here before I leave. What a great thing to see before going home for good.”