The granting of Filipino citizenship to foreigners in the Philippines is an involved and rather lengthy process. In special cases this naturalization can be awarded to non-Filipinos resident in the country who have performed some great service or other for the Philippines. This was the case for a recent naturalization with a sports official and philanthropist who has lived in the country for five decades and a half. His line of work had him be witness to some of the most glorious Filipino moments in the sport of boxing, and that, added to his charity work, have finally been recognized.
CNN Philippines has it that veteran sports referee and longtime Philippine resident Bruce McTavish has been naturalized as a Filipino citizen this Monday, October 1, by the Philippine Senate. The awarding of citizenship was in recognition for his career as a boxing referee as well as his philanthropic work while living in the Philippines for 51 years, outlined in Senate House Bill No. 7388 sponsored by Sen. Richard Gordon, chairman of the Senate Committee on Justice and Human Rights. The bill confers Filipino citizenship upon McTavish “with all the rights and corresponding obligations appurtenant thereto as a natural-born Filipino citizen.”
This would be the third and ultimately successful attempt at naturalizing the 77-year-old native New Zealander, who started living in the country in 1967. The journey to Filipino citizenship began in earnest when McTavish filed for status in 2010 via Congressional legislation. House Bill No. 1445 was filed by then-Congressman Carmelo Lazatin, but could not be considered before the election of a new Congress. In 2014, basketball coach Yeng Guiao, who was serving as Congressman for Pampanga’s First District, revived the initiative with House Bill No. 2343, but failed to reach the plenary. This time, the resolution passed without incident.
Born in Auckland around 1939-40, Bruce McTavish started boxing at age 9 and launched into an amateur career until his twenties, retiring with 31 wins and 2 losses. He would go on to refereeing boxing matches while in the Philippines during the 70s, a career that took him around the world. He is more recently famous for officiating in several matches of Manny Pacquiao, as well as the first women’s boxing world title fight in 2007. For his work record McTavish was named Referee of the year in 2013, 2015 and 2017, and at present serves as vice-chairman of the World Boxing Council of Referees.
McTavish is also a philanthropist, serving as president of Rotary Clubs in Pampanga where he makes his home. He is currently chairman of the board of trustees for Bahay Bata Foundation, a project of the Rotary Club of Clark Centennial.
Image courtesy of SunStar