With the Philippine Basketball Association’s (PBA) new season opening yesterday, let us reminisce over past championship teams—and the players of those teams. Where are they now?
While listening to the song, “Old Friends” by Simon and Garfunkel, here is a sampling of those past PBA players, and some notes on where they are now, and what they have been doing:
Many remember him as part of the young Purefoods team that had a Cinderella beginning, meaning the team was able to enter the PBA Finals during its very first conference. The team lost to a San Miguel Beer squad, however. Jerry was part of a team that included Jojo Lastimosa (Alvin Patrimonio would arrive at a later conference). Jerry was even in a commercial, once, for Purefoods Hotdog, where the jingle’s lyrics were: “when I think of you in everything you do/I try to feel the way you feel/and make it real”. Known as the “Defense Minister,” Jerry spent much of his career with Purefoods before being traded to Mobiline in 1999. Those of us who watch the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) on TV know that he coached the Arellano University Chiefs. This year, Jerry has been hired as the coach of Teletech in the Philippine Basketball League.
Dignadice was the 6’4” drop-dead hunk of a power-forward who was part of the 1989 Grand Slam team of San Miguel Beer. The team used to practice at the Aquinas gym in the city of San Juan, where this writer saw him for the first time, exchanging jokes with the Math teacher (Yves: “tinatawanan ka nung mga estudyante mo.”) Yves played with the likes of Hector Calma and four-time Most Valuable Player Ramon Fernandez. You may think he’s just a pretty boy, but he once scored a career-high 33 points in a deciding game for San Miguel. After retiring, he moved to Los Angeles, and is married to a Filipina nurse. Dignadice has not turned his back on the game of basketball, even launching a basketball tournament in Carson, California as part of that city’s Philippine Independence Day activities.
Like Dignadice, Realubit is another former PBA big man. His longest stint in the league was with the RFM ball clubs: Swift Might Meaties/Sunkist Orange. He was also part of the 1990 Presto Ice Cream All-Filipino championship team.
Realubit is now the operations head of the Maharlika Pilipinas Basketball League (MPBL), the league started by Senator Manny Pacquiao.
Sometimes you see Zaldy at games, and the TV commentators make mention of his presence, calling him Zaldy “The Real Deal” Realubit.
Although only 6’3” in height, Cezar was known as the original “Tapal King” and was part of the fabled two-time Grand Slam team, Crispa Redmanizers. Those of us who grew up in San Juan remember Cezar’s tenure as Vice Mayor. Last year, Cezar was honored by the NCAA (he played for Jose Rizal College). Like many of his contemporaries, Cezar tried his hand in coaching. In 2013, Manila Mayor Joseph Estrada tapped him to helm the Manila Sports Council.
Say what you want about his brand of play, it was inarguably “intense.” If you are a soft player, you have no business being near Distrito, who was branded as “The Destroyer” in his PBA days, most notably with the Ginebra San Miguel squad. After his playing days, Distrito moved to the United States, where he got into a fight and managed to kill someone. He pleaded to voluntary manslaughter, which resulted in him spending two years in prison there in the United States. After he gained his freedom, Rudy spent some time as a lay minister. Today, at 59 years old, he is living a quiet life in his native Bacolod.
This are just a few former PBA players who made some kind of impact in this writer’s life. Maybe you know of other stories that you would like to share.
All photos courtesy of the Manila Bulletin Sports’ Facebook Page.