Sing no sad songs for Tito

SPORTING CHANCE - Joaquin M. Henson () - November 9, 2001 - 12:00am
Valentin (Tito) Eduque is gone.

Yesterday morning, the legendary "Man in White" passed away and the basketball world will never be the same again. Earth’s loss is heaven’s gain. Imagine the angels all dressed in white welcoming Tito to their fold. Imagine Tito belting out his favorite Frank Sinatra song "My Way" and singing the haunting tune of "east of the sun, west of the moon" in the company of angels. What a perfect fit. God blessed us by lending Tito to the world for 74 years. Now, Tito lives where he belongs — up in the skies to enjoy everlasting life with the Lord.

Tito wouldn’t like us to mourn. He’d prefer to be remembered as just one of the boys. But he will always be more than that. Tito was special, extraordinary. Sadness wasn’t in his vocabulary. He lived life to the fullest. He was a generous, caring person. He was a gentleman of the highest order. He never turned his back on anyone. He loved music, basketball and golf. He doted on his eight children and 27 grandchildren.

Two weeks ago, doctors diagnosed Tito to be suffering from cancer — it had spread all over his body. Family and friends braced themselves for the worst. Tito wasn’t afraid to go. He didn’t want to be a burden to anyone. He was in pain but suffered in silence. Last Monday, he checked in at the Makati Medical Center — it was to be his final trip to the hospital.

When his relatives, keeping vigil, decided to sing to him in his hospital room the other day, Tito — unable to speak — managed a smile and kept rhythm by trying to snap his fingers. It must have been an effort just to try to snap his fingers but Tito wanted to show his appreciation — you could almost hear him humming to "New York, New York" and "I’ve Got You Under My Skin."

Last February, Tito underwent an angioplasty procedure on his heart. No one had a clue then that cancer had set in. When it was discovered, the cancer had metastasized to the lungs, brain, and bones.

Tito was well enough to attend a reunion of old buddies at the Sugi Restaurant in Greenhills last Oct. 13 to celebrate former teammate Eddie Lim’s birthday. The gang was all there and Tito was, as usual, at his cheeriest disposition. Leo Prieto, Pablo and Vicente Cuna, Baby Dalupan, Paeng Hechanova, Tony Genato, and Ramoncito Campos were around to toast Eddie with Tito.

A few days later, Tito was at the Big Dome to witness the La Salle-Ateneo game for the UAAP men’s senior basketball title. "Tito was excited and we sat next to each other," recalled Carlos (Bobong) Velez who played on the 1960 La Salle juniors team that Tito coached. "His color was fine but I guess, he was already in pain. Because of the traffic outside the coliseum, we walked a long way to get to our seats and I noticed he panted and stopped to catch his breath. But Tito was never a complainer."

Bobong, Joaqui Trillo, and relatives were with Tito the night before his death. He wasn’t conscious. He had survived a scare a few days earlier when his condition was listed as critical. But it was only just a matter of time. The Lord finally called for Tito at about 7:15 yesterday morning.

Tito was born on Aug. 26, 1927. His roots were in Capiz and Batangas. In 1948, he married Inday Vargas who bore five children — Jojo, Tootsie, Mayanne, Marissa, and Dingdong. Tito’s wife died in 1963 and he later remarried Flor Valenzona who bore three children — Desi, Jesse, and Benjie.

Tito was a basketball star in his prime. During the Japanese occupation, he played in the Knights of Columbus league where Sta. Isabel College is now situated on Taft Avenue. He finished high school at La Salle then transferred to the University of Santo Tomas and played for the varsity that won the UAAP crown in 1946. His teammates were Francisco Vestil, Campos, Col. Julian Malonso, Pocholo Martinez, Francisco Nepomuceno and Dr. Jose Genato. The next year, Tito returned to La Salle and led the Archers to the NCAA title. His teammates included Eddie Decena, Jose Mendieta, Jun Inigo, Jess Pimentel, Eddie Sharuff, and Lino Castillejo.

In 1948, Tito was the official scorer of the Philippine team at the London Olympics. He had just gotten married so the trip was like a honeymoon for Tito and his wife. Only 10 players represented the country in the squad — among them were Campos, Decena, Manolet Araneta, Gabby and Fely Fajardo, Vestil, and Ding Fulgencio.

After graduating at La Salle with a commerce degree in 1951, Tito played for Yco under Prieto from 1952 to 1957. He later took over from Prieto as the Painters playing coach. In 1964, Tito coached the Philippine team at the Olympic qualifying tournament in Yokohama. In 1973, he piloted the Philippines to the Asian Basketball Confederation (ABC) championship. Among his players were Robert Jaworski, Ramon Fernandez, Bogs Adornado, and Abet Guidaben.

Tito also coached in the Philippine Basketball Association for Concepcion, Mariwasa, and Manila Beer. He won a bagful of titles for Yco and Mariwasa in the commercial leagues.

Campos, a classmate and teammate, said he will always remember Tito for his contagious smile. "He was a good man, a gentleman," noted Campos. "He loved to dance and sing. When we played for Yco, Tito was our top singer along with Tony Beltran and Francis Wilson. I can still remember him singing, ‘east of the sun, west of the moon.’"

Dingdong, the youngest from his first marriage and best man at his second marriage, said Tito, as a child from the old school, always wore white — his Sunday’s best — for Church. When he started playing, Tito noticed that when he wore white, his team often won. So, Dingdong, said, white became his lucky color. Then, it evolved into Tito’s signature image statement to dress in white.

During his playing days, Tito was nicknamed "Karayum" because like a needle, he would weave in and out of the defense. As a coach, he always wore white from head to toe and was called "The Man in White."

Last year, the National Basketball Hall of Fame Foundation cited Tito for his contributions to the sport and presented him with the Lifetime Achievement Award.

Tito has left us but his legend lives on.

Tito’s remains lie in state at the La Salle Greenhills Chapel in Mandaluyong. Interment will be announced later....The 40th day death anniversary Mass for ex-Yco and Letran cager Cesar Sequera is tomorrow at the Letran chapel. Fr. Rector Edwin Lao, O.P., will celebrate the Mass. Sequera’s teammate, former Manila Vice Mayor Herminio Astorga, is inviting friends and Letran alumni to Intramuros for the Mass.

  • Latest
  • Trending
Are you sure you want to log out?
Login is one of the most vibrant, opinionated, discerning communities of readers on cyberspace. With your meaningful insights, help shape the stories that can shape the country. Sign up now!

or sign in with