Fabiosa surprised by nomination
- Joaquin M. Henson () - June 26, 2011 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines - Spitfirish guard Bernard Fabiosa said yesterday he never expected to be nominated to the PBA Hall of Fame and was surprised when informed by his children of the possibility of induction into the fourth batch.

Fabiosa, 56, now lives in Northridge in the northern California valley with his wife Dr. Almi Valenzuela, a dentist. The former Crispa stalwart migrated to the US in 2005, leaving behind his three children Magnolia, 34, Byron, 31 and Bernice, 21, from two previous relationships in Manila.

Fabiosa played 17 seasons in the PBA from 1975 to 1991, finishing his career with 6,597 points, 2,853 assists and 1,235 steals. He is ranked No. 3 in the all-time steals ladder behind only Johnny Abarrientos and Ramon Fernandez and led the league in swipes in seven seasons. Fabiosa is also ranked No. 10 in all-time assists, No. 12 in all-time games played and No. 26 in all-time minutes played.

In 1981, Fabiosa topped the PBA in assists. The Bohol quarterback averaged 8.4 points, 3.6 assists and 1.6 steals in a long career where he suited up for Crispa, Shell, Presto and Purefoods.

“When I retired in 1991, I felt I could’ve played at least two more seasons but I injured my collarbone so I decided to call it quits,” said Fabiosa in a phone interview. “During my career, it was never my ambition to become an MVP. I was small and just a role player. I didn’t look to score. I had teammates who were great scorers so I was content to pass, steal and play defense.”

Fabiosa said his most memorable experience in the PBA was playing on two Crispa grand slam championship teams in 1976 under coach Baby Dalupan and in 1983 under coach Tommy Manotoc.

“My toughest one-on-one opponent was Francis Arnaiz,” said Fabiosa. “Even if we were rivals on the court, we were friends off the court and today, we look back at our basketball rivalry as friends. Another tough guard whom I had to defend was Mike Bilbao who was an excellent ballhandler. He was very smart and I always found it difficult to anticipate what he would do.”

Fabiosa and Bilbao were among 15 PBA figures who were nominated for enshrinement into the fourth batch of the Hall of Fame. The PBA Honors Committee will select the honorees late this month. The induction is scheduled in September.

“I’m very honored by this nomination which is unexpected,” said Fabiosa. “Of course, I’m very proud of this. My children phoned me from Manila to tell me the news. I’m really excited about it although I know the final selection is still to come. If ever I am chosen, I plan to be in Manila for the induction and I want my three children to be with me. I’m just so happy that all my hard work has been recognized by this nomination and that in my own small way, I was able to make fans enjoy the game we love.”

Fabiosa said after his retirement, he initially found it difficult to adjust to life without basketball. “I’ll admit it was hard,” he said. “But I was getting by. Sometimes, I would go to my home province, Bohol, to conduct clinics. I didn’t want to bother my successful teammates by asking for help. I wanted to succeed on my own so I decided to leave for the US. I have a sister in Montana and another sister in New Jersey but I first lived in Anaheim with friends. Later, I moved to Northridge to be with my uncle. I did all sorts of jobs to make a living. I’m not ashamed to confess that I worked as a care-giver, taking care of old folks. When I met Almi, I filed for divorce from my wife in the Philippines and we got married. We’ve been together now for five years. She petitioned me to legalize my status in the US.”

Fabiosa said he is involved in facilitating health insurance for his wife’s dental patients and also does work as a home handyman, specializing in minor electrical services.

“I was in Manila last May for three weeks to visit my kids and three grandchildren and I got together with my buddies Atoy (Co) and Philip (Cezar),” said Fabiosa, the youngest of eight children. “But if I’m chosen to be inducted into the Hall of Fame I’m hoping to go back to accept the honor. It’s rare for anyone to be inducted and it’s a great honor, something that comes only once in a lifetime.”

Fabiosa said since his retirement from hoops, he has never played in a league whether in the Philippines or the US. “I still play pick-up games now and then, just for exercise and to sweat,” he said. “I play when I’m invited by Abe King for exhibitions with retired PBA players in the US but my last game was about two years ago.”

Fabiosa said in the hierarchy of players on his PBA teams, he was never the star. “With Crispa, we had so many good players that I was just happy when coach Baby gave me playing time,” he said. “During my time, there weren’t too many pure point guards so I was lucky to play that position. Later in my career, it was my experience that gave me minutes. I was the veteran so I got to play a lot more than the young point guards. I was never the MVP. All I wanted to do was to play my role to the best of my ability. Before I knew it, I had played 17 years in the PBA. I’m very lucky that I played so long and gave fans a lot of good basketball memories.”

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