Toasting the Maestro of Philippine basketball
Joaquin M. Henson (The Philippine Star) - October 20, 2015 - 10:00am

MANILA, Philippines - Virgilio (Baby) Dalupan turned 92 last Monday and his relatives, players, adversaries, friends and fans braved the stormy weather to celebrate the Maestro’s birthday at the jampacked Mariano Singson Hall on the Ateneo grounds in Loyola Heights.

Dalupan came graciously late and nobody minded because it gave everyone time to hover around him as the Maestro walked in.

The celebration, which drew over 250 guests, also set the stage for the launching of a 235-page book on his life, chronicling in detail his beginnings and the history of his coaching career. The book was 12 years in the making and the finished product proved well worth the long wait. It wouldn’t have been possible if not for the efforts of Dalupan’s daughter Cecile, Jun-Jun Capistrano, Tessa Jazmines and many, many more who gave their time to contribute to the completion of the magnum opus.

Master-of-ceremonies Sev Sarmenta went around the Hall to bring the microphone to some of those whose lives were indelibly marked by the Maestro’s touch. Atoy Co, the legendary Fortune Cookie, said when he was a Crispa rookie, Dalupan made him a defender. Co had to painstakingly convince Dalupan that he could also make shots.

When Dalupan was finally convinced, Co got the license to shoot. Co also recalled how Dalupan, being a strict disciplinarian, wouldn’t tolerate Bernie Fabiosa’s antics. Once, Fabiosa showed up late for practice and Dalupan ordered 10 laps around the court. After Fabiosa did the laps, he got an extra knock on the head from the Maestro. On another occasion, Fabiosa came late for a game and as he was about to put on his uniform, Dalupan told him to pack up and go home.

* * *

Sen. Sonny Jaworski, who played for Dalupan at UE and the national team but against him in the PBA, said he always admired the Maestro’s patience. The Big J remembered a player on Dalupan’s team who shouted “rebound” on every shot he took. Obviously, the player had no confidence in his shot. Yet, Jaworski said that player was on Dalupan’s team for four years.

Dante Silverio showed up at the celebration. For years, he was Dalupan’s chief rival as Silverio called the shots for Toyota and the Maestro for Crispa in the PBA. Incredibly, Silverio found out only last Monday night that their birthdays were a day apart. Silverio turned 78 last Sunday. Clearly, Silverio had never been invited to a birthday party for Dalupan before and he never invited Dalupan to his either. Whenever they coached against each other, Silverio said they never really exchanged words. “Walang kibuan,” he chuckled. But the mutual respect was evident.

Philip Cezar, who played for Dalupan at Crispa and Great Taste, said the Maestro was like a father to him. He joked that when he started playing for Dalupan, his role was to defend and when he ended playing for the Maestro, his role was still the same. Alvin Patrimonio said he’ll never forget his first PBA championship with Dalupan. “When coach Baby D came, we knew we would win the championship, that’s how good he was,” said Patrimonio. “So when we won, we really did it to honor him, to thank him for giving us the chance to win a championship.”

PBA commissioner Chito Narvasa was called on stage for his remarks and recalled playing for Dalupan with the Ateneo varsity in 1974, 1975 and 1976. Some of his varsity teammates were in the Hall to toast Dalupan, too, and among them were Max Estrada, Joy Carpio, Joey Pengson, Pons Valdes, Louie Rabat and Steve Watson. Dalupan’s influence has carried Narvasa to develop his own coaching career and to promote coaching as the long-time head of the Basketball Coaches Association of the Philippines.

* * *

Tim Cone also went up the stage to speak about Dalupan and how appropriate it was. Before Cone came along, Dalupan was the PBA’s winningest coach with 15 championships. Cone raised his total to 18 after capturing a second Grand Slam in 2013-14. Dalupan registered the PBA’s first Grand Slam with Crispa in 1976. Interestingly, Cone went up against Dalupan in the 1990 Third Conference Finals. It was Cone’s first Finals appearance with Alaska and after racing to a 2-0 lead in the best-of-five series, he was taken to school by Dalupan who swept the next three to clinch the crown for Purefoods.

Cone said he’ll always treasure the experience of sitting down with Dalupan for breakfast in the Maestro’s home a few years ago. “You never heard coach Baby say I or me whenever he spoke about his teams, it was always we or us,” said Cone. In Cone’s mind, there will never be a greater coach than Dalupan. The Maestro’s collection of over 40 championships in every imaginable level of basketball is testament of his greatness. Cone said when the Maestro wielded the baton, it was like his team was a symphony orchestra. “To be honest, I don’t remember coach Baby’s teams ever losing because it’s like he always won,” added Cone.

The Hall was crowded with many other basketball luminaries. Two-time Olympian Tony Genato, now 86, showed up. He’s been a family friend for years and his son Tonichi was once married to Dalupan’s daughter Loulie. Genato played on the Philippine team that took third place at the FIBA World Cup in Rio de Janeiro in 1954. Bogs Adornado, Conrad and Joel Banal, Jimmy Mariano, Tito Panlilio, Ogie Narvasa, Sandy Arrespacochaga, Olsen Racela, Ricky Palou, Rey Franco and Freddie Hubalde came. So did Ateneo president Fr. Jett Villarin, former Ateneo president Fr. Bienvenido Nebres and UE president Ester Garcia.

* * *

In a fitting tribute, the UE chorale sang the favorite songs of Dalupan and his wife Nenang, including “Love Is A Many Splendored Thing” .

Throughout his brilliant coaching career, Dalupan has been honored with numerous awards. Nine of his players were MVPs in the PBA, namely, Adornado, Hubalde, Jaworski, Co, Cezar, Abet Guidaben, Ricardo Brown, Allan Caidic and Patrimonio. But Dalupan will easily brush the accolades aside to be recognized instead for being a loving husband, a doting father and a simple family man.

  • 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