Farewell, and thank you Sir Rico
Emmanuel B. Villaruel (The Freeman) - October 29, 2020 - 12:00am

CEBU, Philippines —  A pall of gloom and sadness descended upon the Cebu sports community after it lost one of its pillars with the sudden passing of highly-respected and well-loved sportsman Enrico David “Rico” S. Navarro.

Popoy Navarro, Rico’s eldest son, announced on his Facebook page that his father, an icon in sports media and broadcasting industry, passed away last Tuesday afternoon due to heart attack while biking. He was 53.

“On behalf of the family, we’d like to ask for your prayers in this time of distress. We’d also like to thank everyone who has extended their condolences and tributes to Papa. It really does mean a lot to see all these good words being said about him,” wrote Popoy.

Rico Navarro, who was once president of the Sportswriters Association of Cebu (SAC) and Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas (SBP)-Region 7 director, penned the weekly Bleacher Talk column for The Freeman for over two decades.

He was a sought-after ring announcer in pro boxing cards and formerly served as deputy commissioner of the Cebu Schools Athletic Foundation, Inc. (CESAFI).  He was also the driving force behind the BEST Center and the BEST Center Twin Tournament in Cebu.

 

Navarro was a member of the Cebu Football Association (CFA) Board and Athletic Director of the Sacred Heart School-Ateneo de Cebu (SHS-AdC), which honored him with a Service Award during the school’s Ignatian Heroes Appreciation Day 2020 just last month.

 

Navarro’s passion for sports was immeasurable. From sportswriting to sportscasting and organizing events, these were the beatings of his heart.

During the sports lockdown because of the pandemic, he kept Cebu sports alive and kicking by spearheading online talk shows on FB, the Bleacher Talk Cebu Live! and Bida BEST Live. He also enlivened the spirits of his fellow sportscribes with his SAC E-Numan Sessions.

Among his enduring legacies was the formation of the Cebu Youth Basketball League (CYBL), a genuine grassroots program that gives aspiring Cebuano ballers an opportunity to develop their skills at a young age, help prepare them for bigger leagues, and become athletes with character and champions not only in sports but also in life.

The CYBL has since evolved into the MVP Sports Foundation Youth Basketball League-Cebu or the MYBL.

“Regional Director Rico Navarro is the driving force behind Region VII’s basketball program. At one point, he mentioned that he himself could not believe that he is currently handling 100+ teams this season alone for MYBL. How could he not? His being a family man and an advocate for the youth on top of being an educator, a sportsman and a journalist draw so many basketball hopefuls to be under the wing of the great coach RD Rico,” the MVPSF Youth League said in a statement.

“A father himself, he deeply cares for his players and unabatingly remind them “duwa lang ta” whenever they’re tired, down and defeated. In his calm and collected voice, he advises the youth to never forget to enjoy the game. Truly, this mantra resonates today more than ever. A great loss to the basketball community, Region VII, and the whole country, the MYBL community mourn his passing. May his eternal soul rest in peace.”

Bounty Agri Ventures, Inc. (BAVI) President and General Manager Ronald Mascariñas, one of the chief patrons of Philippine basketball, SHS-Ateneo de Cebu President Rev. Fr. Manny Uy, SJ and Cebu City Sports Commission (CCSC) chairman Edward Hayco lead the enormous outpouring of love and heartfelt messages for the late Navarro, a sportsman nonpareil.

“Today, I bid farewell to a dear friend, Rico Navarro, whose sudden demise at 53, have yet to fully sink in. This is because Rico lived larger-than-life, and lives still in the lives of the many young men and women whom he has inspired, mentored and coached, and made all the better for these,” Mascariñas said in a very touching tribute to Navarro.

“Rico is one of the most well-known, well-liked and respected basketball figures in the country. Through his coaching jobs, his leadership in CESAFI and Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas, and regular newspaper columns, his light shone beyond basketball, and it shone bright and wide.”

“Beyond players, coaches, official basketball bodies and the teeming mass of the game’s faithful, Rico leaves behind a greater, more profound legacy of love of country and a deep and abiding concern for his fellowmen that is truly inspirational,” Mascariñas added.

“He had a clear vision of the game he loves so well. He led a life consistently driven by the idea and purpose of basketball as builder of character and provider of opportunities for the youth, and peerless driver of national unity.”

“To the end, basketball was Rico’s life. To him, basketball is life. As a friend, I deeply and personally mourn his passing. But I find profound solace in the fact that this loss is shared by many and, therefore, made easier to bear. Still, he will be sorely missed, the void he leaves behind difficult to fill. My deepest sympathies and condolences to his family. Rest in peace my friend. May you find your beloved hoops in heaven, still,” Mascariñas ended.

Chairman Hayco shared:”Throughout our life, people come and go. Some you remember, some just fleeting. Many leaves us with memories, both happy and sad. But a very few extraordinary ones, leaves you stunned and shocked, leaving you with an indelible feeling of loss. As what Dr. Rhoel O. Dejano have expressly described, we lost a sports luminary! The sports community will dearly miss you sir Rico. Your sincerity, warmth, calmness, your passion and devotion for sports, will be dearly and profoundly missed.”

Magis Eagles coach Rommel Rasmo and league organizer/talent scout Van Halen Parmis were at a loss for words upon learning the sad news.

“Sir Rico is not only my superior but he is also my friend and we share everything about our love for basketball. His leadership and knowledge about sports will be surely missed. He is a big loss for Cebu Sports. Praying for the family,” said Rasmo.

“Your memory and presence will be forever missed. Your great passion for sports has stirred me to serve the youth through grassroots program. You are a great friend, mentor and father to me. Rest in Peace Boss Rico, watch us from heaven as we continue to live the legacy you have left to us. We love you RD! Daghan salamat kaayo,” said Parmis.

Nimrod NL Quiñones, former sports editor of The Freeman who has closely worked with Navarro in many aspects of their lives, has a heart-warming piece for his highly esteemed colleague and friend.

“For over two decades Rico and I got involved in many things together from being sportswriters, sportscasters, teammates in basketball and football, organizers of events, sports dads, officers of sports organizations and many more,” said Quiñones.

“More than a colleague in many things, Rico was a very good friend, whose passion for sports was way beyond mine as he was totally able to live and do what he wanted.  He was a man, who did things for real, not just talk or write about them and I admired him so much for that. I pray for the eternal repose of his soul and also for his family – Ising, Popoy and Thirdy – to have the strength to overcome this great loss.”

Navarro is survived by his wife Ising and sons Popoy and Thirdy. His remains lie at the Sacred Heart Parish along D. Jakosalem Street, Cebu City.

“Forever in our grateful hearts. Rest in peace dear friend Rico,” said Fr. Manny Uy.

RICO NAVARRO
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