A visionary, a gentle giant with a big heart

A visionary, a gentle giant with a big heart

(The Freeman) - October 30, 2020 - 12:00am

CEBU, Philippines —  Tributes and heart-warming messages continue to flow in for the late Enrico David “Rico” S. Navarro (January 20, 1967-October 27, 2020), the highly esteemed and beloved Cebuano sportsman who passed away last Tueday due to heart attack. He was 53.

Former Cebu Football Association  President Engr. Ricky Dakay immortalized Navarro, who was his right hand man during their CFA days, as “a gentle giant with a big heart”.

“It was a distinct observation in many a PFF Board Meeting that when Cebu hosts the Azkals and the PFL, the stadium fills to the rafters and more importantly fans paid to watch the games,” said Dakay.  “The formula is straightforward. I had the perfect board who did everything so that I did not need to do anything.”

“I had my Vice President, a gentle giant with a big heart, a soft voice, and a captivating personality. He was our marketing, our PR, and our host all rolled into one. And he drew the crowds. We all know who he is. In Cebu, football is never alone; it has its dialects, its norms, and its voices. Rico was one of those eloquent elites.

Godspeed Rico. Heavens pitches await you. The microphone is ready,” Dakay added.

Noted Cebuano businessman/sportsman Chester Cokaliong,  founder of Cebu Eastern College Alumni Basketball Association (CECABA), commented that Rico is a great loss to the Cebu sports community. Together with Nimrod Quiñones, Rico covered CECABA games for 14 seasons from 1999 to 2013 as sports commentator/analyst for CECABA games shown on television.

“He lent his voice to make CECABA a very respectable and popular league. I fondly remember that every time I scored a lot of points, he would say on air, “it’s just another day at the office.” Rico, may you continue to be a sportsman in heaven,” said Cokaliong.

In the eyes of Talisay City Mayor Gerald Anthony “Samsam” Gullas, Navarro was a visionary, a man full of action with heart for young talents.

Among Navarro’s 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. CYBL is now known as the MVP Sports Foundation Youth Basketball League-Cebu (MYBL).

“We lost an icon in Cebu Sports. He wasn’t just a sports fan, he wasn’t just a sports writer but he was a visionary for Cebu grassroots basketball,” said Gullas. “Without the basketball leagues he organized, as far as UV is concerned, there wouldn’t be a Paul Desiderio, there wouldn’t be a Leonard Santillan, or a Orlan Wamar, or a Jun Manzo and so much more.”

“Because of his advocacy for grassroots basketball, so many children garnered basketball scholarships in the elementary, high school and college level. By doing so they would be able to help their families, as far as the payments for quality education is concerned,” added Gullas.

“While not all basketball players will become like Paul, Santi and others that will excel professionally and play basketball for a living, so many have benefited from his grassroots programs. So many kids have garnered high school and college degrees because of his vision of the importance of grassroots basketball. So many people touched. So many players lives changed. So many families helped. Cebu sports is mourning your loss. I honestly don’t know who can fill the void you left for Cebu sports.”

Reflective of Gullas’ sentiments, SBP Eastern Visayas Regional Director Jerry Guzman Abuyabor hailed Navarro as “an architect of future ballers” because of his unflinching dedication and unbridled commitment to grassroots sports development.

“We lost a great leader, a good mentor, a call away adviser, an architect of future ballers, and pillar in Philippine basketball community,” Abuyabor said.

Navarro’s Samahang Basketball ng Pilipinas (SBP) family paid homage to the departed sportsman for all seasons as a gentle soul whose passion for sports is beyond measure.

“The Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas mourns the untimely passing of SBP Region 7 DirectorRico Navarro. He was a gentle soul whose passion for sports was only exceeded by his deep desire to be a man for others,” the SBP said in a statement. “We will miss his presence and his kindness and we will persevere to build on the progress that he has made in his region to honor his legacy.”

Navarro’s friends in the sports circle and at the Sacred Heart School-Ateneo de Cebu (SHS-AdC) where he served as Athletic Director for 10 years fondly remembered him for his goodness that radiates into the heart of others. His warmth and candor transcend sports.

“Rico’s impact on sports as an influencer and organizer was significant. He was well-loved by everyone and I join the sports community in mourning his passing. Rico wasn’t just a colleague but also a friend whose passion for sports was an inspiration,” wrote the revered sports journalist and broadcaster Joaquin “Quinito” Henson in his “Sporting Chance” column in The Philippine STAR yesterday.

“My friend Rico Navarro was one of those who made me fall in love with Cebu. He was one of the first Cebuanos to approach me and made me so welcome in their wonderful province. A sincere and loving friend indeed. Rest easy partner,” said Dennis Principe of the Manila Bulletin.

“Ang lungkot ng balitang ito..we used to do In This Corner a lot in Cebu and he was often our ring announcer. Loved sports so much,” shared veteran broadcaster and columnist Severino R. Sarmenta, Jr.

SHS-Ateneo’s Anthony Hejie Suralta said Cebu and Ateneo de Cebu sports community will never be the same with Navarro’s passing.

“All praise for this man! Thank you for being a great friend. Cebu sports, Ateneo de Cebu sports will never be the same,” shared Suralta.

“Your life was a blessing, your memory a treasure, you are loved beyond words,  and missed beyond measure. You are the best of all we had,” said Ateneo Hearter Dylan Jared Tan Lim.

“Thank you sir Rico for believing in our vision as a team,” said disability rights advocate John Paul Ecarma “JP” Maunes.

CESAFI commissioner Felix “Boy” O. Tiukinhoy Jr. said a part of him was lost with the sudden death of his “go to guy” for nearly three decades.

“He is to me the “go to guy” in the Cebu sports league community. When I heard of his demise as confirmed by Fr. Manny Uy, SJ, I could not believe it as I just saw his Bleacher Talk show last Monday evening,”  Tiukinhoy said.

Tiukinhoy recalled that he first met Navarro sometime in 1994 when he went to his office and volunteered to help him in the screening of student-athletes for the CAAA (now the CESAFI). It was the time when Tiukinhoy was appointed commissioner of Cebu’s premiere inter-school athletic league.

“From then on, Rico was part of my journey of Cebu Sports from CAAA to CESAFI until his death.

His involvement in CESAFI sports activities on basketball and football cannot be described in its value. He is a big loss and it will take some time for someone to fill up his big shoes for what he did in not only in Cebu sports but also in national Sports,” Tiukinhoy said.

“While the sports community will miss you and mourn for your demise, I would be most affected in your loss as we journeyed together for about 25 years in its ups and downs in CESAFI. Goodbye Rico, you are too young to go. The Lord must have something for you. You will be missed, until then.”

  • Latest
Are you sure you want to log out?

Philstar.com 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