Hasta la vista Rico

SPORTS EYE - Raffy Uytiepo (The Freeman) - November 3, 2020 - 12:00am

In July of last year during the 100th anniversary celebration of the Freeman, several columnists including Rico Navarro and yours truly, received plaques of appreciation. Rico’s “Bleacher Talk” was 20 years old while my “Sports Eye” marked 32 years, perhaps the oldest sports column in the Visayas.  The other Tuesday, bad news greeted me when I woke up.  Rico was reported to have died after suffering a heart attack while biking in Liloan.  Stunned and shocked, I couldn’t believe that such an active and healthy fellow could succumbed to a heart ailment.  At 53, he was 19 years younger younger than an “old man” like me.  Being colleagues at The Freeman, Rico and I played in the company’s inter department basketball tournament together with former sports editor Nimrod Quinones and current editor Manny Villaruel. Then our Freeman team joined the Newsmen Basketball Conference (NBAC), where we played with other media outfits.  Rico and Manny were dangerous in the paint because of their bulk.  While Rico is a good post-up player, Manny was a threat from the three-point arc.  Although not a scorer, Nimrod was a terror in the boards who reminded me of Dennis Rodman. Rico was also one of the best ring announcers not only in the Visayas but probably in the whole country as well.  I called him the Michael Buffer of Cebu.  Rico was also always present in my running events as he always hosts the awarding ceremonies.


When I organized the La Salle 10K Run to commemorate the school’s 100th anniversary, Rico and Nimrod led over 200 runners from the Don Andres Soriano School (DAS), now known as La Salle Toledo.  The duo studied at DAS and one of the participants was a young kid Popoy, Rico’s eldest son who was then hit by the running bug.  In that race, I asked Rico that he looked great in his Ateneo jacket but Rico showed me his green shirt underneath the jacket and said “I’m still green-inside”.  I could not recall the other activities that we were together but in one Sportswriter   Association of Cebu  (SAC) Awards event, President Rico approached me and told me that the entertainer did not show up and asked if Elvisaya could do a number.  Without hesitation, Elvis was in the building and rocked the audience.  Rico was also a pillar in other sports being past VP of the Cebu Football Association and regional director of the Samahang Basketball ng Pilipinas (SBP), deputy commissioner of the Cesafi and was a driving force behind the Best Center program.  He was also instrumental in the birth of the Cebu Youth Basketball League (CYBC).  As always I never say “Adios” but “Hasta La Vista Rico”.  Rest in Peace my dear friend. My deepest sympathies to Ising, Popoy and Thirdy.

NOTES: As an Elvis tribute artist, I’m re-writing a few lines from “Love Me Tender”, it goes like this, “Love Rico tender, love him sweet, should not have let him go, he has made our lives complete, and we love him so”.

Did you know? Sean Elliot

Former San Antonio Spurs standout was the first man ever to make a comeback to play again in the NBA after receiving a kidney transplant in 1999.  He played 71 games over two seasons after undergoing the procedure.  His pet project was opening a pet shop called Full Court Pets as a play on words (full court press).  Last year, Elliot marked the 20th anniversary of his transplant.

Karl Malone

Lived his nickname “Mailman” when in 1992, bought a 48,000-pound, custom-built 18 wheeler, adorned by an elaborate Western mural on both sides.  After Malone won gold medals in the Olympics in 1992 and 1996, he finally put the truck into service, hiring himself as the driver.

Tim Duncan

One of the greatest players of the San Antonio Spurs, was a great free-style distance swimmer as a youth in his native Virgin Islands.  When a hurricane wiped out the pool where he trained, he turned to basketball.  By the time he was 27 years old, he had won two NBA championships, including a gratifying win that ended the Chicago Bulls “three-peat” reign in the  1998-1999  season, two MVP trophies over his seasons as a pro.  From 1998 through 2003, no man recorded as many double doubles as Duncan did.

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