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Reminiscing time with Rino Salazar

  • Written by Lito Cinco
  • Published in Opinion
  • Read: 268

I   KNOW it is because of age that I enjoy meeting former PBA players whom I used to write about or watch during  our younger days.

And that is why when I learned that  former Toyota player and Shell and Barangay Ginebra coach Rino Salazar was in town, I made sure  that I would be at the small get together  hosted by Rino’s coach and my good friend Mike Advani at the Uptown Mall in BGC recently.
And when I arrived at the venue,  Rino  and wife Rose were already there together with our host Mike, another ex-Toyota and Ginebra player Chito Loyzaga, and Leo Isaac and wife Pia. Later on, avid  Ginebra fans Phil Adamson and William Tan joined us and the night was spent  reminiscing about the past.
And believe me, in this kind of reunions,  one  hears  a lot of  off-the-record and on-the-record  stories from the players that have never surfaced in the past, surprising even some of the players themselves.
For one, I learned that at one time Larry Villanil, then  a newcomer in the Ginebra, had an altercation with  resident tough guy Rudy Distrito in a practice game. Issue was respect for old timers  and coach Sonny Jaworski  allowed the two to have it out in a fist fight, and  make a guess as to who won. Ask Leo, he  witnessed the fight.
Or the time JV Gayoso and Bong Tan ended up playing in a friendly game.
This was way after JV’s playing career, turned out he and Bong were  not friends at all, and  JV had to exit early  the game to avoid  a possible confrontation. Enough said.
But then  this piece is  more on Rino, a member of the NCAA team that won the 1970 championship.
After his stints with the national team, he ended up with Toyota  in 1977 until the  time the team disbanded. Rino then coached Shell where he  won the first  title for the franchise in 1992, and  also coached Ginebra  afterwards.
But  decided to leave for Juneau,  Alaska to join his family that had  relocated there  already. It was Allan Caidic who replaced him as head coach, this was in the early 90s.
That by itself is a story but I promised I will follow off the record  agreements.
Anyway, when Rino went to Alaska at the turn of the century, and started  working with Alaska Airlines, with which he is still connected with now but will be retiring soon, and has in fact relocated to  Las Vegas already , he was the first to organize the small Filipino community there into an organized basketball league.        
Up to now, he is  still consulted from time to  time by the people he left in charge. He  even became a basketball  referee for some time  as he could see himself out of basketball at the start.
But what touched me was when he started recounting his involvement in the trial of his former player Rudy Distrito in the latter’s  case in  the United States as Rudy was imprisoned and underwent trial for  a stabbing incident.
According to Rino, he was the very first to visit Rudy, flying over from  Alaska, and when tough guy Rudy saw him on the TV monitor used by visitors, the guy started crying  and did not stop for the  whole 30   minutes that Rino was allowed.
And  together with Abe King, they spearheaded a fund drive for Rudy, with a lot of ex-PBA players in the United States responding,
Rino also attended regularly the hearings and at one time, brought Rudy’s family  to the trial In  the  end,  the group of supporters decided  it was better to use the money  to settle with the victim’s family and let a public attorney represent Rudy.
I updated Rino on the interview I did with Rudy when he arrived here, I was in Bacolod then for the UniGames and together with Ginebra’s fitness  trainer Nino Sinco, we were able to sit down with Rudy, The fact is, he is doing well there now and has settled into a  normal life.
Rino also shared  his plans to  return to the Philippines and get involved anew in basketball and  was working out something with Chito Loyzaga when I arrived at the venue, it has  something to do with doing basketball clinics.
But  beyond that, nothing was definite  although Rino said it will happen  sooner than later as he retires later this year when he reaches 65 years old.
He has been able to retain his body weight though and only his hair has left him, something  that Phil Adamson kept teasing  him all night.
Rino, with a smile remembers the  time that  Ginebra, without coach Sonny, won  an invitational  tournament with  three other PBA  teams and  two foreign teams. Unfortunately, the  bonus he thought  would come his way did not materialize, ask him why.
As it turned out, that get together was the  smallest  for Rino as the following night, he was at Chvs, the resto bar co-owned by teammate Noli Locsin. 

I  understand there were a lot more players there, like Allan Caidic, Vince Hizon, among others   and there was another one that Jaworski graced, I saw a photo on Facebook.
I  also saw EJ Feihl, Bal David,  Dodot Jaworski, Benny Cheng,  Pido Jarencio, JV Gayoso, non-Ginebra  friend Alvin Teng, Philip Cesar, and Wilmer Ong.
Just shows  how well-loved Rino remains and who knows, as he said, sooner than later, he will be back here for  basketball again.