When Chito Loyzaga attended the PSA forum the other day, he was surprised when veteran sports scribe James Ty asked him about how he felt being named as one of the PBA’s 40 Greatest Players.
Loyzaga thought it was a prank but when more sportswriters came over to interview him, it finally dawned upon him that this was for real. He looked around to check if he wasn’t in some new episode of “Wow Mali” or that sort. Answering the question, Loyzaga said he didn’t know how to react but was humbled and happy to be a part of it all.
On the way home, he told his wife, Toni, about being named to the hallowed list and the PSA incident. His wife’s first reaction was, “It’s about time.”
Joaquin “Chito” Loyzaga played for 10 years in the PBA for three different ballclubs – Toyota, in his rookie year in 1983; Great Taste for two years, then lastly, Ginebra San Miguel for which he is most known for. He was known for his defense of which he was named to the All-Defensive Team seven times and the Mythical Second Team once. Loyzaga was also known for his booming triples. He was a part of eight championship squads.
You can say that the eldest son of the great Caloy Loyzaga was always in the right place at the right time. He won his first championship as a San Beda Red Cub in 1974, coincidentally, the first year that Ato Badolato came on board as head coach. By the time he moved up to the seniors ranks, more championships followed. Then he was a part of two of the most iconic clubs in league history.
“I was perhaps luckier than others to get that opportunity,” says Loyzaga in an aww-shucks manner. “It’s an honor to play for three iconic ballclubs and with such great players. For me, it was never about scoring the most points; it was about doing my part for the team to win. And I feel lucky. Really lucky.”
“To be a part of that glorious rivalry between Crispa or Toyota. To get that chance to be a part of one of those great teams was a privilege. At that time, you were either for one team. There was no sitting on a fence. Even for one year, it is a great honor.”
“In Great taste, we were quite a young team with Bogs Adornado who was our mentor and kuya who I had the opportunity to play with. Of course, we had great players like Ricky Brown, Arnie Tuadles, and even Abe King. Again these are memories and experiences I will always treasure. And of course, there was the great years of playing for Ginebra San Miguel. It was an experience that up to this day that I cannot find the right words to explain. You never got tired because the crowd always energized you. Even to this day when I hear the chant of “Gi-ne-bra” my hair – whatever is left of it – stands up.”
When Loyzaga came up to the league in 1983, the country was hit my a political and economic crisis brought about by the assassination of Ninoy Aquino. Toyota didn’t survive the turmoil and one year after that team’s disbandment, its great rival, Crispa followed suit.
“At that time I was also thinking about my survival. Even the league at that time had its own share of concerns and it was a little bit shaky at that time. That the league survived shows the strength of the product.”
Even after he hung up his sneakers, Loyzaga stayed in the game in some form from serving as commissioner of the defunct Metropolitan Basketball Association to the UAAP; working as chairman of the Philippine Sports Commission, and now with some project that he is cooking up that involves some retired pros.
In the next few days, Loyzaga plans to inform his father about being named to the PBA’s greatest list. “When I was growing up, my father prepared my brother Joey and I for what was to come – and that is being compared to him. We were never burdened by that expectation. Not at all. We just went out to play.”
“I’ll tell you one incident that probably drove me to succeed,” says Chito.
For his elementary years, the Loyzaga brothers went to Ateneo de Manila. He played basketball and football but opted to try his luck in making the grade school team. Unfortunately, he was never chosen.
“Naka-strike three ang Ateneo sa mga Loyzaga,” he says.
His father, Caloy, was first discovered by the late Fr. Jim Donelan, S.J. who brought him to Ateneo for a tryout. They were so impressed that they wanted to put him on the team but there was no available scholarship.
“That’s how he ended up in San Beda,” explained Chito.
“Now strike two and three? They had Joey and me already but they didn’t get us so San Beda did (although the sisters studied at Loyola Heights). But I was able to check things off my bucket list when I played for an Ateneo All-Star team in the 1980s with Joy Carpio, Padim Israel, Steve Watson, and the others against La Salle and playing in the Ateneo Basketball League (where this author was his teammate) where I won a championship. It’s not the NCAA or the UAAP but it’s something off my bucket list.”
Now on the exact year of Chito Loyzaga’s 40th year in sports, he is coincidentally named to the PBA’s list of its 40 Greatest Players. “I would say again, I’m just lucky that my contributions and love for the sport have been recognized. But 40 years… it means that I have been around for a long time.”
The son of the Big Difference sure did make a Big Difference.
THIS IS NOT THE CALVIN ABUEVA WE KNOW