Someone asked me how my blog and newspaper column came to be titled "Bleachers Brew". It's like this, it's an amalgam of sorts of two things: The bleachers area in the stadium/arena where I used to sit when I would watch baseball, football, and basketball games and Miles Davis' great jazz album Bitches Brew. That's how it got culled together. I originally planned on calling it "The View from the Big Chair" that is a nod to Tears For Fear's second album, Songs from the Big Chair. So there.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

My tribute to Coach Baby Dalupan from his book author: The Measure of a Man

On the bench for the Ateneo Blue Eagles during NCAA 1973.
This appears on

A tribute to Coach Baby Dalupan from his book author:  The Measure of a Man
by rick olivares

When you talk about the late Coach Virgilio “Baby” Dalupan, the first thing that will pop into everyone’s mind is “champion coach.”

And he sure was as he virtually everywhere and on every level. In fact, until Tim Cone recently eclipsed him as the all-time winningest PBA coach, he held that accolade in the pro-ranks.

In the summer of 2006, I sat down with Coach Baby at his home at Loyola Grand Villas in Quezon City. At that time, I was writing an article about the 30th anniversary of the 1976 NCAA champions, the Ateneo Blue Eagles, which he coached at that time alongside the Crispa Redmanizers in the PBA.

When I asked him as he is all right being remembered as a champion coach, he smiled and politely declined. Puzzled, I probed. After all, I beyond the sports pages and his exploits on the hardcourt, I didn’t know the man at all.

“I would like to be remembered for other things as well,” he said. And he proceeded to tell me a couple of defining moments in his long life.

You should be a friend to everyone.
Right before the Americans returned to liberate the Philippines during World War II, then 20-year old Baby went out with some friends. They had lost track of time and by the time they realized it, they had violated the curfew imposed by the Japanese Imperial Army. Dalupan and two other friends holed up in a nearby hotel thinking they’d be safe. 

But Japanese soldiers rounded them up and brought them to Fort Santiago. “I suddenly feared for my life,” he recalled as a lump noticeably formed in his through. Clearly, more than 60 years after the incident, the memory of the incident was vivid and telling. They were brought into a room where they were confronted with three men with baskets on their head. “This was the dreaded Makapili,” he thought of those collaborators who pointed out to Filipinos who were active in the guerilla movement. “I prayed, and I always do, but none never so hard. I prayed that I never wronged these Makapili before the war. I prayed I never did anything bad to them that they would single me out as a form of revenge.”

Fortunately, all three of the young men were set free. 

“What that incident taught me was to be good to everyone and not to make enemies,” said the coach with a pained smile. “All my players? They are like my children. I might have gotten angry at some referees, maybe opposing players and fans but that was just in the spirit of the game."

You cannot go through life without a sense of humor.
In 1972, Dalupan returned to his alma mater, the Ateneo De Manila University, to coach the Blue Eagles. Coach Baby played for the blue and white during his grade school and college years. He never tasted a basketball championship but he did find glory on the football pitch with his long-time teammate, Luis “Moro” Lorenzo.

“Coaching was something I got into because I had nothing better to do,” he related of his entry into the coaching profession. His family founded the University of the East. In need of a basketball coach, his father, tapped him to mentor the Warriors. With Coach Baby at the helm, the Warriors (sans the ‘red’ at that time, won seven straight titles). Thinking he was done, he was coaxed out of retirement by then Ateneo President Fr. Jose Cruz. And finally, he returned to coach the Blue Eagles (from 1972-76) winning two titles in the process.

During the 1976 season, the Blue Eagles were murdering an opponent on the court en route to their then-record 14th (and last NCAA championship) when the supporters of the losing team lost all sense of sportsmanship and began to pelt Dalupan with coins, lighters, and balled up newspapers.

The coach surveyed his bench and called seldom-used center Jimmy Tioseco. “Jimmy!” he barked. The amiable Tioseco, excited at the prospect of getting some playing time quickly ambled over. “Yes, coach,” asked the freshman center. 

“Stand behind me,” motioned Dalupan. “Kanina pa ako binabato.”

With the taller Tioseco standing behind the coach, he was no longer getting pelted. The Blue Eagles on the bench all cracked up.

A mischievous smile appeared on Dalupan’s lips as he recounted that memorable moment. “We were playing very tight and very tense at that time. My feeble attempt at humour had everyone laughing. It was just my way of telling the boys to relax. And we won by a blowout."

You must love your family.
In the summer of 1947, the Ateneo Blue Eagles were on a barnstorming tour of the Visayas. The tour’s goal were two-fold — to play some meaningful tune-up matches prior to the first NCAA season of the post-war period, and to recruit some talented Visayan players.

While in Iloilo, the team was invited to attend a prom. And in that prom, Dalupan met and was smitten by Maria Lourdes Gaston, or “Nenang” as she was fondly called. “I was bold enough to tell her that one day, I would marry her,” recalled Dalupan this time with a wide wide smile that you’d think the Red Sea had parted once more. “She (Nenang) wasn’t amused. She gave me a hard time. There were times that I thought nothing would happen. But as we say in school, “it’s giving it that One Big Fight.”

“Bing" (Nenang’s nickname for Coach Baby) was persistent and I was impressed. And that paid off for both of us,” she chimed in during that day in 2006 when I had paid them a visit. 

Two years after that first meeting in Iloilo, Bing and Nenang were married.

“I’ve been blessed with eight children,” beamed Coach Baby (seven girls and one boy). “When the games were done, there was no other place I wanted to be but home. I loved being with my family. They are the most important people in my life.”

“The championships? They are good. Am happy to have achieved them. I am also happy that it made the players, assistant coaches, the owners, and the fans happy. But I think that a true measure of a man is when you take him away from what he is known for. That’s what I’d like to be remembered for — as a man who loved, was good to everyone, and who lived life to the best of his abilities.”

Nine years after that initial interview with Coach Baby, I was asked to help write his book. And it was an honor to do so and I wrote five of the seven chapters. At the time of its production, there was a lot of concern about getting it done as quickly as possible without compromising the quality. Given his age, 91 at that time (the book was launched on his 92nd birthday, October 19, 2015 at the Ateneo Grade School), the production team was worried that something might happen to him. True enough, he contracted pneumonia sometime before his birthday. But the coach was able to receive treatment just in the nick of time.

During the launch of “Virgilio “Baby Dalupan: The Maestro of Philippine Basketball, I asked coach to sign my copy. He took my hand and said, "Ricky, thank you for this. You kept writing about me and my teams all these past years. I appreciate it."
My reply, "I think I should be thanking you, coach. God bless you."
Ten months after his book was published, Coach Baby passed away. I thought about writing about his championships and what he meant to Philippine basketball. In fact, I wrote three drafts of this “tribute”. But I kept going back to that question that I posed to him that fine summer day back in 2006, about if “champion coach” was what he’d like to be remembered by.

His answer was truly revealing and it showed the depth to the man.

Thanks, coach. It was a pleasure watching, writing, and knowing you.

One Big Fight!

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