The voice on the other end of the line identified himself as “Senator Jinggoy.”
He said he was calling from Singapore where he and his family had spent Holy Week.
I laughed, thinking it was one of my prankster colleagues teasing me.
“Oh yeah? And I’m the queen of England,” I replied irreverently. “Who’s this, really?”
* * *
“Si Senator Jinggoy nga. I was told you mentioned me in your column today.”
At this point, I realized that it was the senator I was actually talking with. The last time I talked with him on the phone was over five years ago, that’s why I did not recognize his voice.
I told the Senator that a recent incident where a D-League coach socked a referee during a practice game reminded me of his stint in Guam with his San Juan team many years ago where he did the same thing.
The senator’s denial was vehement. “But I never socked a referee in Guam!”
Absolute silence. How do you tell an honorable senator that he was not telling the truth? The incident was well-documented by media.
“You didn’t? But it was all over the papers then…”
* * *
“Hindi ako nanuntok sa Guam, nanampal ako. At hindi referee ang sinampal ko, it was a Chamorro spectator who was cursing at our team.
“Napikon kasi our bench was wildly cheering. Our team was leading most of the way against the national team of Guam. I could not stand what he was saying, so I confronted him and slapped him,” Jinggoy related.
Weeks later, Jinggoy returned to Guam to attend the premiere of a movie he starred in. He was surprised to see the Chamorro leading a small group of picketers urging moviegoers not to patronize the Jinggoy Estrada flick. Nevertheless, the movie became a box office success.
* * *
That same Easter Sunday evening, I found myself face-to-face with Alvin Pua in a West Avenue restaurant.
Alvin is the D-League coach of the rookie Cagayan team who had socked a referee during a practice game.
Veteran coach Turo Valenzona, currently San Sebastian Stags consultant, had invited me to meet Alvin and hear his side. Turo was Alvin’s coach in college when he was still a Stag.
* * *
Because he was mentoring a provincial team, I visualized Alvin to be very rural-looking, short and, because of his last name, chinky-eyed.
Well, he turned out to be chinky-eyed, but these were set within well-chiseled features. Alvin had shoulders wider than Asi Taulava’s and muscles that looked more powerful than those of Manny Pacquiao.
Alvin could very well be a candidate for my list of the top 10 hunkiest sportsmen I have interviewed, in the league of James Yap and Mikee Romero.
* * *
Turo, who was doing the talking for Alvin, said he the young coach was never known to be short-tempered even during the time when he was still a San Sebastian varsity player.
“This referee also had an attitude. He was cocky and arrogant. If you ask me, he provoked Alvin. Alvin got a scratch on his face during the scuffle,” Turo reported, adding that Alvin was not a spoiled brat or the kind of person who would throw his weight around just because his father-in-law is the Cagayan governor.
According to Turo, Gov. Anton Alvaro also once played varsity basketball for the University of Santo Tomas. His cage career was cut short by a serious injury, however. Gov. Alvaro has been watching all his team’s games, so far.
* * *
Alvin had paid the P50,000 slapped on him by PBA Commissioner Chito Salud, so I had only this to say to the 33-year-old coach: Don’t sock a referee again. Take a sedative before a game, actual or practice, and form the most powerful lineup you can muster.
By the way, Alvin played for Sta. Lucia under coach Boyet Fernandez in the PBA’s 2008 season.