Before he entered the PBA, Mike Bilbao played for the De La Salle University where he was teammates with Green Archers legend Lim Eng Beng.
In their lone season together, Bilbao and Lim, who was a rookie then, steered La Salle to the NCAA seniors' basketball title, ending a 15-year title drought.
Bilbao, in a recent episode of An Eternity of Basketball podcast, credited Lim's steady play as their scorer. He said that without his valuable contributions, the team would not have succeeded.
"La Salle, without Lim Eng Beng, we wouldn't have won a championship. Somebody like Beng, who you can depend on in the last minutes of the game. Throughout the game, he was always there. And he had a big heart," Bilbao said.
Despite possessing accolades of a true superstar, Lim remained down-to-earth, according to Bilbao.
"We loved the guy so much. Very humble, quiet, big star but never acted like one. He won again for La Salle in his last year and I was sad that he had to go. And I didn't get a chance to say goodbye to him," Bilbao said of Lim, who passed away in 2015. "I'll always remember him to be somebody great. He was one of the great players at the time."
Bilbao also praised Lim's basketball IQ and passion for the game.
"A lot of people tried to stop Beng but I would say Beng studied you. Your stance. How you [moved], where was your left foot and where was your right foot," explained Bilbao. "Because basically, when your left foot is out, that's where I'll drive, on your left, and you won't be able to follow him. If your right foot is out, he'll drive you on your right. That's basic. That the fundamental in driving."
Lim had a sweet jumper similar to Francis Arnaiz, who was one of their collegiate rivals. He was also a great player who always tried to deflect praise and give his teammates credit, Bilbao said.
"You know, you have to give him what he deserves, and he didn't ask for anything. Doesn't ask for anything. You have to give it to him. Very humble guy. He's just a poor man, as he said, but I will give everything what you expect of me," remembered Bilbao. "Even more than what you can expect from me. It's true. He has a heart that was as big as a truck talaga. Mabait na tao. You can't say anything about him."
Valentin "Tito" Eduque, who was the coach of La Salle back then, had decided to step down, but was persuaded to stay on longer. One of the reasons for staying was getting a chance to coach one of the rising stars of Philippine basketball.
"That team that we had, Tito said that 'Boys, I have to go. This is my last [year].' So we had to go to beg him, we have five guys that will graduate next year. Give us another chance. Because we don't know anybody that would coach us better than Tito," mentioned Bilbao. "When Lim Eng Beng came, things changed. That's why I owe it to him because La Salle owes it to him. He kept saying that."
Because of his greatness, Lim Eng Beng became the first Green Archer to get his number retired in 1974. He also had a productive career in the PBA before nagging knee injuries cut his career short.
After a three-year battle with liver cancer, Lim passed away in December 2015.