A conversation with any member of the legendary Crispa Redmanizers won't be complete without talking lengthily about their fierce rivalry with the Toyota franchise.
Bernie Fabiosa, undoubtedly the top playmaker for Crispa during his 10-year tenure with the team, shared a number of interesting anecdotes about their archrivals, including one that involved a physical encounter with Sonny Jaworski.
Then a young guard for Crispa, Fabiosa recalled in one of their games against Toyota how veteran teammate Johnny Revilla approached him during a timeout and asked him to do something he had not done before.
"Si Sonny kasi di ko alam kung marumi (maglaro), pero may style siya. Ang laki ng paa eh. Nung time na yun, may game kami na panay layup ko puro bagsak ako, eh bata ako, magaling ako tumambling nung araw, nag-gymnastics ako nung araw sa school," Fabiosa said in an online conversation on An Eternity of Basketball on Friday.
"Nung nag timeout si (coach) Baby (Dalupan), nilapitan ako ni Johnny Revilla, totoong storya ito ha, maski makinig si Sonny. Sabi nga ni (former PBA great Danny) Florencio, 'hindi ka makakalimutan ni Jaworski'. So sabi ni Revilla sa akin, 'tirahin mo yan.' "Tirahin mo yan o titirahin kita sa ensayo bukas. Natakot ako,'" he added matter-of-factly.
"So nung game na, may time na ano eh fastbreak. Pag lingon kong ganun, may numero 7 (Jaworski's number). Sinikmurahan ko yun at lumuhod, totoo yan. In fact, meron pa ako sa diyaryo niyan, suspendido kami. Dinibdiban ko dito, tapos na-chop ako, inabutan yung Adams apple ko. Umakting na lang ako," said the former Crispa great.
Fabiosa admitted that after that incident his confidence grew several notches, knowing he didn't back down against Jaworski. And from that time on, Fabiosa said every time Jaworski went hard for a drive to the basket with him as defender, the Toyota star no longer tried to hurt him.
Off-court rivalry stories
Asked about the Crispa-Toyota rivalry, the 65-year-old Fabiosa shared how both legendary squads treated each other off the court.
"Talagang matindi din ang labanan namin. Minsan nag-umpisa din kasi sa fans. So eto na yung kakantiyawan ka ng mga fans, eh kami di din naman kami magpapadaig kaya yung ganung laban namin eh umabot pa nga nung makulong kami. Totoo yun," said Fabiosa, referring to the time that both teams were jailed for a night after a wild post-game brawl.
Their rivalry extended off the court, according to Fabiosa, who revealed that players from both camps ignored and avoided each other in public places like discos.
"I remember, during the days, off the court, when we would go to a disco, when we enter a spot and we'd see some Toyota players there, we wouldn't go in anymore. We would just leave," said Fabiosa.
Even for local trips to the province, the players ignored and avoided each other.
"One time, we were all flying to Cebu, so in the waiting lounge, we wouldn't talk to them even if we saw them sitting right in front of us," he recounted. "And then, when the public announcer says the flight for Cebu is ready for boarding, whichever team stands up first, they all go together first. So if Crispa players stand up first to board the plane, Toyota players stay behind. And even inside the plane, there's still division. If they all sit in front, we sit in the back," Fabiosa added.
During Dalupan's coaching tenure with the team, Fabiosa recalled how each role was clearly defined by the legendary Crispa coach.
Fabiosa said veering away from Dalupan's team rules would mean incurring the coach's wrath. And that's one reason why as the team's point guard, he made sure scorers like Atoy Co and Freddie Hubalde got their usual touches in the game. Fabiosa admitted that those two were his first options on offense.
"Kasi nung araw, ang hirap eh. Kapag binigay ko na yan (ball) sa isang player, huwag ka na umasa na babalik pa ang bola sa iyo. May trust naman ako sa kanila. So like si Atoy, Freddie may mga kamay yan. Si Philip, Abet, so ganun lang nung araw," he shared.
Oftentimes, he failed to score in a game, making him the butt of jokes among his Crispa teammates. To avoid this, he would ask them to let him score before the game ends in an effort to avoid a big egg beside his name in the next day's newspapers.
"Nung araw kasi, makikiusap ako sa kamampi ko na maka-score ako kasi kinabukasan makikita ka sa diyaryo. Di ba maski score mo zero nilalagay? Yung apelyido ko nagiging Fabiosa0, so sinasabi nila, 'Naku, Fabiosa0 ka na naman," said Fabiosa, in between laughs.
Crispa won its second Grand Slam title in 1983 mainly because its core, already the strongest in the league, was boosted by the arrival of super import Billy Ray Bates.
Prior to his stint with Crispa, Bates already earned a reputation as an explosive player during his NBA career with the Portland Trailblazers, the Washington Bullets and the LA Lakers.
His experience in the NBA and superb athleticism enabled him to win back-to-back Best Import awards in his PBA stints in 1983.
When Bates first arrived as the team's import, Fabiosa marveled at his physical strength.
"He came into the (Crispa players') quarters carrying a Lakers uniform and a basketball. One time, he liked playing tricks, he lifted the car of Mon Cruz. And we were all startled because he was that strong," recounted Fabiosa. "And when he practiced with us for the first time, he made 20 straight three-point baskets."
But one thing Fabiosa couldn't forget was how Bates put an alcoholic drink in his drinking bottle during a morning team jogging.
"May tripping din yun (Bates). Magulang din yun, alcoholic. Eh sabi ni coach Tommy, 'Alam ko umiinom ka, pero puwede bawasan mo lang, gusto ko lang sa iyo maglaro ka ng 100 percent'," shared Fabiosa.
"So jogging na kami, may dalang juice, okay, inom yan then takbo na naman. Maya maya maamoy mo amoy chico," he said. "'Billy, you smell.." biglang, 'Shhh, don't tell coach.'"
Still, Fabiosa marveled at the superb conditioning of Bates despite his drinking habit, saying the American import easily outlasted their well-conditioned Crispa teammate Tito Varela.
"Malakas talaga siya kasi isipin mo magja-jogging kami, eh si Tito Varela, marathoner yan, suko siya kay Bates," he said.