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Jojo Lastimosa letting his musical side loose inside the PBA bubble

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Jojo Lastimosa the singer (2:58)

NLEX assistant coach Jojo Lastimosa and ESPN5's Noel Zarate perform the theme song from "The Greatest American Hero" during their downtime in the PBA bubble. (2:58)

CLARK, Pampanga -- NLEX Road Warriors assistant coach Jojo Lastimosa has had a colorful career in the PBA. Since being named the league's top freshman in 1988, the Cagayan de Oro native has won 10 championships, earned 10 All-Star selections, named to 7 Mythical Teams. He is also among the initial 25 Greatest PBA cagers of all-time.

But during lulls in the ongoing 2020 PBA Philippine Cup here, Lastimosa has frequented the coffee shop at the Quest Hotel to jam with this writer, crooning to hits of Stevie Wonder, REO Speedwagon and even those of his good friend Gary Valenciano.

"Music was a part of my growing up back in CDO (Cagayan de Oro)," said Lastimosa. "We had a turntable (of which the) records I still have to this day. Up to when I could afford to buy cassette tapes to vinyl to CD when it first came out. My earliest CDs are still with me. Now that I'm going back to vinyl I'm beginning to buy old records."

With rabid audiences that include the staff of the hotel, the PBA's table officials and nearby coaching staff members of other teams, Lastimosa brandishes his tenor range with a lot of soul that one would hardly associate him with a passion for mellow music and smooth vocal renditions.

"I'm not confident enough to say I could sing," Lastimosa modestly shared. "I can just a little bit but I'd rather just sing along. I wish I could sing like James Taylor or just be in tune. I know when someone is out of tune."

That keen musical ear was a gift he realized he had as a youngster, but got further enhanced throughout the years because of his deep friendship with Valenciano, who is recognized in the Philippine music scene as "Mr. Pure Energy". Valenciano was Lastimosa's regular guest during his heyday and the two started their journey in their faith practically the same time.

"Honestly, (Gary) opened my eyes that singing is a real craft," he said. "Not everyone can sing like GV. His ears are so in tune to different pitches that I don't even get.

"I'd like to be coached by him," Lastimosa followed with a laugh.

Lastimosa admits that the louder genre of music doesn't really appeal to him and prefers the melodic approaches of artists particularly from the 1970s.

"I grew up listening to music like America, James Taylor, Bread, Earth Wind and Fire (and the like)," he said. "(I'm) no fan of heavy metal and hard rock music, though."

The most recent jamming session with the baby grand piano here also included Blackwater Elite head coach Nash Racela who is also a self-confessed retro music junkie.

"Coach Jojo sings very well," Racela said. "I'll just be his back-up singer."

Lastimosa has also experienced the singing of former PBA pivot Zaldy Realubit and proclaims him as the best vocalist, at least of his generation.

"His accent is not that good (though)," Lastimosa interjected.

With action resuming here under a new compressed schedule, it will be difficult for Lastimosa to find time to churn out musical entertainment in the coming days. But when the smoke clears, expect Lastimosa to be sitting by the piano, belting out the hits of yesteryear and continuing to amaze those who choose to experience his deft vocal talents.