The turn of the new year saw the passing of former Ginebra guard Emilio "Nonoy" Chuatico, who succumbed to cancer on Saturday in the United States, a source close to the family confirmed to ESPN5.com. He was 55.
Early Saturday evening, several of Chuatico's friends had posted their condolences on their personal Facebook accounts.
A deadly outside shooter and playmaker, the six-foot Chuatico played four seasons in the PBA, starting with Tondeña 65 (Ginebra) after he was selected eighth overall in the 1992 rookie draft. He was subsequently traded to Purefoods before the start of the 1995 season, shifting places with fellow Ateneo alum Vince Hizon. Chuatico owned a career average of 5.0 points in four seasons as a PBA pro. In 1998, he became part of the original Manila Metrostars team in the inaugural season of the Metropolitan Basketball Association (MBA), first as a player then as an assistant coach.
"We lost another good man," said Ricky Dandan, who worked with Chuatico on the Metrostars coaching staff during that first season. "Noy and I played against each other back in the day, me for UP and Noy for Ateneo. Through the years we kept tabs of one another even as Nonoy transitioned to business and the corporate life. We would always see each other during the UAAP games and Noy would always text or call me to congratulate after wins wherever I was coaching and would offer his encouragement during bad losses. I was always left impressed of how humble and thoughtful Nonoy was and I am sure that all his friends and family would share the same sentiments. Paalam Noy."
The highlight of Chuatico's basketball career was when he captained the Ateneo Blue Eagles to the first of their back-to-back UAAP men's basketball titles in 1987. That team, coached by Cris Calilan and featuring future pros Jun Reyes, Eric Reyes, Olsen Racela, Jayvee Gayoso and Alex Araneta, went 14-1 for the season, including a 94-92 win over the UE Warriors in the championship game.
Former Ateneo coach Fritz Gaston, who succeeded Calilan in 1988 and just missed out on coaching Chuatico, sent this message to ESPN5.com: "Nonoy was such a super good person. He didn't have a bad bone in his body. I missed coaching such a great player. I had the misfortune of playing against him in the ABL (Ateneo Basketball League), where he made me, (Joy) Carpio and (Chito) Loyzaga look like clowns. He was unstoppable. I was fortunate to have him as officemate in Ernest's Gourmet, managing the fresh veggies production in Tagaytay. Again, he was as excellent a manager as he was a ball player."
After graduating from Ateneo, Chuatico played in the Philippine Basketball League. His play would later earn him a call-up to national team duty, where, on a lineup that included collegiate superstars Johnny Abarrientos, Vic Pablo, Vergel Meneses, Jun Limpot, Bong Ravena and Marlou Aquino, he was named team captain of the Philippine men's squad that recaptured the 1991 Southeast Asian Games men's basketball gold medal here in Manila.
Former PBA player Jolly Escobar, a teammate of Chuatico's on that 1991 SEAG team and who was drafted five spots ahead of the stocky guard in the 1992 draft, said Chuatico was a very vocal leader. "This (was) why he was Captain Ball on that RP squad. Never gave up, always encouraging everyone, his famous nanggigigil na "Tara!" whenever we were down during games. Until the end he always put others first before him, more than basketball a great person."
Chuatico was later inducted into the Ateneo Sports Hall of Fame in 2007.
ESPN5.com's Noel Zarate and Charlie Cuna contributed to this article.