Curiously though, Crown Motors, the Silverio-owned franchise in the PBA, never really caught my fancy. Perhaps because they were owned by the arch rivals of Crispa. But the real reason? Renato "Etok" Lobo, the first amateur player I followed closely.
The name Lobo first caught my attention in 1975 when he was already playing for the FEU Tamaraws in the UAAP. His name was always at the top of the boxscores of the winning team, normally scoring in the mid-20s every single game. His name, along with a certain Anthony Dasalla, were the ones I gravitated to and made me want to actually study at FEU.
The two would eventually become inseparable, even up to the pro league. Broadcasters of the 70's used to describe them as a "Mutt and Jeff" combination although Lobo wasn't exactly a midget. The two were teammates in college, in the MICAA, and with various teams in the PBA. They would've retired at the same time as well, had injuries not intervened.
Two Sundays ago, Lobo and I got to meet each other at the FEU Tamaraws basketball reunion (http://sportingpage.blogspot.com/2018/02/when-old-tamaraws-meet.html) held at the Vikings Buffet & Restaurant at MOA. We exchanged numbers, hoping I can do his player profile. This Sunday morning, I finally got my chance to meet the one player who epitomized the kind of player I wanted to be: a gifted offensive player, someone who possessed a deadly pair of hands from outside, pigeon-chested - in the same physique as my other shooting idols Estoy Estrada, Jun Papa and Botchok Delos Santos.
Lobo was born on April 08, 1955 at Barangay Pinagkaisahan in Makati City. He played high school varsity ball at Pio Del Pilar HS in Makati for 4 straight years under Coach Moncada. Pio Del Pilar is the same school where future PBA pros Ricky and Molet Pineda hail from.
Lobo's skills were first discovered by former YCO player Egay Gomez who invited him to practice with the YCO Painters in the MICAA at the old YMCA gym back in 1974. After making a very good impression after sinking basket after basket, Coach Fely Fajardo invited him to try out for the Painters, at that time, was loaded with star players like Freddie Webb, Gomez, siblings Joy and Benjie Cleofas and Lobo's first cousin, Elias Tolentino. Tolentino had no inkling that Gomez would accompany Lobo to the Painters' practice...and no one realized that this was the turning point in Lobo's basketball life.
But since Lobo was barely out of high school at that time, it was best for him to season himself further in the collegiate league. He tried out with the UE Red Warriors and impressed Baby Dalupan. Dalupan instructed UE coach Pilo Pumaren to acquire his services immediately. But Lobo also tried out for the FEU Tamaraws under Turo Valenzona and the latter didn't waste any time in recruiting him.
His very first game as an FEU Tamaraw was in the Dream Invitational Tournament featuring the Warriors and the Tamaraws in the UAAP and the Ateneo Blue Eagles and La Salle Green Archers of the NCAA in early 1975. UE was led by Emerito Legaspi, Tito Varela and Ramon Cruz. FEU had Bokyo Lauchengco, Marte Saldaña, Nic Bulaong, Ben Brillantes, Armando Valencia and rookies Lobo and Dasalla. Ateneo had the likes of Joy Carpio, Fritz Gaston and Padim Israel while the Archers were led by the deadly Lim Eng Beng.
|Lobo as the King Tamaraw|
FEU was locked in a battle for UAAP supremacy with the mighty Warriors. In the last 4 stagings, both teams won two titles apiece with UE entering the 38th season as the defending champions. FEU strung up win after win only to forfeit around 4 games when Bokyo Lauchengco was found to be ineligible because of academic issues. Still, the Tamaraws went on a run and secured a Finals seat against the Warriors, the latter winning courtesy of a crucial steal by Varela in the final seconds of play.
With Legaspi gone in 1976 (http://sportingpage.blogspot.com/2012/03/emerito-legaspi-from-amateur-superstar.html#more), the Tamaraws took advantage and went on a tear, winning the championship with an unbeaten slate for the entire season. Lobo was at the forefront of that winning season, leading the team in scoring and becoming the best player in the league, upstaging Legaspi's heir apparent, Jimmy Manansala.
Joining the Commercial Leagues
|With his first team, Villar Records|
As Lobo's name became bigger, it wasn't long before commercial teams would recruit his services. His first team was with Villar Records in the Interclub alongside Dasalla. Other teammates included former national team player Nat Castillo, former future Tanduay player Alex Marquez, and skipper Dick Marquez. Villar went on to win the 1975 Interclub title in impressive fashion.
|Winning his 1977 MICAA MVP award|
|Solid Mills 1977 and 1978 MICAA champions|
After his short stint with the Mareco-based rccording company, t was natural for him to move to his mentor, Turing Valenzona, and Solid Mills. With Lobo and Dasalla leading the way, the Denim Makers went on to win a couple of championships in the MICAA and the Interclub. Other teammates included big names like Marte Saldaña, Yoyoy Villamin, Ray Obias, Benjie Chua, Butch Beso, among others. Lobo eventually won the league's Most Valuable Player (MVP) award in 1977.
|As a national team member|
It wasn't long before the call to serve the country came. Lobo suited up for practically every national team in 1977 - the 5th-placed Philippine team in the 1977 Asian Basketball Confederation in November, the 1977 Asian Youth competitions which the Philippines won for the 4th straight time in Kuwait, the victorious team that participated in the Pesta Sukan league in Genting Highlands, Malaysia, and the gold medal-winning team that played in the 1977 Southeast Asian Games in Kuala Lumpur. In all those sojourns, Lobo was a main cog as the leading offensive weapon of the team.
Jumping into the pros
It wasn't a surprise that Lobo (and Dasalla) eventually found themselves playing for Solid Mills' mother team, the U/Tex Wranglers, in the PBA. Lobo was able to meet with representatives from Crispa and Toyota who were interested to lure him into their respective teams. But he eventually settled for his comfort zone - as Andy Jao, U/Tex's team manager, was also running Solid Mills. He was signed for two years with the Wranglers.
|First PBA team - the U/Tex Wranglers|
And just like with FEU, Villar and Solid Mills, Lobo brought his good fortune to the Wranglers. In only his second conference as a pro, Lobo provided bench support for Tommy Manotoc's charges in ending the Crispa-Toyota championship duopoly in the PBA. Reinforced by the tandem of Byron "Snake" Jones and Glenn McDonald, the Wranglers demolished the defending Open Conference champions, the Crispa Redmanizers, via a 3-0 sweep to collar its very first PBA title. Lobo averaged 7.45 ppg and 3.90 boards for the two seasons, including a single game high of 22 points registered in the 1979 season.
|Lobo with the Cuenca-owned franchises, Galleon Shippers & CDCP|
A higher offer came Lobo and Dasalla's way before the start of the 1980 season when new team Galleon Shippers took over the Filmanbank franchise. The Rodolfo Cuenca-owned squad paraded a lineup that had the likes of former Bankers' Boy Kutch, Larry Mumar, Angelito Ladores, Romy Palijo, Nilo Cruz, plus Lobo and Dasalla good enough to make this Nic Jorge-mentored team competitive right away. The succeeding year, Galleon was re-branded as CDCP (Construction Development Corporation of the Philippines), another company owned by Cuenca. They lost Mumar and Kutch but acquired the services of Manny Paner and bolstered their lineup further with rookie Gary Vargas who used to play for the APCOR Financiers in the MICAA. CDCP made PBA history by assembling two of the tallest imports in the league, featuring the 6'11 Edmond Lawrence and the 6'9 James Lister, who was later replaced by their previous season's reinforcement, the 6'11 Jeff Wilkins. CDCP wasn't able to crack the playoffs in their two-season stint, despite compiling a winning record. Lobo jacked up his scoring average to 9.36 points, 4.64 rebounds and 1.86 assists, including a single game high of 32 points in November 25, 1980.
|Lobo as a Beerman|
With CDCP disbanding at the start of the 1982 season, Lobo, Dasalla and Paner went to the San Miguel Beermen, the first two reuniting with new SMB coach Tommy Manotoc and Paner rejoining his original PBA team. The Beermen, powered by import Norman Black, went all the way to the Reinforced Finals in the first conference, losing to the Toyota Super Corollas in heartbreaking fashion, in Game 7. But SMB came back in the 2nd conference, the Asian Invitationals, and defeated Crispa in Game 3 of their best of three Final series, 103-102, to clinch their second franchise title.
Manotoc eventually left the Beermen in 1983, joining Crispa to replace multi-titled coach, Baby Dalupan. Nat Canson took over and this was the period when Lobo finally flourished as a pro. With Canson putting his full trust in him, Lobo blossomed, especially in the 1984 and 1985 seasons, regaining his deadly touch from the outside. It was unfortunate that sometime in the latter part of 1985, Lobo injured his left knee. He continued receiving his salary with SMB despite the team going on a leave of absence while rehabilitating his knee. He started practicing with Tanduay Rhum Makers in the 1987 pre-season under his original coach, Valenzona, and was about to secure a roster spot but re-injured his knee and never got to play competitive basketball again. He retired soon after and left for Chicago in April, 1987.
Life in America
Lobo went to the United States with his mother-in-law, with wife, the former Lina Lacsamana, staying behind to attend to the children. He did odd jobs like helping out in a factory that made home furnishings. Lina eventually followed him after seven months, while the kids were able to join their parents in 1990.
Lobo is presently working at a warehouse for a hospital company, Cardinal Health Midwest Distribution Center of Waukegan, Illinois. He's been employed there since 1989.
Lobo has 4 children who are all based in the United States, the eldest being 38 and the youngest at 28. The youngest was born in the United States after Etok and Lina migrated to the US in 1987.
Lobo recounts his May 25, 1982 game versus the Crispa Redmanizers as his most memorable ever. In that game, San Miguel beat Crispa, 118-113, with the sweet-shooting forward knocking down 25 points, just behind import Black's 37 points. The Redmanizers led practically the entire game, and was nursing an 88-87 lead at the end of the 3rd quarter when Lobo and Black conspired to give the Beermen the win. Glen Hagan led the Redmanizers in a losing cause with 32 points, with Atoy Co chipping 24.
He credits Turing Valenzona, Egay Gomez, Elias Tolentino, Andy Jao and Tommy Manotoc as the most influential personalities in his career. The late Tony Dasalla was his closest buddy, having been his teammate in practically all the teams that they played for - FEU, Villar Records, Solid Mills, U/Tex, Galleon / CDCP, San Miguel and the national teams. They would have been teammates also with Tanduay in a reunion with Valenzona if not for the left knee that Lobo re-injured early 1987.
Lobo finds Philip Cezar and Abe King as the best defenders who have ever guarded him while Bogs Adornado being the player that is most difficult to defend. Speaking of defense, if there's one chink in his armour that he would have wanted to improve, that would have been his ability to defend his guard better, as Lobo has always been known as a knockdown shooter from outside.
Renato "Etok" Lobo entered the basketball scene at a most unfortunate time when the big names joined the PBA in 1975. And when he joined the PBA in 1978, these big names remained dominant for another decade until the new guns like Alvin Patrimonio, Jerry Codiñera, Benjie Paras, Jojo Lastimosa and Ronnie Magsanoc entered the scene. Lobo struggled to earn playing time at the onset, having to play behind guys like Lim Eng Beng, Romy Cabading, Romeo Frank, and later, the revered Bogs Adornado, among others. And since his game was founded on confidence, he needed the floor burn to become effective. Alas, when he found his game and started to enjoy playing basketball again, that was when injury struck.
During the 70's, Philippine basketball had an abundance of exceptional outside shooters. Curiously, a lot of these players had a common physical trait: they were pigeon-chested. Guys like Jun Papa, Estoy Estrada, Botchok Delos Santos, Joy Dionisio, among others were deadshot gunslingers from the perimeter. Lobo perhaps was the last breed of deadly barrel-chested shooters in the league, capable of knocking down an outside shot from almost every angle. His offensive game was varied as he was also capable of penetrating the interior and get some easy layups, using his nifty pivoting that offset his average quickness.
|With Rey Lazaro and Lobo|
|Etok Lobo today|
The first time this blogger met Lobo was at the FEU Tamaraws basketball reunion held at the Vikings Buffet Restaurant at the Mall of Asia a couple of Sundays ago. It was a surreal moment for this blogger, and when he confessed to Lobo that he was a fan, he didn't really think the ex-pro took it seriously. He has received countless similar admissions, albeit loosely done, from people from all walks of life. What he may not have realized was that he was standing beside a genuine fan who followed his career since 1975 when this blogger was only seven years young. Lobo shaped his life as a basketball fan, influencing the teams that he rooted for, including the university he initially wanted to study in college. Wherever Lobo went, this blogger followed his path.
Philippine basketball today has a dearth of deadly consistent outside shooters. It's unfortunate especially in this era when the three point shot is regarded as the great equalizer, particularly for small teams like our national teams. Lobo would have a flourishing career today as a designated spot up shooter from beyond the arc or fake the defender and come closer for a 15 foot jumper. But it was his sweet-shooting crafty style that made him special. More than that, Lobo was a clutch player who won several games because of his late game heroics, and was a winner wherever he went. One UAAP title, a couple of MICAA and Interclub championships, gold medals in the SEA Games, Pesta Sukan and Asian Youth championships, and two PBA titles - plus an MVP title in the 1977 MICAA season make Lobo one of the most decorated players to ever join the PBA back in the 70's.