PBA Legend Manny Victorino Rises From the Ashes
by Brian Yalung
Emmanuel “Manny” Victorino is best remembered as one of the successful centers in the PBA back in the 80s. He played 15 seasons in the league, a run that supposedly started with the Great Taste Coffee Makers in 1981.
However, the 6-foot-5 big man bared that it was not actually with Great Taste where his career started. Appearing on Sports On Air, Victorino that he was already wooed by Toyota with Dante Silverio making sure he is well-taken care off.
“Actually hindi ako sa Presto una naglaro. Kasi nung high school pa lang ako, binibigyan na ako ng allowance ng Toyota. Binibigyan ako ni Dante Silverio noon ng P1,000 per month noon nung high school pa ako,” Victorino said.
Rather than make the jump, Victorino opted to finish his four playing years with the Heavy Bombers. Aside from that, he also got the chance to play for the 1979 World Youth Basketball championship held in Brazil.
When he wrapped up his college stint, Victorino brought his act to the MICAA where he played a couple of conferences. Toyota disbanded by the time he would enter the league. Crispa entered the picture, with Danny Floro interested in taking him in. Nothing prospered with Victorino getting the call to join Great Taste which was handled by Jimmy Mariano.
When Victorino entered the league, his dedication to playing the game showed. He was considered one of the “elite big men” at the time, prohibited from being teammates with other top centers. That list included Ramon Fernandez, Alberto Guidaben and Elpidio “Yoyoy” Villamin.
Victorino’s hard work paid off, spending 15 seasons in the PBA. Aside from Great Taste, the cager from Mandaluyong City also suited up for teams like Shell, Pepsi, Ginebra, Purefoods and Sunkist. He also had a couple of stints in the MBA, suiting up for the Cagayan de Oro Nuggets and the Surigao Miners. Victorino had a chance to return to the PBA but turned down an offer from Alaska after his MBA stint.
Having gone through a lot, Victorino admits that it was not smooth sailing in his basketball career. He admits that he had his share of trials when he was young, going through dark times when his parents left him when he was only 11-years-old.
“Naiwanan ako ng magulang ko nung 11 years old pa lang ako. Na-involve din ako sa barkada, nakapag drugs din nung bata ako. Wala akong kinapitan noon kundi si Lord. Nagdasal ako, na-rehab ako. Nahirapan din ako sa buhay ko. Siya lang talagang kinapitan ko,” Victorino shared.
“Hindi kayo maniniwala, hirap na hirap talaga ako sa buhay ko. Ang tawag nga sa akin sa lugar ko, “Punong walang lilim”. Ibig sabihin non, ang laki ko pero walang lilim. But God is so good. Binigyan niya ako ng pagkakataon na makapaglaro ng basketball, Maitaguyod ko sarili ko. That’s a gift,” he added.
Through all the hardships, the former PBA cager believes prayer helped him make it through and be where he is today.
“Siguro malaking bagay yung pagdarasal. Siguro kasi malapit nga ako kay Lord, nagdarasal ako, tinutulungan naman ako. Yang basketball binigay sa akin ni Lord yan,” he added.
Lastly, Victorino is one of several players who had a chance to play with Ricky Brown. Here is what he had to share about his former Great Taste teammate.
“Ricardo Brown, shy type yan and soft spoken. Tahimik siya pero binabasa ka niya. Ako kadikit ko siya. Minsan pag walang kotse yan, sasabihin niya ‘Manny drive mo naman ako sa condo ko, wala akong sasakyan,’” Victorino said.
“Tahimik yun, di nakikipagbiro. Pag pumapapsok siya noon sa court, ako lang bumibiro sa kanya. Kung tawagin nga nya ako ‘Clint Eastwood,’ binibiro ako,” he added.
The Quick Brown Fox reacts
When Brown saw Victorino’s interview, he too had his share of good memories playing with the Coffee Makers center.
“Manny and I ended up together in the PBA with Great Taste, my Rookie year in 1983 and we definitely had our share of bumps and pitfalls as we tried to come together as a team. It took a while to put it all together. But soon GTC became a powerhouse championship team and Manny Victorino played a huge part in our team success,” Brown said.
“Great Taste was known for our machine-like fast break with me handling the ball in the middle and Manny often filling in one of the wing positions. He had the quickness and athletic ability to run the break and score facing the basket as well as posting up. I know Manny’s story is an interesting and inspiring one, so I just wanted to share some sentiments with the fans directly from the historic trenches of Philippine basketball,” Brown ended.