MANILA, MARCH 25, 2007
(STAR) By Nelson Beltran - Philippine basketball has lost an icon with the demise of Emilio Bernardino Jr. yesterday morning.

A basketball man practically all his life, Bernardino died due to heart attack, at a time when he was being considered to play a major role in what could be a big rebound of the sport at home and abroad. He was 59.

Bernardino and BAP-Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas president Manny Pangilinan had just set a one-on-one meeting today when he suffered the attack during the birthday party of another cage leader Moying Martelino.

The beloved former PBA commissioner was among those being considered to be SBP executive director,.

"That was shocking. I was just with him that night. Itís sad. Heís a big loss for Philippine basketball," said Pangilinan.

Bernardino embraced basketball from his youth, playing for Ateneo in elementary and high school then UP in college. He briefly coached the Maroons before being tapped as assistant of coach Fely Fajardo at Tefilin in 1979, starting a long stint in the pro league that saw him work as a TV interviewer, executive secretary, executive director, deputy commissioner and finally commissioner.

Bernardino became a PBA commissioner in 1994 at 46. He retired after the 2002 season after suffering his first attack.

Succumbing in his second attack, Bernardinoís passing was mourned by the Philippine sports world.

PBA teams were told to wear black bands for the duration of the Fiesta Cup as the league pays tribute to him.

Bernardino was hailed as a consummate sports leader and a nice fellow.

"The PBA is deeply saddened by the sudden demise of commissioner Jun Bernardino, the epitome of professionalism and vision of the PBA which he nurtured and led through its glory years. The PBA will always remember his record for longevity, his ability to rise above crisis and his affinity to the public and he will forever be remembered," said PBA commissioner Noli Eala.

"Weíve been bosom friends for more than half a century. He has no equal in goodness of heart and was Christ-like with his all forgiving nature. He is irreplaceable in my heart," said Sonny Barrios, a classmate from grade school who went to work with Bernardino in the PBA.

"He was an extremely patient man, an endearing quality that won him countless friends and allowed him to steer the PBA to where it is right now," said Atty. Butch Cleofe, another friend from way back who also served the PBA.

"I was fortunate enough to have seen and be a part of his tenure in the PBA. I canít forget his diplomacy in trying to make the PBA stronger and bigger. He kept on saying heís there to bear the brunt of criticism rather than see the governors at odds and divided," said Sta. Lucia governor Buddy Encarnado.

"I remember Jun B very well in his stand making a solid PBA front. Heís full of zest and humor. Weíll definitely miss him," Encarnado added.

"We came in the PBA towards the end of his stint in the league but we know very well his great contribution. We lost a great leader, a nice fellow," said Red Bull governor and team manager Tony Chua.

"I consider him as one of my mentors, among the guiding lights in my career. Inabot ko yung ibang dating PBA leaders but Iím closest with Tito Ibok," said Coca-Cola team manager Allan Caidic.

"Heís a great friend, a well-respected commissioner, a God-fearing man and a devoted family man. He will be missed," said Alaska team manager Joaqui Trillo.

Bernardino was at the helm when the PBA, in 1996, achieved record gate receipts and sales which still stand today.

The current PBA board has set assault at the 1996 records as among its goals this campaign.

In 1998, Bernardino and past PBA commissioners Leo Prieto and Rudy Salud were bestowed Lifetime Achievement Award by the Philippine Sportswriters Association. A year later, Bernardino became the recipient of the Executive of the Year honors during the PBA Press Corps Annual Awards.

Bernardino is survived by wife Mimi and children Stephanie and Rishi, Nolan and Marga, and Kristine. His remains lie in state at the Magallanes Chapel.

The family requested that instead of flowers, cash donations be sent to Kamay ni Hesus Foundation care off Fr. Joey Faller.

So long, Jun SPORTING CHANCE By Joaquin M. Henson The Philippine Star 03/25/2007

Former PBA commissioner Emilio (Jun) Bernardino passed away at 1:30 early yesterday morning at the Makati Medical Center and left behind an unforgettable legacy as a sportsman with a golden heart.

Bernardino, 59, was with his family and friends celebrating Moying Martelinoís birthday at the Manila Polo Club the night before. What was supposed to be a toast for Martelino turned out to be a memorable farewell to the man everyone called Jun B.

Martelino, who was once the Asian Basketball Confederation secretary-general, turned 72 last Wednesday but his family organized a surprise party for him Ė with Bernardino among the chief conspirators Ė last Friday. POC president Jose Cojuangco Jr., SBP president Manny Pangilinan, BEST founder Nic Jorge, Sonny Barrios, Ricky Palou and Tony Boy Liao attended the affair. Little did they know it was also their chance to say goodbye to someone whom they will always hold in high regard.

Bernardino even spoke at Martelinoís birthday party, representing his friends. He was warmly applauded for his remarks. Then, as the night wore on, Bernardino started to feel funny. He didnít want to worry his wife Mimi who was scheduled to leave for the US with their daughter today so he told her he would just go outside the Turf Room, by the swimming pool, for a chat with Liao.

Bernardino took Liao with him for some fresh air and complained of a stomach pain.

"Jun asked me to go out with him for a while because he wasnít feeling well," said Liao. "I noticed he was perspiring heavily. His shirt was soaked. Jun didnít want me to tell anyone. I even got a table napkin for him because his handkerchief was soaking wet. He asked me to massage his neck, which I did. He sat on a bench near the pool. Then, Ricky (Palou) came out and asked what was going on."

Bernardino told Palou he was fine and asked if he could stay with Mimi in case she got worried. His cell phone rang and he spoke with his daughter. By 11 p.m., the guests began to leave and one by one, they went up to Bernardino to say goodbye, shaking hands, sharing some laughs.

Palou noticed Bernardino didnít look good and asked if he could drive home. That was when Bernardino asked Palou to massage his shoulders and back. Bernardino even asked Palou to use his elbows, not his hands, to apply pressure on his shoulders. Then, he said he had to go to the bathroom.

Bernardino went inside a toilet cubicle in the rest room. Palou and Liao followed. Suddenly, they heard a loud thud. Palou unlocked the cubicle door with a broom. Bernardino had collapsed.

"His tongue was out," recalled Liao. "He was very cold. His chest was hard. Mimi came running in. Jun was murmuring."

In about 15 minutes, a Lifeline Arrows ambulance arrived to rush Bernardino to the hospital. There were attempts to revive him but the Lord had already called him to Heaven.

* * *

I knew Bernardino for many years. We became close friends during his watch as PBA commissioner from 1994 to 2002. He served under four commissioners Ė Leo Prieto, Mariano Yenko, Rudy Salud and Rey Marquez Ė as executive secretary, executive director and deputy commissioner before becoming commissioner himself.

In late 2001, Bernardino suffered a heart attack in Baguio and was airlifted to Manila in critical condition. He took a 4 1/2-month leave of absence to undergo chelation therapy under Dr. Art Estuita. Bernardino refused to undergo invasive surgery and left his faith to God.

For the last five years, Bernardino was a walking testament to the Lordís will. He administered to the sick and joined Lukban, Quezon, healing priest Fr. Joey Faller in visits to those reaching out to God.

Only a few weeks ago, Bernardino and Fr. Faller visited my mother-in-law in her home to share the Lordís message of love. It was early morning and Bernardino drove from his United ParaŮaque home to Tierra Nueva in Alabang to join Fr. Faller in the healing visit. That was how he cared for his friends.

Last Tuesday, I saw Bernardino at the PBA office in Libis for the Hall of Fame deliberations and the first thing he asked me when we saw each other was how my mother-in-law was.

It was Liao who texted me early yesterday morning about Bernardinoís passing away. I immediately forwarded his text to PBA commissioner Noli Eala who replied: "Iím shocked. We were just with him in the Hall of Fame honors committee meeting last Tuesday. Full of life. At nagbilin pa sa akin about Fr. Joey, the healing priest."

Even in his last hours, Bernardino showed his care and love for others. He worried about Mimi and their children Stephanie, Nolan, Vera and Kristine. He didnít want to alarm his friends, as they said goodbye, about how he felt.

How appropriate that his closest friends were able to say goodbye the night before he left them. It was Godís way of rewarding Bernardino and reminding him, on his last day on earth, he lived a full life and his loved ones will always remember him as a man with a golden heart.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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