Limpag: Rico Navarro

Fair Play

HOW do you measure a man’s contribution like Rico Navarro’s?

Do you measure it with the impact he has done for local football or the changes he has done for Cebu basketball? “Duwa lang ta.” (Let’s just play.) So simple a mantra but so difficult to practice in the competitive world that is school sports.

But he lived and practiced it.

Rico wore so many hats--a father to an athlete, a writer, an organizer, an officer of a sports organization and a school official--and it is how he seamlessly wore those hats with the same integrity and beliefs that he stands tall and unique.

On a crucial couple of weeks that he needed to wear only the hat as the Sportswriters Association of Cebu president, a story I wrote, plus the picture we’ve all seen, forced him to wear a few other hats.

It speaks so much of his character that I didn’t get a call from him the next day. Though I did from former co-workers; one who needed help in identifying the man who was hitting the goalkeeper, as the young player was a nephew and the other requesting that I bury the picture, as the now infamous man was his brother.

It was a teachable moment for me, a term that I’d hear Rico say when I did speak with him a few days later. The pushback against the school was great and for a time, players and students fought back on social media before they all fell silent.

“We are using it as a teachable moment,” he said. “But ayaw lang na isuwat.” We’ve had so many “ayaw lang na isuwat” moments over the years, moments that come after I learn how Ateneo would have come out smelling nice if only he’d let me write it.

But he wouldn’t because it meant some players, coaches or parents even would have their bad moments exposed.

Other athletic directors, I know, would drop them like hot potatoes but not Rico. Because he doesn’t give importance to how many medals a student athlete contributes, or the many points in a ball game he can give; he’s that rare athletic soul who puts a premium on what the student athlete learns and experiences between games.

A learning experience which makes what is so simple a phrase--and his trademark--”duwa lang ta” so difficult for some.

How do you measure Rico Navarro’s contribution to Cebu sports? I measure it not with the medals he helped win, nor the trophies, nor the leagues or friendlies he helped organize. I measure it with the numerous athletes, coaches and parents he taught.

Duwa lang ta bai!


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