Limpag: Rico and Rhoel

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SunStar Limpag
SunStar Limpag

My late friend and colleague Rico Navarro was the voice of the Sportswriters Association of Cebu (SAC) San Miguel Brewery Sports Awards. It seems that the job of hosting the annual awards always fell on him and he always did a good job.

Rico, who was also a former president of SAC, passed away during the pandemic. But he will forever be front and center of the sports awards he not only hosted but also helped grow for years.

The Sportsman of the Year is one of the major awards, and starting this year, the first since the pandemic, it will be known as the Rico Navarro trophy and it is just fitting.

Aside from being a columnist, Rico was a sportsman through and through. He was involved in local basketball and football, and was a big supporter of grassroots sports.

As an athletic director, he was no stranger to schools and parents going behind the scenes to steal players. His philosophy was to never stop anyone who thinks the grass is greener on the other side.

“They don’t need to go behind our backs, we’d release them if they want to,” he’d tell me during the time an Ateneo player was being wooed away behind their backs.

His biggest test as SAC president, sportsman, athletic director and columnist was when Ateneo got involved in a controversial brawl that would have easily been forgotten if not for exclusive photos taken by Allan Cuizon.

That happened while we were in the thick of preparations for the SAC Awards and he passed it with flying colors. It was one of the numerous times that he said, “We will use this as a teachable moment.”

That was one of the things I really liked about him, he tried to see the positive when things took a negative turn.

During the pandemic, when sports events had to be shut down, he took the initiative and started zoom forums with various personalities.

But then his life was cut short, while he was biking. However, thanks to the group he once led, his legacy will forever live on with the Rico Navarro trophy.

And it is but fitting that the first recipient is his friend and another selfless individual, Dr. Rhoel Dejano. Rico’s wife Ma’am Ising and son Popoy were also present during the awarding.

It was through Popoy that Rico and I got to first talk and that was when his son was playing in the 7-Under division in football close to two decades ago.

My, how time flies.

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