This blog entry is dedicated to the Purefoods amateur ballclub and to the earliest and original Purefoods players when the Hotdog company decided to joined the Philippine Amateur Basketball League (PABL) in the middle of the 1986 until its final run after two conferences of the 1988 season.
The team was known as Purefoods Food Experts and they absorbed the nucleus of the disbanded Masagana 99 franchise. Of the 14 players, eight are former Ricegrowers. Calling the shots for Purefoods in their very first tournament is Domingo Panganiban (he has been the only coach of Purefoods in the PABL) and assisting him on the bench is Letran coach Eddie Reyes and also part of the coaching staff is Chot Reyes and former pro cager Molet Pineda.
The Food Experts in their second game vs Magnolia
In their inaugural participation, the Food Experts had a strong third place finish behind champion Magnolia and runner-up ESQ Marketing in the PABL second conference called Founders Cup which run through the whole month of August until the second week of September 1986. I recall they had a 3-3 card in the one-round elims among seven teams, beating Fuji Soy Sauce, 87-77, in their first game. Their other two victories were against corporate rivals Countryfair Hotdogs, 110-97, and RFM-Swifts, 86-84, to clinch a semifinals seat. From thereon, the team never came close of finishing into the top four. Overall, the Purefoods amateur ballclub played a total of seven PABL conferences and two National Seniors tournament. As in my previous entry, Purefoods lost to Magnolia in the crossover semis in the ’87 National Seniors in what could have been their only chance to play in a championship.
The 1986 Purefoods roster. In the lineup are Jerry Gonzales, Antonio Cabatana, Salvador Ramos, Ricardo Ignacio, Gil Unera, Cesar Calayag, Anthony Poblador, Pol Manimbo, Aurelio Jalmasco, Loreto Manaog, John Lucas, Demetrio Portosa, George Ella and Enrique Marquez. Seven were inactive during the PABL Invitationals, while Manimbo, Ella and Manaog suited up for Invitational First Conference runner-up Hope Cigarettes and joined Purefoods when the Lucio Tan ballclub disbanded after only one conference.
Now let’s discuss the players who were part of this team in their three-year PABL stint. Unlike the rich history of their professional ballclub Purefoods Hotdogs in the PBA, there was no real superstars nor members of the men’s national team in the lineup. Two players that deserves worth mentioning for longevity and as the loyal Purefoods cagers in the amateurs are Anthony Poblador and Hermigildo Unera, both are part of the original roster in 1986 and stayed with the Food Experts until 1988. Poblador was drafted by Ginebra in the PBA that year, while Unera two years ago was a top point man for Feati University in the MMUCAA.
Four others which don the Purefoods jersey for three or more conferences were Joel Santos, Roehl Gomez, Julian Rabbi Tomacruz and Edgar Valencia. As anyone can notice, some of these players played in the PBA but never made it big in the pro ranks. The only PBA player who revert back to amateurs and played for Purefoods was Woodrow Balani during the 1987 PABL First Conference.
The 1987 Purefoods roster aside from the seven players already mentioned are Salvador Ramos, Justino Pinat, Rey Yncierto, Larry Villanil, Gerardo Ramos and Guillermo Valerio. Before the start of the 1987 PABL second conference called Freedom Cup, Salvador Ramos and Pinat moved to Lady’s Choice. Purefoods acquired three new players, Elmo Ledesma, another Masagana 99 dribbler and Adamson player, Emmanuel Eleosida, a discovery in the Filipino-Chinese league, and national youth player Romulo Orillosa. In the Maharlika Cup, the Food Experts signed two familiar names in the amateurs that time, Alex Regis and Jake Codamon. Regis is best remembered in the October 17, 1987 game where the Food Experts were down by two points, he was able to hit back-to-back triples in the last 45 seconds as Purefoods escaped with an 80-76 win over Swift Hotdogs (his former team) that has Alvin Patrimonio, Ato Agustin, Boy Cabahug and Glenn Capacio in the lineup. Regis, along with Roehl Gomez and Salvador Ramos are probably the best scorers of the team.
The Purefoods team in the opening of the 1988 PABL season.
In 1988, when the focus of attention among basketball fans were centered on the Purefoods’ glamour team in the PBA, entering as a newcomer in the professional league, the amateur ballclub was somewhat neglected, still, the team had a massive build up at the start of the season. Would you believe that Ateneo Blue Eagles’ Alex Araneta, Eric Reyes and Jun Reyes had a brief stint at Purefoods. They also acquired FEU standouts Andy De Guzman and Jack Tanuan, and UST’s Bobby Jose. So far, the only player to have played with both Purefoods’ PABL and PBA clubs is the late Jack Tanuan, barely two weeks after being signed by the Food Experts, Tanuan was already seen by the ULTRA crowd as the 12th local player of the Hotdogs roster in the PBA. The closest to have come to Tanuan’s distinction is Louie Alas, also came to Purefoods at the same time with Jack, and he was drafted by the Purefoods Hotdogs in the PBA in 1990.
Purefoods coach Ding Panganiban led a breakaway group along with five other teams to bolt out of the PABL after the second conference of that year and tried to form a new league called National Amateur Basketball Association (NABA), eventually after a few months, it fizzled out and this led to the demise of the Purefoods amateur team, although it hardly mattered since the Ayala-owned franchise had bigger fish to fry – and that is to win a PBA championship!
Source: PBA archives, Manila Standard