The 1986 Philippine Amateur Basketball League (PABL) Invitational tournament which was the league’s first conference of the season, started on May 3, 1986. After the one-round eliminations among 8 teams, the Visayan team Lhuillier Jewelers swept its seven game assignments for a 7-0 won-loss card. RFM-Swift and ESQ Marketing were tied at second place with 4-3 but the Foodmakers made the next round with the win-over-the-other ruling.
Last year’s challenge the champions runner-up Mama’s Love placed last with only one win and six losses while four other teams; La Salle, Hope, Army Jungle Fighters and Converse/Milkland carry a 3-4 won-loss slate. A one-round quarterfinals utilized a carryover system where their matches against the two outright semifinalist; Lhuillier and RFM, and the two eliminated teams; Converse and Mama’s Love, are not counted. With this, La Salle was 3-0, ESQ was 2-1, Hope at 1-2 and Army at 0-3.
Hope swept its three assignments and close out with a 4-2 card, tied with ESQ and La Salle. Hope made it to the semis via quotient while ESQ completed the semifinals cast with a victory over the Green Archers in a playoff.
Now here are the lineups of the four semifinalist playing in the double round semis:
Lhuillier Jewelers (coach by Alfredo Enriquez) – Seven national players led by Samboy Lim, Jojo Lastimosa and Harmon Codinera, who were current members of the national team bound for the Asian Games later that year. Past national players Peter Aguilar, Alfonso Solis, Leoncio Tan and Jesus Ramirez. Two UV standouts; Peter Jao and Christopher Amomonpon, and two Manilenos; Raymond Celis and Francisco Navarro.
ESQ Marketing (coach by Nat Canson) – The defending Invitational champions had won the Asian Intercity championship, donning the Pasig Giants jersey, while the tournament was ongoing. The merchants had national player Allan Caidic, along with Edgar Macaraya to contend with in the wings. The backcourt tandem of Jerome Cueto and Gerardo Ramos. Completing the roster are slotman Hernani Demigillo, Jojo Villapando, Alvin Teng, Melchor Frogoso, Rey Rubi, Elisio Agsunod, Tony dela Cerna, Joselito Martin, Gerald Esplana and Joel Santos.
Hope Cigarettes (first coach by Arturo Valenzona, then to assistant Egay Gomez) – The Cigarette Makers had the tallest lineup in 6’6″ national player Jack Tanuan and 6’7″ Adriano Polistico. It has seven members of the National Open champion Masagana 99 quintet. These are Leo Isaac, Jeffrey Graves, Pol Manimbo, George Ella, Popoy Manaog, Romeo Lopez and Fernando Garcia. Then there is Renato Agustin and another national player Glenn Capacio. Others in the lineup are Joel Valle, Richard Bognot and Josel Angeles.
RFM-Swift (coach by Virgil Villavicencio) – The Foodmakers, the surprise team in the tournament when they made the semis outright, only had national player Elmer Reyes as its big star. The rest of the Foodmakers are Robert Magalong, Mukesh Advani, Junel Baculi, Alex Regis, Dondi Roque, Guillermo Valerio, Alex Doromal, Cadel Mosqueda, Demetrio Antonio, Boy Viray, Edgar Amisola, Leo Paguntalan, Anthony Poblador and Joseph Pelaez.
The 1986 PABL First Conference was arguably the most exciting and well-attended tournament in the history of the league as seen in the images above. The members of the national team which won the ABC championship earlier in the year, played for different PABL ballclubs. The ‘Skywalker’ Samboy Lim, saw action in his only amateur commercial league tournament (he later resurface playing for Welcoat in the late 1990s at age 36).
The best of the tournament
The glamor team from Cebu, the Lhuillier Jewelers, which beat fellow newcomer Hope for the title and a cinderella finish, was one of the favorite topics among old-school basketball fans. Hope coach Arturo Valenzona temporarily gave up his coaching position to his assistant, due to pressures by Tanduay in the PBA. He return to the Hope bench after the PBA finals was over.