Barely 24 hours since the passing of business tycoon John Gokongwei, another magnate, who’s also very much inclined in sports, shockingly passed away Monday morning.
Lucio “Bong” Tan Jr., who was recently promoted as president of the Philippine Airlines, died after being hospitalized when he collapsed during a basketball game on Saturday.
Viviene Tan released an official statement on the untimely death of his brother.
“It is with deep sorrow that I announce the passing of my brother, Lucio “Bong” Tan, Jr. this morning, November 11, 2019. He was 53. His untimely passing leaves a big void in our hearts and our Group’s management team which would be very hard to fill. Bong was a son, husband, father, friend and, most importantly, our elder brother whom we all relied on for advice, counsel and leadership,” wrote Ms. Tan.
“He is survived by his wife, Julie, and sons Hun hun (Lucio Tan III) and Kyle Tan. Our sincerest thanks to all who offered prayers and shared words of comfort during this hour of grief. Our family continues to request everyone to respect our wish for privacy as we go through this very difficult time. We ask for your prayers for the eternal repose of his soul. Wake details will be announced soon.”
The sports industry mourned the untimely passing of Tan, who was very much involved supporting teams in the PBA (Tanduay), PBA D-League (Tanduay/Cobra), the UAAP (University of the East Warriors) and the MPBL (Batangas City Athletics-Tanduay).
“Nalulungkot ako,” said PBA commissioner Willie Marcial. “Very active kasi yan supporting teams in the PBA, D-League, MPBL and UAAP. Nakakagulat kasi very fit yan, naglalaro ng basketball, naggo-golf, kaya nakakabigla talaga yung pagkamatay niya,” Marcial told FOX Sports Philippines in a telephone interview.
In 1984, Tan’s family, then carrying the brand Beer Hausen of Asia Brewery, started its involvement in the PBA when it acquired the old Toyota franchise following its disbandment, thus making Ramon Fernandez the franchise player.
They left the league in 1986, but joined the Philippine Basketball League during the 1990s where its franchise — carrying the names of Stag and Tanduay — made a dynasty in the amateur commercial league, winning seven championships in three seasons.
“For me, one of the most significant moments when they entered the PBA in 1984 was its runner-up finish to Great Taste in 1984,” said amateur basketball historian Atty. Percival Flores.
Jay P. Mercado, another amateur historian, added that one of the most celebrated trades ever in PBA history also took place involving the Tan family-owned franchise.
“That was the first trade between Fernandez and Abet Guidaben in 1985,” Mercado said in a telephone interview.
Fernandez and Guidaben would again trade places in 1988.
Tanduay re-entered the PBA in Year 1999 then stayed on until the end of 2001 season before the franchise was acquired by Air 21.
In 2018, Tanduay made a big splash when it joined the Maharlika Pilipinas Basketball League and became the inaugural staging champion, winning the Rajah Cup while bankrolling the Batangas City Athletics.
MPBL commissioner Kenneth Duremdes was likewise shocked by the untimely passing of Tan.
“The MPBL mourns the passing of team owner Bong Tan of the Batangas City Athletics-Tanduay. He is one of the pillars of Philippine basketball. Rest in Peace, Bong Tan,” wrote Duremdes in a statement.
Three-time PBA champion Paul Artadi also expressed sympathy to the family of Tan, who served as the benefactor of the UE Red Warriors when he and several other teammates like James Yap, Ronald Tubid and KG Canaleta among others, were still playing in the UAAP.
“I’m very saddened. Life is like a bubble,” wrote Artadi. “He’s a very supportive team owner. Hindi papatalo. Kung pwede sya lalaro para manalo, gagawin nya. Sports person talaga.”
Jean Alabanza, team executive of the Batangas City Athletics, made a touching post on his Facebook account regarding the death of Tan, his boss and basketball buddy.
“I honestly thought you could’ve played forever. Rest in peace pare,” posted Alabanza.