IT was an opportunity that was hard to pass up. Besides it also meant being reunited with a very dear friend.
And so that was how Jerry Codinera’s decade-long love affair with Purefoods ended 21 years ago.
The great PBA big man disclosed an offer made by former coach and close pal Eric Altamirano to join him at Mobiline led to his parting of ways with the team that elevated him to the pro ranks – along with Alvin Patrimonio, Jojo Lastimosa, and Glenn Capacio – back in 1988 as part of a star-studded expansion franchise.
It was an offer Codinera described as ‘really so sudden.’
“There was a call, and he (Altamirano) offered me. ‘O pare gusto mo ba akong tulungan?' said Codinera, recalling the events as special guest in the Power & Play program of former commissioner Noli Eala over Radyo Singko 92.3 News FM.
“Tinanong ko siya, ‘Coach ano yun?’ and sabi niya, ‘Gusto mo bang maglaro sa akin?’”
Codinera, 53, one of the best defensive players in the league of all time, wasn’t one to turn down Altamirano, a bosom buddy dating back to their stint with the Philippine men’s basketball team in the 80s.
Besides, both were just two years removed from winning a PBA championship together after Altamirano steered Purefoods to the 1997 All-Filipino title in his rookie season with the team.
He was already with Mobiline by then and just coming off a heartbreaking loss to Barangay Ginebra in the quarterfinals of the All-Filipino Cup as the No. 1 seeded team when the trade for Codinera was hatched.
“I said, ‘Of course coach.’ Then sabi niya, sige ite-trade namin si Andy Seigle for you,’” said Codinera.
As part of the deal, Codinera’s contract was also re-structured.
“So sabi ko go, as a good soldier,” he said. “You know the offer was so tempting.”
By the time the 1999 Commissioner’s Cup rolled along, Codinera was already carrying the Mobiline jersey, signaling the end of his 11-year stint with Purefoods and breaking up the solid frontcourt partnership he established with Alvin Patrimonio that netted the franchise a total of five championships.
Codinera, a nine-time All-Defensive Team member and three-time Mythical 1st team, said it wasn't until a few days later that the full impact of the trade sunk in.
“After a week nung na-realize ko, dun ako na-shock,” said Codinera. “Ang hirap pala nung trade kasi iba ang feeling.”
The league’s ‘Defense Minister’ was already past his prime at 33 by then, and served as back-up to emerging big man Asi Taulava.
Unfortunately, his stay with Mobiline failed to produce a championship, that two years after, he was left unprotected as a free agent by the franchise. That time, Altamirano was also gone as Phone Pals coach.
While Altamirano was able to secure a return stint with Purefoods, Codinera, the first-ever recipient of the Best Player of the Conference award during the 1994 All-Filipino, would spend the final four years of his career at FedEx.
Codinera, who would end up as one of the PBA’s 25 Greatest Players, said he doesn't regret any of his past decisions. But presented with a similar situation today, he said he would stay where his heart is.
“Of course, I would stay with Purefoods,” he emphasized. “My soul and life is really with Purefoods.”