LORDY Tugade and Junthy Valenzuela go back a long way, having been teammates since their days in the defunct Philippine Basketball League (PBL).
So when Tugade learned tha longtime Cebu resident Valenzuela is in Manila for the Filoil Flying V Hanes Premier Cup as the head coach of University of San Carlos, he jumped at the opportunity to meet with his dear friend and longtime teammate.
“Actually, nung nalaman ko na may liga sila dito, sabi ko sa kanya, pasyalan kita diyan. Siyempre nasa Cebu na kasi siya,” said the 36-year-old Tugade told Spin.ph after the two finally met again on Saturday at The Arena in San Juan.
Tugade and Valenzuela were among the rising stars of Red Bull in the PBL in the late 1990s. The two also joined the PBA at the same time as direct hires when the George Chua-owned franchise joined the league as an expansion team in 2000.
Their partnership ended when Tugade was traded to the San Miguel Beermen in 2006 before retiring in 2012. Valenzuela was dealt to Ginebra before injuries forced his retirement in 2010.
“Matagal na ‘yung pinagsamahan namin. Marami kaming pinagdaanan na masaya at malungkot. Natutuwa ako na may communication kami,” said Tugade.
Tugade’s presence, however, failed to inspire Valenzuela’s team as the Warriors bowed to University of Perpetual Help, 61-71, on Saturday in the Filoil preseason tournament.
“Iba rin dito,” said the former National University standout after watching the Warriors play against a Manila-based team. “Iba ‘yung intensity ng laro dito. Pero experience din para sa kanila.”
Since his retirement, Tugade has spent most of his time as an entrepreneur in Pangasinan. He has a farm in his hometown of Alaminos where he is also a contracted supplier of Magnolia.
Tugade said he still lives in Pasig City, where he also owns properties for rent, but makes sure he is hands-on as far as his farm in Pangasinan is concerned.
“Kailangan din pumunta doon kasi mahirap din kapag iniiwan lang. At least, may pinagkakaabalahan tayo,” Tugade said.
Four years since his retirement, the 6-foot-3 Tugade remains a popular figure. While waiting for Valenzuela to emerge from the Warriors' dugout, he got requests for photo-ops and autographs from fans outside the venue.
Tugade said he is still open to a return to basketball, but admits that he still feels the effects of injuries that forced him to retire.
“Kung may opportunity, bakit hindi. Pero (‘yung mga injury ko) minsan sumasakit. Parang cancer ‘yan. Bigla na lang sumasakit,” Tugade said.