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    Where R They Now? Former Red Bull direct-hire Bernard Tanpua

    Nov 19, 2021
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    Former PBA player Bernard Tanpua (with Lordy Tugade) now works as a lab technician in the US where his family is based.

    MEMORIES suddenly came flooding back for Bernard Tanpua the moment TnT Tropang Giga won the last PBA Philippine Cup championship.

    It took him back two decades ago when his team, Batang Red Bull, became the first to achieve what the Tropang Giga did just recently.

    In 2001, the Energizers became the first to beat all three teams under the San Miguel Corp. umbrella on the way to winning a first-ever league championship, a special feat TnT would duplicate this season in ending a six-year title drought.

    Tanpua vividly remembers that Red Bull achievement.

    “Unang championship ko kasi yun,” recalled the former University of Perpetual Help guard, who has been based in Los Angeles for a long time now. “At tsaka very close and maganda 'yung samahan namin.”

    Tanpua’s name may no longer rings a bell to young Filipino basketball fans, but he can certainly play. So much so that when Red Bull was accepted as an expansion franchise in 2000, he was among the six players elevated by the Photokina company from its amateur pool as part of the concession it had gotten from the league, along with Davonn Harp, Kerby Raymundo, Lordy Tugade, Jimwell Torion, and Junthy Valenzuela.

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    Bernard Tanpua Perpetual

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    Red Bull would then pluck Yeng Guiao out of his comfy office at the Makati Coliseum where he works as commissioner of the Philippine Basketball League (PBL), to handle the young squad and usher his return to competitive coaching.

    Like everyone else who played under the outspoken coach, Tanpua also had his share of expletives courtesy of Guiao.

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    “Oo, walang araw na hindi ako napapagalitan ni coach,” said Tanpua with a hearty laugh about the experience.

    Short and sweet

    His stint with Red Bull was indeed unforgettable, albeit a short one.

    In only its third conference, the Energizers already finished third place in the Governors Cup. When they won ar championship in the 2001 Commissioner’s Cup, Tanpua got the chance to play alongside a legitimate NBA player in import Antonio Lang.

    Tanpua’s stay with Red Bull lasted just two seasons, at a time when Fil-Am players proliferated – some of who later turned out to be Fil-Shams – and the alternative Metropolitan Basketball Association (MBA) was gasping for dear life.

    Still, he found a way to stay active, playing for Bulacan Spring Cooking Oil in the National Basketball League (NBL) and later, in overseas leagues in Indonesia and Qatar.

    “Sa Indonesia naglaro ako sa IBL (Indonesian Basketball League) under coach Nat Canson, who was my first coach sa Red Bull sa PBL,” he said of the veteran mentor, who was considered a legend in the Indonesian basketball circuit.

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    Bernard Tanpua and Lordy Tugade during their Red Bull days.

    A year after globetrotting the world, Tanpua decided to give up basketball.

    His wife being a US citizen, the petition for Tanpua's visa was granted and he soon followed her to California in 2003 just in time for the birth of their first born.

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    “May father in-law who was in the US Air Force was stationed in Guam, so doon muna kami tumuloy bago pumunta ng California,” said the former baller, who now has three kids.

    That he got to establish a family in the US made it easier for him to put his basketball career behind him.

    “Madali yung naging adjustment ko, hindi naging mahirap sa akin dahil kasama ko naman ang asawa ko at ang buong family,” Tanpua related. “Sa tulong ng Diyos, marami ding mga kababayan tayo na Pilipino sa lugar namin.”

    Lab technician

    A Zamboanga native, Tanpua now works as a laboratory technician at Quest Diagnostics Laboratories, a job that entails a lot of work these days since results of COVID-19 testing are being done there.

    But he’s not complaining, thankful to God that his family remains safe amid the pandemic and grateful for the help extended by the US government as life begins to return to normal in Los Angeles and for the most part of America.

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    Long retired as a pro player, Tanpua would play the game from time to time in small tournaments in the US pre-pandemic.

    His eldest son Jared, too, is into basketball and had the privilege of once training under former PBA MVP and Gilas team captain Jimmy Alapag, now assistant coach with the Stockton Kings in the NBA G-League.

    Bernard Tanpua's son Jared has had the chance to train under Jimmy Alapag in the US.

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    Having been out of the PBA for almost two decades now, Tanpua said he doesn’t miss the limelight anymore, and would only watch games of the league he once belonged to only once in a while.

    “Minsan kapag nakakakita ng highlights sa Youtube, yun manonood ako,” he said of how he keeps tab of the happenings around the PBA these days.

    But he still keeps in constant contact with former teammates behind all the platforms available now, be it via Facebook, Messenger, or even Facetime.

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    He also gets to see some fellow retired PBA players who are also US-based and they get to meet from time to time, mentioning the likes of Alapag, top defensive player Chris Jackson, and even former Red Bull player Lowell Briones.

    “Marami sila like (Danny) Capobres, yung Bughao brothers (Derick and Ronnie), Jose Francisco, Wilmer Banares, Boy Valera, Edward Naron, tsaka si Dale Singson,” Tanpua said.

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    Despite his PBA career being brief, there are fellow Filipinos who still recognize him from his playing days.

    “Meron pa naman (nakakakilala),” he said with an impish smile. “Maraming Filipino dito (kasi) na mahilig sa basketball.”

    It’s been a decade since Tanpua and his family last visited the country, and they hope the gradual easing of pandemic restrictions will allow them to make a homecoming anytime soon.

    Home is where the heart is, as they say.

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    Former PBA player Bernard Tanpua (with Lordy Tugade) now works as a lab technician in the US where his family is based.
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