SPORTS columnist and broadcaster Butch Maniego loved basketball - and sports in general - so much, he made sure his work was finally done before his untimely death on Sunday afternoon.
Maniego still reported for work at the PBA office in Libis last Friday as he finalized the game schedule for the coming new season of the PBA D-League, where he served as tournament supervisor since its inception two years ago.
About 48 hours later, the longtime sports personality was gone, losing his long battle with a kidney ailment.
He was 50.
Before his death, Maniego wrote a column for Spin.ph dedicated to college basketball entitled `That Old College Spirit.’ His last column came out on September 28 (Title Aspirants Reveal Weaknesses), discussing the flaws of the teams that will see action in the UAAP men’s Final Four.
“Ito ang buhay niya, basketball was his life, sports was his life. I thought he was the ultimate professional,” said veteran sports columnist and fellow broadcaster Quinito Henson as he recalled his days working with Maniego as part of Vintage Enterprises.
PBA media bureau chief Willie Marcial, one of the heads of the Vintage production staff when Maniego first came on board, recalled that Butch first began as part of the PBA’s radio panel before eventually jumping to television broadcast, first as a courtside reporter, and later on as play-by-play anchor.
“I think that was in the early 90’s. Sila nila Chino (Trinidad) ang courtside reporter noon, And then he became a part of the play-by-play team together with Bill Velasco,” said Marcial.
Maniego would leave the PBA when ABS-CBN launched the Metropolitan Basketball Association, a regional pro league that rivaled the PBA beginning in 1998.
When the MBA closed shop in 2002, Maniego found himself drifting to the Philippine Basketball League where he was reunited with Trinidad, who was then serving as commissioner. Butch was PBL executive director until it shut down in 2010.
“I thought when he got the job to be part of running the league (PBL), that was big high para sa kanya,” said Henson. “And you have to give it to Chino for giving him that opportunity.”
“He lived a full life. All of his dreams natupad niya. He got to work in terms of being a journalist, he got to work in terms of being a part of management of two different leagues,” stressed Henson.
The death of the PBL gave rise to the founding of the PBA D-League, where Marcial and former sports journalist Rickie Santos, now the head of the PBA operations, tapped his services as tournament supervisor.
“You also have to commend Willie (Marcial) for giving him the opportunity to work in the PBA,” Henson added.
In between, Butch was also the play-by-play anchor of the NCAA for the past decade until last season.
But the past few years, Maniego’s health began to deteriorate owing to his kidney problem. He was undergoing dialysis three times a week until his death.
Before he ventured into broadcasting, he served as editor of the defunct sports magazine Champ, and later, joined the Manila Times sports staff of the late Bert Cuevas.
He later became the sports editor of Evening Star before moving to broadcasting. On the side, he wrote a popular twice-a-week column at People’s Journal under Joe S. Antonio that delved on all sports topics, including horseracing, one of his favorites.
“Butch was always statistics savvy. I think that’s how he got his break. Butch was articulate, he was very witty,” said Henson. “Every time he would come on board, he was always prepared. You can’t question his passion for the game. He loved being around people who loved the game.
“For Butch, I’m sad he’s no longer with us, but I believe he lived a full life. I’m just happy to be a friend. He’s always a colleague who will be missed.”
(Butch Maniego's remains now lie at the Chapel Lily of the Valley (211) of the Sanctuarium along Araneta Avenue in Quezon City. Cremation will be on Friday, 11 a.m.)