BEYOND his tough-guy looks and serious demeanor, University of the East players saw in Bong Tan a caring father figure who is generous with both support and advice.
"Sobrang bait talaga ni boss Bong," said Cebuano scorer Rey Suerte, who only spent a year in Recto this UAAP Season 82 but no doubt felt the love the son and namesake of taipan Lucio Tan had for his team and the sport of basketball.
UE guard Philip Manalang added: "Mabuting boss si boss Bong. Sobrang bait ng trato niya sa mga players."
Tan collapsed during an inter-department basketball game on Saturday afternoon at the Gatorade Hoops Center in Mandaluyong and died on Monday morning due to brain herniation. He was 53.
Just before his untimely death, the businessman-sportsman was appointed president of PAL Holdings and wrapped up a season as coach of the varsity team of the school which his family owns.
For the players who got a chance to spend time and know him over these past few months, Tan was a simple man who never hesitated in rewarding his players' efforts.
"Alagang-alaga niya kami ng sobra. Iba siya mag-alaga sa players at ramdam namin yun pag nakikipag-usap siya sa amin," said Suerte, who was a part of this year's Mythical Five after UE ended the season with a 4-10 record.
Manalang said he was touched when Tan gave him a commemorative gift to mark the end of his five-year stint for the Red Warriors.
"Sobrang galante niya sa amin. May remembrance pa nga siya sa akin na shoes na pina-customize niya pa talaga na nakalagay yung UE at yung name ko," the 5-foot-8 guard shared. "Kaya nakakalungkot talaga yung nangyari. Hindi siya nagkulang sa amin."