ZOTICO Tan was recently named MVP of the 25th Asean Veterans Basketball Tournament after leading the Filipino-Chinese Veterans Basketball Association's 65-and-above team to the title.
Not bad for the oldest player in the fold.
Tan, 70, is a former standout of University of Visayas who played for U-Tex in the old MICAA alongside Francis Arnaiz, Larry Mumar, Danny Gavieres and Orly del los Santos in the early seventies under head coach Bai Mumar.
Unlike most of his contemporaries or players much younger, the retired Cebuano banker hasn't stopped playing. Just last month, Tan stood out once again by scoring 17 points and dishing out four assists in the Asean Veterans championship game won by the FCVBA squad over Malaysia.
Dubbed the ‘Super Lolo’ in his hometown of Cebu, Tan said he sticks to a healthy lifestyle, staying in shape by eating the right food and taking regular five-, 10-kilometer jogs around his neighborhood or on a track oval when not playing ball.
“Discipline lang,” Tan told SPIN.ph when asked about his remarkable longevity.
Tan played in the MICAA - then the country's top commercial basketball league - for two seasons from 1970 to 1972 but was discouraged by his parents from making basketball his main source of basketball.
“Ayaw na akong pabalikin ng mga magulang ko sa Manila. Magtrabaho na lang daw ako dahil hindi pang-habang buhay ang basketball,” said Tan, who settled into a job as banker in Cebu from 1973 until his retirement in 1996.
“Mga P800 to P 1,000 a month lang,” Tan answered when asked how much he earned in the MICAA during that time. “Kapag may laro lang, ‘yun ang allowance. Libre ang tirahan sa U-Tex compound.”
Tan said he also got an offer to play for San Miguel from fellow Cebuano guard Yoyong Martirez who was then committed to the national team. He turned down that offer, too.
“Pinuntahan ako ni Yoyong Martirez noon kasi hindi sila puwedeng maglaro sa mother team nila dahil nasa Philippine team siya. Pinapalaro ako sa San Miguel,” Tan said.
He was no longer in Manila when the PBA was formed in 1975.
But Tan couldn't stay away from basketball for long. He continued to play in Cebu leagues and soon ventured into coaching by way of the Cebu Eastern College high school team.
As a coach, Tan, who now has seven grandchildren, wasn't the kind who simply barked instructions from the sidelines. He joined his players in runs, and took part in scrimmages.
“Kasi nung nag-coach ako ng high school, tumatakbo rin ako. Ako ‘yung nauuna sa mga bata. Tatakbo ako kasi tamad sila tumakbo. Ako ang nagle-lead,” Tan said. "Kapag may scrimmage, kasali ako."
It didn’t take long for Tan to get noticed by players in his age group.
“Isang beses, nakita ako may regional na inter-Chinese basketball. Nakita ko ‘yung mga dati kong kasama. Niyaya nila ako maglaro. Mga 58 years old ako nun,” recalled Tan.
He has been representing the Philippines in the world stage since 2003 and in Asean tournaments since 2008. And he has no shown no sign of slowing down.
“Konti lang kain ko pero maraming beses sa isang araw. Anim na beses pero light lang. Wala naman akong iniiwasan na pagkain. Pero I don’t drink cold water. Hot water lang,” he shared when asked about the key to his longevity.
“Isang linggo siguro, mga apat or limang beses ako nagjo-jogging. Parati akong tumatakbo ng mga 5k and 10k.”