Crispa-Toyota: Old rivals meet up to celebrate friendship this time
Atoy Co admitted he was not sure what to expect when he and other Crispa players were offered an olive branch by their Toyota counterparts for a small gathering between the two rivals on Friday night.
“Ano to, isasaing ba nila kami? Gugulpihin ba nila kami para makaganti sila sa amin? (Are they going to put us in a frying pan or are they going to beat up us to get revenge on us?),” Co said.
The man known as “The Fortune Cookie” was obviously joking, but Co, Philip Cezar and Freddie Hubalde were very appreciative of Toyota’s gesture, 40 years after the bitter rivals played their last Philippine Basketball Association game plus one final encounter in an old-timers game 20 years earlier.
“At first, I had some apprehension. Turns out there’s a bigger plan for this. So who are we to say no?,” he said during the event held in Makati City. “When we arrived, it felt overwhelming … It was very heartwarming.”
Gil Cortez, the 1976 Rookie of the Year who co-organized the mini-reunion along with his former Toyota coach Dante Silverio, shared Co’s sentiment as they look forward to planting the seeds for a grand reunion aimed at “reunification and reconciliation.”
It came after former Toyota figures held their own reunion last February to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the team’s first season which was in the defunct Manila Industrial and Commercial Athletic Association,
“There’s no more animosity between the two teams,” Cortez said. “Yes, we had our rivalry before, but I said that we’re not getting any younger. What better way for us is to get together and come up with a program to help less fortunate athletes.”
That program includes building a well-funded foundation that they can draw from to help fellow athletes. Aside from a grand reunion sometime in December, the two teams are scheduled to host a charity golf tournament on May 9 at Manila Southwoods.
Cortez had already discussed the big reunion with those based abroad, like Crispa’s Bernie Fabiosa and Toyota’s Francis Arnaiz, who are planning to come home once a date is set.
Also present were other Toyota members like Ed Cordero and the legendary Ramon Fernandez.
It would have been unfathomable for Crispa and Toyota players to be together during the height of the rivalry. But for a night, they were together not as foes, but as friends hoping that they would not fade away from memory.
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