It was the early 80’s.
All around the world, there was the buzz of the Cold War and President Reagan’s Star Wars program. The international box office was also abuzz with tales of friendly extra-terrestrials, of breakfast clubs, of the Jedi’s return. It was the age of Bagets, of long distance love affairs, of big hair, and shoulder pads that have their own zip codes.
The Philippines was on its final stages of Martial Law – though people had not known that yet. Still, there were already signs of unrest, of restiveness in the countrysides, as sugar prices in the world market were starting to drop, with state and the rebels outdoing each other in perpetrating violence, and assassinations. And then an exiled senator, considered by many as the face of dissent against the prevailing dictatorship, was assassinated, killed face down in an airport tarmac.
Against that backdrop, a young college student had met the man who would become an icon in Negros sports.
Former sports journalist Eric Loretizo had met Oscar “Dodong” Bascon as the latter was the father of a a schoolmate, former mayor now Board Member Agustin Ernesto “Tinto” Bascon.
“Tinto, a schoolmate was then a varsitarian, while his older brother, Tom, was a student leader and server as president of the La Salle Student Council,” Eric tells DNX.
The first recollection by Eric of Dodong Bascon was in the iconic Bascon Hotel, which the icon owned, along Gonzaga corner Locsin Streets, one of the premiere hotels of Bacolod where sugar barons, artists, athletes, and sports enthusiasts would hang out.
Dodong would stride in, crisp polo shirt and long pants ironed to a crease. He was tall, taller than most people, and he would walk with loping strides, larger-than-life, his presence turning heads and occupying a large part of the room even without trying to.
He had the built of an athlete, long, lean, wiry.
Quite apt for a man who had dedicated his life in building up sports, being team manager for Negros Slashers of the Metropolitan Basketball Association, and founder of Negros Basketball Association.
Dodong Bascon’s name then – and for sure long after he had passed – was (is) intricately and inexorably to basketball, to big league names of Negros-born ballers. But to Eric, Dodong was – is – first of all Tito Dodong, a father figure who would make his hotel an open house to friends and associates.
“He would often invite us – sports journalists — to join him for lunch or over merienda or coffee,” he recalls.
To most, Dodong Bascon is an almost mythic figure like the big names who grew under his name. Eric knew the adulation is well-deserved.
“He was a leader par excellence,” Eric said, “He walks the talk and succeeded in steering the NBA to greater heights [which became] a rich source of home-grown basketball talents who [were] later suited for different Philippine Basketball Association teams and universities in Manila. He led the NBA to its golden years and even supported other sports like boxing and athletics.”
But just as Eric remembers the bigger events attached to the Dodong Bascon name, equally important and are the intimate moments with the man who would invite journalists, sports enthusiasts, kindred spirits over to Bascon Hotel for coffee or a meal.
And that, beyond the sports tourneys, the trophies, the sports associations and programs, is the picture that stands put in Eric’s mind.
“He always [had] a big heart, a father figure to many and was always on hand to help others. We were witnesses to his generosity,” he says, adding, “NBA will never be the same without him.”