Whatever happened? The Lucio Tan squads’ abbreviated stints in the PBA

Rey Joble

Posted at Jan 29 2022 09:47 PM | Updated as of Feb 03 2022 07:25 AM

(This is the first in a series of 2 articles.)

From Beer Hausen to Manila Beer to Tanduay.

These were the teams owned by liquor mogul Lucio Tan and his family when they participated in the PBA.

While their teams had good runs in Asia's pioneering professional basketball league, their teams and franchises had short-lived stints.

Beer Hausen, under Basic Holdings Corp., acquired the franchise of the old Toyota team, minus several key players who either chose not to join the new ownership or were sold to other teams prior to the acquisition.

The new owner's takeover of the Toyota team was opposed by Robert Jaworski and Francis Arnaiz, 2 of the most revered players of one of the greatest teams ever to play in the PBA.

In a series of reports right after the new owner's acquisition of Toyota, Jaworski alleged that Jack Rodriguez, the franchise's team manager, "acted in bad faith" by not telling the players of the management's decision to sell them to the Tan group.

The bulk of Toyota team — Mon Fernandez, Ricky Relosa, Ed Cordero, Bick Bulaong, Emer Legaspi, Pol Herrera and Tim Coloso — was acquired by the new owners

Jaworski and Arnaiz went to Gilbey's Gin of Carlos "Honeyboy" Palanca, which later on carried the brand Ginebra San Miguel, soon to be known as the most popular team in the PBA.

Arnie Tuadles and Chito Loyzaga went to Great Taste and helped the team to become the newest powerhouse squad in the PBA that eventually dethroned Crispa.

Abe King's contract was sold to Gold Eagle Beer, the brand then being carried by San Miguel Corp.

King recalled that prior to the new owner's acquisition of the Toyota franchise, his contract was already sold to San Miguel.

"Nakakalungkot man ’yan, kailangan naming mag-move on," said King on the disbandment of Toyota. "Pagka-disband naman, binenta na nila kontrata ko sa San Miguel. Na-absorb ako ng San Miguel. Nauna akong nawala sa kanila. May 1-year contract pa kasi ako sa Toyota, which was absorbed by San Miguel."

"Siyempre, prior to the acquisition, may mga issues. Ako naman, hiningan nila ako ng audience kung ano ang maganda. 

"Ang sabi ko sa ibang kasama namin, si Sonny at si Francis, mga made na ’yan. Mga stars ’yan. Kung kayo ay parehong point guard or kapwesto ng 2 ’yun, bakit kayo sasama sa kanila? Hindi ba tama ’yun? Kakainin ni Sonny at ni Francis ’yung minuto nu’ng mga guards katulad nina Coloso and Legaspi, magkakaparehas sila ng position, hindi sila magkakaroon ng pagkakataon na maipakita nila ’yung laro nila masyado kasi kung 48 minutes ang basketball, mga 40 minutes kakainin nung 2."

So the 1984 season started without Toyota, and a new team, Beer Hausen, composed of the bulk of the Silver Corollas led by Fernandez. A few more additional players from Crispa — Itoy Esguerra Mon Cruz, and several others from Tanduay — completed the roster.

In its first season, Beer Hausen went all the way to the finals, losing to Great Taste in the second All-Filipino tournament 3-0.

By the end of the season, Fernandez went on to win his second Most Valuable Player award after posting a near triple-double performance of 27.8 points, 11.17 rebounds and 9.9 assists.

Year 1985 saw changes on the team. 

From Beer Hausen, the team carried the brand Manila Beer, but the bigger changes happened in the personnel.

Following the disbandment of Crispa, the franchise of which was acquired by Pilipinas Shell, several members of the Redmanizers went on to play for Manila Beer.

Atoy Co, Crispa's top gun, was joined by long-time teammate, blossoming star forward Yoyoy Villamin, at Manila Beer. 

But a trade happened in October 1985 when Fernandez was shipped by management for Abet Guidaben, the first of the two swaps which involved the 2 players.

Manila Beer went on to participate until the end of the 1986 season and even battled Ginebra to the championship of the Third Conference and lost in 5 games.

But following the EDSA Revolution and a new government taking over and seizing assets from the Marcos cronies, Manila Beer was forced to disband the team. 

Before the start of the 1987 season, the marquee players found new teams.

Guidaben went on to play for San Miguel Beer and became the acknowledged star of a young squad beefed up by some of the players of the Northern Consolidated team such as Samboy Lim, Hector Calma, Yves Dignadice, Franz Pumaren, Tonichi Yturri, Pido Jarencio, among others.

At Great Taste, Co rejoined his old buddy and teammates Philip Cezar and Bernie Fabiosa, then rookie Allan Caidic, franchise stars Ricardo Brown, King, and comebacking Arnie Tuadles. Villamin went on to play for the Alaska franchise, then carrying the brand Hills Brothers Coffee.

These former players from Manila Beer — Guidaben, Co and Villamin — helped their new squads become champions or contenders.

Guidaben went on to lead San Miguel to a championship in the season-ending Third Conference while teaming up with Best Import Bobby Parks. The 6-foot-5 center also wound up winning his second MVP award.

Co joined forces with his old teammates, former Toyota rivals, and top guns Brown and Caidic as they powered Great Taste to two finals trips that season, including winning the All-Filipino.

Villamin, meanwhile, made Hills Brothers a force. He partnered up with Ricky Relosa up front and they became popularly known as the “Bruise Brothers”. Together, they led the squad to two finals runs that season.

The Tan-owned franchise lasted only 3 seasons, but another member of the family would crack the PBA 13 years later.

Rey Joble is a sportswriter who has been covering the PBA since 1998, and a fan of the league way before that. 

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