‘Irreplaceable’: Moying Martelino remembered for brilliance as PH sports leader

Manolo Pedralvez

Posted at Sep 28 2021 09:37 AM | Updated as of Sep 28 2021 09:44 AM

Based on the recollections of his contemporaries and associates, veteran sports official Mauricio “Moying” Martelino, who passed away last Wednesday at age 86, undoubtedly left an indelible imprint in Philippine sports, particularly in bowling, basketball and women’s volleyball.

“Moying and I were very close as early as the 70s because he was the secretary general of the old Philippine Bowling Congress,” said Philippine Olympic Committee chairman Steve Hontiveros, who was a former PBC president. “He was an excellent sports administrator even then.”

Hontiveros said Martelino’s home in Malate used to be near the old Bowling Inn along Taft Avenue, which was one reason why the latter became immersed in the sport. 

“Moying became good friends with the owner of Bowling Inn as he became a regular bowler there,” Hontiveros recalled.

The POC official said Martelino’s organizational skills were such that it would not take long before Gonzalo “Lito” Puyat II, president of the Basketball Association of the Philippines at that time, took notice of his brother-in-law’s talents and wooed him to the BAP as its secretary general.

“Lito’s wife and Moying's wife are sisters so there was that connection,” he said.


Administrative, managerial skills recognized

Bowling’s loss became basketball’s gain, with Martelino displaying his mettle as the executive director of the 1978 world basketball championship, as the FIBA World Cup was known then, at heritage-rich Rizal Memorial Coliseum and Araneta Coliseum.

Puyat, serving his first term as the first Asian president of the International Basketball Federation, known by its French acronym FIBA, the sport’s world governing body, knew he could rely on his quietly efficient BAP secretary general to get the huge job done, according to Hontiveros.

Given his growing reputation as an excellent manager of huge sports events, his next assignment was as the right-hand man of Michael Marcos Keon, nephew of late President Ferdinand Marcos, who was appointed the first executive director of Project: Gintong Alay.

Project: Gintong Alay was the predecessor of the Philippine Sports Commission, with Keon enjoying blanket authority and the government funds to oversee the national sports program.

Given his Malacañang clout, the Australian-born sports executive also served as Philippine Olympic Committee president from 1981 to 1984 and drew much from his inputs from the knowledgeable Martelino.

His unparalleled managerial skills were once again put to good use as the overall media director of the 1981 Manila Southeast Asian Games, the first time the country hosted the regional sportsfest, and a role he would reprise 24 years later with the 2005 Philippine SEA Games.

When the 1986 People Power revolt ousted President Marcos and his family from Malacañang, Gintong Alay briefly folded briefly but was revived during the administration of President Corazon Aquino, who appointed Jose Romasanta as the new Gintong Alay project director.

In the meantime, Martelino went back to being the BAP secretary general and held office at the Rizal Memorial administration building along Vito Cruz (now known as Pablo Ocampo Sr. Street) whose top floor was where Romasanta ran the Gintong Alay program.

“He (Martelino) was truly Mr. Basketball because of his deep technical knowledge of the sport. He was low-profile but a superb organizer. He was a proper gentleman and we never saw him get mad or say anything bad,” Romasanta recalled of his memories of the BAP official then.

Approachable, media friendly

Former veteran sports journalist Ignacio Dee, who now works for the Japanese news agency Daily Manila Shimbun, was among those who saw Martelino up close during his halcyon days.

“Martelino was seemingly self-effacing and soft-spoken, masking his intense work ethic. He was always prepared and his briefings were always in plain English. He was rarely flustered and had a good understanding of people,” Dee said.

“He treated reporters, veterans or rookies, equally. He never treated reporters as adversarial even if their points differed from his.”

With his added experience and basketball savvy, Martelino was lured outside of the country to work with the Qatar National Olympic Committee, according to Hontiveros, and later served as the secretary general of the Asian Basketball Confederation from 1991 to 1998.

Among those who witnessed his handling of the Asian cage body and its personnel was ex-sports scribe Rhea Navarro, whom Martelino helped in landing a job with the ABC Promotions Ltd., the marketing and promotions arm of the ABC, and also served as its liaison and Communications Manager.

“He (Martelino) was very passionate about his work. He loved what he was doing, he was very thorough, highly organized and meticulous,” Navarro said, “but listened to everyone regardless of their stature in life.”

She shared an anecdote involving the former ABC sec-gen, who knew his basketball rules like the back of his hand, and an angry head of a Middle Eastern country during a match in the 1995 ABC men’s championships in Seoul, South Korea. 

“Sir Moying did not back down and recited the exact basketball rule in question. He knew his basketball by heart,” she recalled. “The sheikh was one of his ardent supporters.” 

Navarro said that during the 1998 ABC polls held in Bangkok, the majority of the Gulf basketball countries wanted Martelino to be re-elected as secretary general but “politely” declined their support that could have won him a third term.

Cited by FIBA with Order of Merit in 1999

In recognition of contributions to the sport, FIBA awarded the sports executive in 1999 with its distinguished Order of Merit during the world body’s congress in Barcelona, just one of six Asians to be given the honor. Puyat was the first Filipino to gain the honor in 1994.

Although he was semi-retired, Martelino was never far away from his basketball passion, with the Samahang Basketball ng Pilipinas tapping his services as a consultant from 2001 to 2010.

Already in his late 70s, he showed the heart of a patriot when he was at the forefront of the SBP’s valiant but failed effort to include naturalized player Andray Blatche in the Gilas Pilipinas basketball squad in the 2014 Incheon Asian Games.

“For a decade, Mauricio ‘Moying’ Martelino served the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas as our senior consultant,” SBP president Al S. Panlilio said in a statement. “With his vast knowledge and international experience, he was a true elder statesman whose contributions were always appreciated.

“The Philippine basketball community has lost a true pioneer but his imprint in our sport is indelible. His invaluable insights and wisdom will be missed. The SBP extends our deepest condolences to the Martelino family.”

SBP executive director Sonny Barrios, who was among the few outsiders who attended Martelino’s wake at Heritage Park in Taguig City, said on that occasion that the veteran sports hand’s extensive basketball connections had made his job much easier.

Not one to twiddle his thumbs, Martelino, former PBA commissioner Jun Bernardino, former Ateneo varsity star Ricky Palou and Navarro formed Sports Vision and Management Inc. in 2004.

Sports Vision was behind the highly successful Shakey’s Volleyball League, which eventually evolved into the Premier Volleyball League, becoming a mainstay in the sports scene and serving as a catalyst for the sport’s local revival.

The Martelino brand was helpful during Sports Vision’s early years, according to Palou.

“Moying opened doors for Sports Vision, especially with sponsors who were comfortable to be associated with us because of his name,” Palou said. “His tips and reminders kept us on our toes to do our best.”

Sev Sarmenta fondly remembered his interaction with the revered sportsman as one of the league’s regular sportscasters.

“Sir Moying was the senior sports leader we all went to for information and clarification on (volleyball) rules. It was always fun to ask this basketball man volleyball queries later on when he helped run the Shakey’s V League. As always he was ready to help and clarify. A true sports leader,” Sarmenta said.

Bernardino’s son, Nolan, also cherished the moments he had with the sportsman.

“He (Martelino) and my dad were inseparable ever since dad retired from the PBA. They were always together and I would drive for them whenever I could. I would hear them talk about sports (volleyball, basketball, baseball) all the time,” the younger Bernardino reminisced.

“To dad, Tito Moying was one of the greatest in Philippine sports. He was sharp. Sports management was second nature to him,” he added. “He was a well-respected sportsman here and around the world. He was a great mentor to dad and to me,” he added.

When the Bernardinos watched the 2002 FIBA world championships in Indianapolis, Indiana, together with Martelino, the late PBA commissioner’s son saw firsthand how the veteran Filipino basketball official was respected and loved in the international cage scene.

“A lot of people would approach us and greet him (Martelino), give him hugs and were genuinely excited to see him. Tito Moying molded Philippine basketball, Tito Moying took local volleyball to the next level. Tito Moying was one of the most valuable in Philippine sports. He cannot be replaced,” he gushed.

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