MANILA – Antonio “Tony” Chua, the former chairman of the Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) and team manager of the Barako Bull, drowned at the height of Typhoon Ondoy’s wrath in his Cainta residence on Saturday evening.
Sketchy reports showed Chua was high and dry in his home inside the Filinvest Village along Marcos Highway in Cainta, Rizal, when he decided to retrieve something from his car that was parked on the driveway.
At that time, the whole Cainta was already chest-deep in floodwaters.
Chua was on his way to his car when a strong current suddenly swept him away. He managed to cling to a tree with his long-time assistant and confidante, Joenare Pedal, rushing to his aid.
Pedal, however, failed to reach Chua and was flushed away by the current.
Chua’s body was found floating at dawn on Sunday at an undetermined area in Cainta. Pedal’s body has yet to be found.
PBA commissioner Sonny Barrios said in a statement the league is in deep sorrow with Chua’s tragic death. “The PBA and I are saddened by the unexpected passing away of chairman Tony Chua,” he said.
“I am personally affected [as he] was the one who welcomed me in my first day in work when I was appointed as officer in charge of the league in 2007. I have always worked well with him as he constantly wanted PBA to be in the limelight,” Barrios added.
Lito Alvarez of Burger King, the current PBA chairman, expressed his grief and shock over the tragedy. “I’m deeply saddened by the tragic and sudden loss of a dear friend. He will forever be missed by the entire PBA family,” he said.
Former Barako Bull head coach Yeng Guiao was shocked by his former boss’s death.
“I’m deeply shocked. I still can’t believe it,” Guiao told the BusinessMirror on Sunday. The two worked together on the Barako (formerly Red Bull) bench for more than eights years and produced three championships.
“He was well liked by everyone in the basketball community. We were like a family in the Red Bull organization. We remained close even after my transfer to Burger King. I owe him a lot in my career as PBL [Philippine Basketball League] commissioner and as a PBA coach. Thanks for everything, boss Tony,” he added.
Guiao was PBL commissioner when Red Bull joined the semi-professional league.
When the Photokina franchise joined the PBA in 2000, Red Bull asked Guiao to coach the team. He then won for the franchise the Commissioner’s Cup in 2001 and 2002 and the Fiesta Cup in 2006.
PBL commissioner Chino Trinidad, who also once worked with Chua in the PBL, said: “He was a funny guy, bolero pero passionate sa game. Mr. Football ’yan ng Letran [and football talaga ang first love niya].”
Chua also served as vice president of the Philippine Football Federation.
Before his death, Chua closely worked with Alvarez and Rene Pardo of Purefoods Tender Juicy for the PBA Hall of Fame rites on October 9 at the Shangri-La Hotel in Makati City. Chua is a member of the selection committee of the third batch of PBA Hall of Famers.