Way before Alvin Patrimonio and JuneMar Fajardo won four and six Most Valuable Player (MVP) titles in the Philippine Basketball Association (PBA), respectively, there was the “El Presidente,” Ramon Fernandez.
Ramon is regarded as one of the greatest Filipino basketball players with four MVP titles to his name. He played for 19 seasons in the PBA and the Philippine national team, and was named the first-ever president of the players’ union— thus earning him the title, El Presidente. (Read: Meet the Top 5 Picks in the 2021 PBA Rookie Draft)
Today, Ramon is serving as the commissioner in the Philippine Sports Commission (PSC) while tending to his business “Lechon ni El Presidente” in Consolacion, Cebu. He makes the most out of every opportunity that comes his way and generously shares his wisdom and learning to young aspiring athletes in the country.
In this exclusive interview with My Pope Philippines, Ramon shares his experiences as a basketball player, his duties and tasks as a PSC commissioner, and the legacy he wants to leave behind for the future generation.
Born and raised in Maasin, Leyte, Ramon was first introduced to basketball at the young age of five years old. He had a townmate who was a member of the Philippine national team during the early 1960s, and he was the one who inspired young Ramon to work hard and aim to become part of the national team someday.
“While growing up, my goal has always been to play for the flag and country, and represent my country in international competition,” Ramon shares. “That ultimately motivated me to pick up a sport (basketball) and eventually, I was able to make it.” (Read: Vatican Publishes Book Compilation of the Pope’s Messages to Athletes)
As a professional athlete, Ramon says representing the Philippines in international tournaments was the pinnacle of his career. His skills as a basketball player were undeniable, and this eventually paved the way for him to be named as El Presidente— or the first president of the basketball players’ union— in the industry.
“It was a very proud feeling, considering that my contemporaries in the professional league at that time trusted me with the position and asked me to lead the association,” Ramon shares. “I also felt honored with the trust and being selected.”
Supporting Young Athletes
Being a former professional and national athlete definitely helped Ramon in his duties as a PSC commissioner. Such that the commission’s mandate is to be “in charge of sports development in the grassroots level,” he was able to apply his experiences as a “product of the grassroots program” to serving the office.
“At present, the National Academy of Sports was put up by the PSC to support young athletes in both their studies and career,” shares Ramon. “We encouraged LGUs to plot and develop their sports development programs at the grassroots level. These sports programs lead the youth away from vices, and motivate and encourage young children to pick up a sport.”
When asked about the challenges of supporting athletes for the 2021 Southeast Asian (SEA) Games in Hanoi, Vietnam, Ramon shares that they are following strict protocols right to make sure that all delegates are in great health and condition.
“There are athletes at present who are doing training inside the bubble after following all required health and safety protocols,” says the PSC commissioner. (Read: A Prayer to St. Sebastian for Athletes)
“The only problem so far for the delegation are those who are in combat sports who need a sparring partner for their training because of social distancing strictly implemented,” he adds.
Sharing His Wisdom
Ramon shares that his most valued advice for young athletes is to “pick up at least 2-3 sports while growing up.”
But why learn different types of sports instead of focusing on just one? Ramon says the reason lies in the discipline and values that a person can develop from experience! (Read: 5 Reasons Why You Should Watch ‘Gawilan’ on YouTube)
“Much like in the PSC, we introduce the 8 to 12-year-old kids to different sports. We tell them that the values that you develop in the sport are basically the same values you need through life and to be successful in whatever undertaking you take. Even if it is not physical, it may be helpful in other aspects,” explains Ramon.
As for his advice to the kids and athletes who want to become the next great national athletes and basketball superstars, Ramon said “it is important to set your goal.”
“There is really no secret formula to attain your goal… You have to set your goals, work towards it, focus on your goals and try not to be distracted by worldly distractions,” he says.
The writer wants to thank the following people from the Philippine Sports Commission for making this interview possible: Ms. Mylene Velasco Leyba of the Philippine Sports Institute office, and Ms. Emmalyn Bamba and Ms. Chariza De Vera of the Public Communications Office.