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How Udoy Belmonte took flight after 1993 UST UAAP mens’ basketball sweep


How Udoy Belmonte took flight after 1993 UST UAAP mens’ basketball sweep

By Brian Joseph N. Yalung

It was originally meant to be a reunion as the original players from the Pampanga Dragons team that won the inaugural Metropolitan Basketball Association (MBA) title in 1998 gathered after 30 years at a resto bar in San Fernando, Pampanga.

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Udoy Belmonte [standing second from right] with other former Pampanga Dragons players and coaches in a reunion held on December 7, 2023 at a restaurant in San Fernando, Pampanga. (Gil Cortez)

With most of the players and team staff present it was a memorable night organized no less by its generous team manager Gil Cortez. Players such as Ato Agustin, Long David, Norman Gonzales, Eric Gascon and Lester Del Rosario were around, recalling the good old days and a trip down memory lane.

Udoy made sure he would be with the Dragons

The night seemed perfect and could not get better. It would when one former player who has long been out of the basketball scene arrived. He was no other than Rudolf “Udoy” Belmonte.

Belmonte was the last Pampanga Dragons team member to arrive because he came from another huge gathering, a reunion of the UST Growling Tigers team at a restaurant in San Juan City. It was another epic gathering of former UST players who accomplished that historic 14-0 sweep back in 1993 to bag the UAAP Season 56 Men’s basketball title.

Hence, Belmonte had traveled all the way from San Juan City to San Fernando, Pampanga just to make sure he would not miss the chance to be with his former MBA teammates despite a traffic-riddled month of December because of the Christmas rush.

The former UST Growling Tigers team captain tried his luck in the PBA, playing for San Miguel for two seasons. However, he followed his calling and ended up temporarily shelving his basketball career to work for Philippine Airlines.

Belmonte returns to basketball duty

After his two seasons in the PBA, it appeared that Belmonte had it made being at PAL. Unfortunately, he found himself in a predicament that he did not foresee.

“I was with Philippine Airlines. I was flying already. But back in 1998, nagkaron ng strike. So I was laid off for a while. I was not doing anything else,” Belmonte said.

“So I contacted my friend, Binky Favis. I started out in the MBA with the Batangas Blades. But sad to say, in our first season, we got eliminated. Luckily enough, na-consider naman ako ni coach Aric [del Rosario] with ninong Gil [Cortez]. So ayun na nga, blessed, blessed to be part of the first MBA championship,” he continued.

A Gentleman’s agreement

Winning a championship will always be sweet for any player. But in the case of Belmonte, he admits that his heart was heart and mind was still on the dream that was placed on pause.

“When I signed with coach Aric and the Pampanga Dragons, I told them beforehand na any time tawagin ako ng PAL, that’s my priority. Ok naman, mabait naman ang bosses ko. So when tinawagan ako ng PAL, they were good enough to let me go,” he shared.

Credit belongs to : www.mb.com.ph

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