TOKYO – At 34, he is the youngest vice chairman in the history of the Philippine Basketball Association. And next year, at around this time, he will head the league’s all-powerful board of governors, which count among its members a corporate president, two senior vice presidents, siblings of team owners, a conglomerate’s top sports officials, and a high level company lawyer.
Erick Arejola, Globalport’s representative to the board, shudders at the thought although not as much as he worries giving this short interview.
“Boss, di ba napaka-aga nito?” said Arejola, who calls almost everybody either boss or sir.
Rene Pardo, the longtime governor of the Star Hotshots, who assumed the chairmanship in 2010 when lawyer Chito Salud, eldest son of former PBA commissioner Rudy Salud, took over the helm as the league’s eighth commissioner, doesn’t think so.
“This is the right time,” said Pardo during the PBA board of governors’ planning session here. “He has to be involved this early in the decision-making and play an active role in the executive committee,”
The current exe-com is comprised of PBA chairman Robert Non of San Miguel Beer, Arejola, treasurer Ramoncito Fernandez of NLEX, Commissioner Chito Narvasa and league CEO Chito Salud.
“This year will give him all the training he needs,” said Pardo, who assured Arejola that the amicable relationship prevailing within the board would make it easier for him to serve as chairman next year.
“Madali lang pag magkakasundo ang board like now,” said Pardo. “Ako kasi, inabot ko yung medyo magulo. Ayoko ngang uma-attend minsan ng board meeting noon kasi masyadong stressful.”
Pardo recalls getting into a shouting match with a fellow governor which could have escalated had Buddy Encarnado, the baritone-voiced Sta. Lucia Realty governor, not jumped into the fray.
“Sinigawan ako e di ko naman siya amo; inawat lang kami ni Buddy e,” said Pardo, laughing now at the thought. “Pero naging okey naman agad kami. Pareho kaming nag-apologize. Tapos inaya ako magsigarilyo sa labas. Ako naman, isang sigarilyo lang okey na e. Sobrang pressure lang siguro siya sa trabaho.”
Pardo declined to identify the governor since both of them are now friends.
“Huwag na; ang bait na tao non e,” Pardo said. “At saka ngayon, nagkaka-isa na ang board so hindi na mahihirapan ang incoming chairman.”
Non, who shared a breakfast table with Arejola at the Hilton Hotel Tuesday, himself assured the youthful ground operations head of Air Asia that the chairmanship won’t be a problem.
“Kayang-kaya mo ‘to,” said Non, who succeeded Talk ‘N Text’s Patrick Gregorio for the PBA’s 41st season and has begun laying the groundwork for a sustained dynamic and vibrant league which Arejola stands to inherit next season.
A business administration graduate at De La Salle and father of two kids, Champ, 8, and Iana, 7, Arejola said that despite his relative youth his long training under flamboyant Globalport team owner Mikee Romero will be “invaluable,” making the age factor not that much of a challenge when the time comes.
He isn’t holding his breath though, just listening, learning and keeping his peace when the elder statesmen of the PBA speak, addressing everybody either boss or sir.
“Right now, I’m just here to support the board and, of course, our chairman,” Arejola said, excusing himself and quickly ending the interview.