Boy Tiukinhoy is the David Stern of Cebu

Like the Commissioner of the National Basketball Association, who has been in command of the world’s most famous dribbling league since 1984, we have our own version in this Visayan land.

Yes. David Stern is to America what Felix Tiukinhoy is to our beloved Sugbu. Both are commissioners. Both serve as leaders of other organizations on a concurrent capacity: Mr. Stern as the Chairman of the Board of Columbia University; Mr. Tiukinhoy as President of food giant Virginia Food, Inc., makers of famous brands like El Rancho, Virginia, Champion and Winner. I like the last two VFI, Inc. brands. Don’t they speak of the league that Boy Tiukinhoy is leading? Turning ordinary teams into Champions and Winners?

As commissioner of the Cebu Schools Athletic Foundation, Inc., (Cesafi), he lords over universities, colleges, high schools. In fact, Mr. Tiukinhoy is so alike Mr. Stern that, very often, he, too, is called Mister Stern. And by “Stern,” I mean the real definition of the word: strict, tough, stubborn. That’s stern. Like David Stern. That’s Boy Tiukinhoy.

As Cesafi’s overseer, he has to be. You can’t be weak or indecisive if you’re the skipper. As chieftain of Cebu’s top school-based sports league, you have to be stern. Exacting. Bossy. Inflexible. At times, harsh.

Remember last year? When players were caught playing games outside Cesafi’s parquet floors? And were terminated from continuing play? Despite the school’s pleadings and clamor for mercy? Boy, he was stern. He didn’t budge. The rules, he said, are simple: They. Are. The. Rules.

In email exchanges last week, I asked Boy Tiukinhoy this: How difficult and stress-filled is the job? Considering that, in another instance last Sunday, on just Day Two of the Cesafi 2010 season, the UV Baby Lancers did not show up at the Cebu Coliseum because, they said, “we didn’t know the schedule.”

BT fumed mad. Then he said: “The toughness of the job is part of the territory.”

A sports-lover all his life, he has been the Cesafi commissioner since Day 1… when the league started in 2001. Until today… Year 10. Prior to Cesafi, there was the CAAA, the Cebu Amateur Athletic Association. He, too, for the last five years of that league, was the commissioner.

Any satisfaction you get from this work? I ask. A stress-loaded job that, in case we Cebuanos did not know, does not pay him salary, not even P10 per year? “I consider my work as CESAFI Commissioner,” he said, “as a community service without any remuneration.”

How many Cebuanos, I want to know, are willing to forgo of their full-day weekends, of weeknights, of the relaxation that comes after work, to deal with the problems of Cesafi? Only Mr. Stern of Cebu.

“It’s another world for me when I enter the coliseum which is different from the business environment,” he said. “I find the job a pleasant experience which removes whatever stress I encounter from the office.”

That’s good to hear. Here’s another good message from him: “I would not be effective without the support of the Secretariat headed by Bernard Ricablanca, the Athletic Directors, the Officers and the Board of Directors.” This means he is no one-man show. He seeks help. Encourages teamwork. Consults the Board. Another good act? From this man who, despite his diminutive size, has giant responsibilities? It’s the addition of non-sports events.

“Academic and cultural events have been part of CESAFI since we started,” he said. “As commissioner, not only basketball but also other sport events were given importance. This year, we will give even more focus on academic and cultural events.” He sent me a long list of Cesafi events that I did not even know existed: Oration, Debate, Extemporaneous contests; Math, Science, Computer, Current Events, and Spelling Quizzes. There’s a Song Solo challenge, an essay-writing contest, and—this is amazing—a Sudoko competition.

Stern? Nah… he’s sterling.

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