Atty. Baldemero “Merong” Estenzo, the Dean of the University of Cebu (UC) College of Law, sent this text message yesterday to the PBA’s best player: “Congratulations, June Mar, on your BPC award. Ayaw ka contento ana (don’t be contented), keep improving. Practice spin move when denied sa low post. Also, your hook shots and three point shots. On defense, ayaw palayo sa imong tawo ug ipataas daan ang imong kamot opposite sa shooting hand sa imong tawo (don’t stay far and raise your hands). Again, congratulations.”
Ever since Atty. Estenzo spotted the San Miguel Beermen giant who was born in Compostela and who studied at the Pinamungajan Central School over a decade ago, the two have developed a father-and-son, counsellor-and-protege relationship.
“He is an exceptional person. His sense of loyalty is extraordinary,” said Atty. Estenzo, who recalled that Fajardo was offered to transfer to Manila several times while he was in UC (including an offer from Manny Pangilinan, in a letter handcarried by Pato Gregorio, to play for Gilas) but “June Mar turned down the offer knowing that he was still raw as a player then.”
The trait that impresses Estenzo the most is Fajardo’s humility. “He is very close to his parents and brother. He is religious,” Estenzo said. “He does not complain about how tiresome his training might be. He is usually the first to arrive and the last to leave during practice.”
June Mar with Joy Tabal (SunStar photo)
Estenzo watches all of the games of “The Kraken” on TV and, when he’s in Manila, is gifted a ticket and gets to sit beside Fajardo’s girlfriend. They often talk or send messages. Estenzo adds: “One time, he was not able to control himself and wanted to retaliate after a player elbowed him whenever he cuts for the basket. I called and told him not to do it again as it will mean fines and penalties and might result in his suspension. Also, I told him, they will always do it to him knowing that he gets distracted by such foul tactics. I told him to just take it as part of the game. He promised not to do it again and he has lived up to that promise up to this time. I am so proud that success has not gone to his head. He is still the same June Mar that I have known before.”
UC owner Atty. Augusto Go, in a past interview, echoed those words when he recalled a visit from Fajardo before his PBA stint: “When he was selected by Petron as the top pick, he visited me in UC. Buotan kaayo. You cannot find a more humble person. June Mar was so grateful and thankful but I told him, ‘No, it is I who should say thank you for all that you have brought to our school.’”