He was Philippine basketball’s “#gentlegiant,” as former teammate Jeffrey Cariaso tweeted.
Yes he could bang it, break your bones for that rebound, or leave you flying for the loose ball—all for the sake of the job at hand.
But off the court, he greets you with a disarming grin, and even engages you to a short chat before heading off to the dugout and get down to business.
And, my God, was he successful—add to that being at the right team at the right time—with an astounding 11 PBA titles on his resume.
Not only was he a gentle giant, Cris “Jumbo” Bolado was the “lucky charm” PBA teams craved for. From the time he was drafted by the Alaska Milkmen in 1994 out of National University in the UAAP, his “lucky” presence seemed to have rubbed off on his teammates. He and the Milkmen, led by stalwarts Johnny Abarrientos and Jojo Lastimosa, and recurring import Sean Chambers, won five straight titles until 1996, including the historic 1996 Grand Slam.
Bolado then left the Milkmen in the 1997 Season and joined the Purefoods Corned Beef Cowboys for the All-Filipino conference. With Patrimonio, Dindo Pumaren, Rey Evangelista and Jerry Codinera, Bolado extended his championship streak to six with Purefoods bagging the crown over Gordon’s Gin.
Then, just right after winning that title, Purefoods traded Bolado to Gordon’s Gin for EJ Feihl. And it seemed the Cowboys made a big mistake giving away that lucky charm to the Boars, which used it to the hilt. And with Robert Jaworski’s final bow as playing coach, Gordon’s Gin won its fourth PBA title, its first in six years, with Bolado in its lineup, now stretching the gentle giant’s championship streak of sorts to seven.
In 1999, Bolado ended up in the San Miguel roster heralded by Danny Ildefonso, Danny Seigle, and Nic Belasco, again winning two titles with the Beermen in the Commissioner’s Cup and the Governors’ Cup, as his fortunate ways has now led to a total nine titles in his cap.
Bolado spent his final years in the PBA as part of the Coca-Cola Tigers, which also benefited from the never-ending on-court luck he brings. Coca-Cola, led by Rafi Reavis and Abarrientos, won the 2002 All-Filipino and the 2003 Reinforced Conference with Bolado in his last season, completing that lucky streak to 11 PBA titles.
After retiring from active pro ball duty, Bolado had appeared in some Filipino movies and also was part of a reality TV program. He spent his hard-toiled earnings in business ventures, one of which was InasalNation that he established in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, where he resided in recent years.
And on Sunday, September 17, we learned of his untimely demise, succumbing from a motorcycle accident on the streets of Phnom Penh. He was 47.
Pinoy basketball fans are surely saddened by this tragedy, as well as his former teammates, coaches, and colleagues, who will always remember him as a great competitor, a good friend, and the lucky charm they all cherished.