My “Commissioner” Forever

Emilio “Jun” Bernardino (November 9, 1947–March 24, 2007)

Jun BernardinoIf you’re a basketball fan, I am sure you have heard of the name Emilio “Jun” Bernardino – the fifth commissioner of the Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) and the longest serving at that. I always see him on TV everytime I watch the PBA games as the TV crew will pan the camera to him and acknowledge him as PBAs commissioner. Never did I know that this man they call “Jun B” will play an important role in my life.

I met Sir Jun when I made a proposal to computerized the Philippine Basketball Association (PBA). Being a PBA fan, I wanted the PBA to be like the National Basketball Association (NBA) in as far as gathering the statistics is concerned. I want the scores and players performance to be available in real time and even as the game progresses. I went to Sir Jun’s office (at the Cuneta Astrodome then) and presented my idea. He simply listens and after my presentation he told me to prepare a formal proposal since he had to present my idea to the board. I remember he told me “I may be the Commissioner but I am only a servant to the Board”.

Sir Jun was very supportive with my idea, he gave me his ideas on how he wanted the system to be. He wanted the system to provide information for the fans to enjoy the game even further and for the teams to use those information to come up with better strategies.

One day, Sir Jun told me that the PBA board wanted me to present my idea. He told me that each team will be sending their I.T. representatives to listen – that made me nervous. I asked Sir Jun if he will be there. He simply said – I like your idea and I believe in you and your plans for the PBA, I have opened the doors for you – what happens next is all up to you. He put his hands on my shoulder and gave it a gentle squeeze and said “You can do it”.

That was enough encouragement for me. The day of of the presentation came. My team and I presented the system to the representative of each team which lasted for like three hours. After the presentation, they told me that they will evaluate everything and will get back to me. After a week or two, Sir Jun informed me that my proposal was approved and the PBA wanted me to work on the project as soon as possible. That gave birth to the PBA’s computerized system called “ASSIST”.

What started out as a professional relationship was slowly turning into a trusting friendship. It took me more than a year to finish the system, and during this time I have to be at the venue everytime there is a game. I will be at Cuneta Astrodome and Araneta Coliseum to watch the game and see how further can we improve this system. And most of the time, I will be seated with Sir Jun at the Commissioners row to watch the game. There was even a time when he asked the TV crew to include me during his PBA TV coverage and to acknowledge me as the one doing the PBA system.

One afternoon while I was checking the PBA system, Sir Jun called me and asked me if I have any plans of sharing my computer knowledge to a bigger audience. He suggested that I produced a TV show about computers since there was none at that time. I told Sir Jun that coming out on TV is not my cup of tea. From that day on, Sir Jun will constantly remind me of his suggestion and I will just say thank you.
He even suggested that we form our own TV production outfit as his way of supporting me – I jokingly suggested the name “JBL Productions Inc.” which stands for J=Jun/Jerry, B=Bernardino, L=Liao, a name he liked a lot. Until after much prodding, I finally told Sir Jun that I will try. He was so happy then and he told me to come up with a concept paper and submit it to Mr. Bobong Velez for VTV 13 then. I did exactly what Sir Jun told me. Unfortunately at that time, there was no available air-time.

Weeks after I submitted my concept paper to VTV, Sir Jun again asked me for developments. I told him that there was no available airtime and VTV then find a computer show out-of-sync with their programming since VTV was into sports. What Sir Jun did after that really convinced me that he really believes in my talent. Sir Jun called Bobong Velez at once after hearing about the airtime problem and after their conversation – Sir Jun told me that I already have my airtime and I have to produce my pilot episode. This gave birth to the country’s first computer TV show – INFOCHAT.

Yes my friends, outside of my family, Mr. Jun Bernardino was the first person to believe in my talent. Not only did he believe it – he really supported it. And to tell you the truth, with all his help – Sir Jun never asked for anything in return, not even a single favor. Everytime we meet, I will always tell him this – “Without Mr. Jun Bernardino – There is no Jerry Liao”. He will just smile and again say “I simply open the doors for you – what happens next is all up to you.

I did INFOCHAT for 10 years and as much as we don’t see each other as often as before – our closeness and our friendship is always there. I met Sir Jun at Edsa Shangrila Hotel after his hospitalization, and I asked him how he is doing. He said he’s doing fine and he congratulated me for all my achievements and said he knew all along that I will go places. The last time I saw Sir Jun was at St. Luke Hospital during my wife’s treatment. We were at the lobby then and he said he was looking for me because he needed my help for a computerization project. I gave him my new business card and he asked me what I was doing at the hospital then. I told him that my wife was undergoing cancer treatment. You can automatically sense the concern in his eyes and he told me to be strong and have faith in God. He said that he will pray for my wife’s recovery and he will get in touch with me as soon as he finalizes the details of his project. A call he never made, and never will.

March 24, 2007 – my friend passed away at 1:30 a.m. from a heart attack after attending the birthday celebration of another basketball pioneer Moying Martelino. I learned about it March 25 Sunday. I was already in bed watching the late night news when I learned about his passing. I cried knowing what happen to Sir Jun. I prayed to God to take care of my friend in heaven.

To my “Kume” as I always call him – Thank you Sir for supporting me and for believing in me. I will never forget you for as long as I live. Again, I will tell you one last time and to all my readers “That Without Mr. Jun Bernardino – There is no Jerry Liao”. You will always be my “Commissioner”. Rest in peace my dear friend. Until we meet again.

*****

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