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Time passes so swiftly that the passing of a beloved friend, the eminent lawyer and businessman-sportsman Rodrigo “Rudy” Salud seemed like only yesterday.

We shed tears four years ago and we shed tears today as we remember with fondness and respect a man who was my friend, my mentor and my brother.

The beautiful flowers that surrounded his casket have long since perished but our memories of the man will continue to linger forever.

We would have celebrated 51 years of our friendship today but even though he has passed into the embrace of a loving God, we continue to celebrate the privilege of having known him as a true friend and having benefited immeasurably from his wise counsel and his kind and generous heart.

We learned so much from Rudy because he thought things out almost flawlessly which was one of the many traits I admired in him through the years.

Rudy had a special place in his heart for men – and women – in media. Nobody was too small or too inconsequential for him to call to explain a decision if indeed there was need for clarification.

At the PBA, he did this all the time and that is why he was the darling of the sports media in particular. He found time for the big name columnists as well as for the least amongst the reporters.

Presidents of countries receive what has come to be known as a honeymoon that lasts one hundred days. In the case of Rudy, his honeymoon with the media was forever because it was anchored on the fundamental principle of mutual respect and the noble virtue that Rudy lived by …. that integrity was non-negotiable.

He demonstrated this in the PBA, the World Boxing Council where he was founding secretary general and the man who crafted its constitution and by laws -- just like he did as the first legal counsel of the PBA under his distinguished mentor and first commissioner Leo Prieto.

As his close friend, the late WBC president Don Jose Sulaiman who also referred to Rudy as his mentor noted – “he was one of the most distinguished leaders of the World Boxing Council based on principles, impartiality, perseverance and strong attachment to rules.”

But while Rudy subscribed to rules and regulations he had the wonderful capacity to temper his application of the law with a touch of human justice and compassion.

Rudy took decisive action when officiating in the PBA was regarded as dubious at times resulting in fans staying away and TV ratings taking a downward swing. His first act as commissioner was to terminate 50 percent of the referees, quite a few of them for incompetence. It pained him for sure but he realized that the public interest demanded that officials be men of unsullied integrity and a level of competence that the teams and the fans, more than anyone else, richly deserved.

His love affair with the PBA was driven by his consuming desire to give our people good, wholesome family entertainment at a reasonable price.

Talking of family. Rudy would often tell me what a stabilizing influence his charming wife Pampin was and how much she influenced their children. He loved her just as much as he admired her unshakeable catholic faith.

Rudy was a good and decent man. A loving husband and father.
He was perhaps proudest when he spoke about his sons and daughters, their achievements in life and their success in building wonderful families which he always attributed to the influence of Pampin.

At times we had long discussions about his sons in particular. He was so tremendously proud of them. We often shared our individual assessments of the talent and the sometimes indescribable qualities of Ato.

When we spoke about Chito, the current PBA Commissioner I would always tell Rudy – sorry partner but I think Chito will be an even better PBA Commissioner than you. He agreed wholeheartedly and told me, that was devoutly to be wished and would make him extremely happy. Well, from what we’ve seen so far, Rudy may not be with us but his happiness will soon be real because Chito is well on his way to emulating his eminent father.

Dr. Arnold is the quiet one in many respects. But to Rudy, Arnold was the greatest eye specialist in the world. Trouble is, just as he believed in Arnold’s brilliance he actually saddled him I think with the laser treatment of one media friend after another. Either Rudy bore the financial burden – which to him was never a burden -- or Arnold bore the cost of his beloved father’s generosity.

Rudy Salud will be best remembered for his remarkable relationship with the sports media whom he considered partners and friends in bringing PBA entertainment to millions of Filipinos across the nation.

He embraced the concept of Leo Prieto that for the PBA to succeed, media would have to play a crucial role. He followed that creed until the end. Rudy would often say that the writings of the sports media gave him the greatest satisfaction. Whether he agreed with the views of a columnist or not was immaterial. He believed that their comments were sincere and they bore malice towards no one. He was kind and generous to the members of media to a fault but Rudy always drove home the point – in his words – that if you help somebody when he or she needs help – that is the Christian way and you never remember or recall what you did, but remind yourself of what you may have failed to do.

Rudy was proud of the innate skill and courage of fighters like Manny Pacquiao, Nonito Donaire, Gerry Penalosa and Z “The Dream” Gorres among others. His heart was filled with pride and joy every time they fought and won.

He believed that the Filipino was second to none and despite all its shortcomings, this beloved land was infinitely better than most people thought it was.

Rudy Salud was a man steeped in the values and virtues of a true Filipino. There was a sense of unquestioned nobility about the man who thought us to develop friendships and cast aside anger or bitterness even against those who may have wronged you. His line was friendships should be reinforced – bitterness should be buried.

And as we eventually buried this quintessential Filipino some four years ago we will never bury the many lessons he taught all of us by the sheer example of how he lived his life.

In the twilight of our years we can say with unbridled pride that it was my privilege to know a Filipino of epic dimensions who will have walked – we are certain – into the embrace of a loving God in the heavens above.

We remember you beloved friend, mentor and brother for all you’ve done for us and many others like us, not just for today, but forever and a day.

God bless you Rudy. We miss you terribly.

Photo: Lawyer and sportsman Rudy Salud (L) with the author.

Click here to view a list of other articles written by Ronnie Nathanielsz.

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