Filipino-American Medardo A. Felipe, Sr., 77 years old, passed away on April 11, 2016, but he will be remembered for a long, long time due to a rare distinction he had achieved: He is the first Filipino Olympic basketball referee.
Felipe, fondly called “Papa Butch” by his kin and friends, was a basketball referee in the 1984 Olympics held in Los Angeles, California. He was one of three referees in the game between the U.S. Dream Team headed by Michael Jordan and the Uruguay team, which the U.S. won handily.
Felipe’s wife, Celia (also known as ‘Mama Cel’), recalled that her husband had called a foul on Jordan and slapped a technical foul on U.S. team coach Bobby Knight for excessively complaining about the officiating.
Mama Cel said her husband was also a referee in the Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) tournaments and a player of the Gentex, Crispa and China Bank teams in the MICAA league. With a height of six feet, three inches, he was the No. 1 player of Gentex. He was also invited to try out for the Philippine team.
Later in his basketball career, he became a training referee of the PBA team of San Miguel Corp. (SMC).
His younger brother Lito Felipe remembered that as a basketball player, his brother was noted for his work ethic and dedication to the game. Lito also remembered that when they were growing up in their birth place — La Huerta, Paranaque City – his brother was a hard worker who had always been busy doing something.
His hobby was fishing in the Paranaque River which was still teeming then with aquatic life. He was likewise remembered for joining farmers plant rice and doing backyard gardening.
Mama Cel said that one good character trait of her husband was his calm demeanor which he exhibited even in tense situations. That’s why he was not bothered by basketball fans calling him names while he was officiating, she said.
The Felipe family transferred their residence in 1966 to Gitnang Bayan, San Mateo, Rizal where at one time Papa Butch was elected barangay chairman.
Felipe immigrated to Michigan, U.S. in 1997. His wife, who had worked at the Securities and Exchange Commission, joined him in Michigan a few months later.
Felipe succumbed to leukemia. He died at the Beaumont Hospital in Dearborn, Michigan.Aside from his wife, he is survived by his children – Milo, 57; Crispin, 55; Medardo, Jr., 53; Noli Philip, 49; Cecile, 47; and Marlon, 38 – and 12 grandchildren; and four of his eight siblings — namely, Danny, Belen, Sonia and Lito.