PBA Legend Francis Arnaiz: Quiet Retirement, Life After Basketball

Francis Arnaiz is best remembered as the bosom buddy of former player, coach and Senator Robert Jaworski. The Batman and Robin tandem were best remembered as one of the popular backcourt tandems, at least up to 1986.

It was that same year when Ginebra San Miguel won its very first PBA title against the Manila Beer Brewmasters, clinching the series 4-1 in the 1986 PBA Open Conference. Ginebra was reinforced by imports Billy Ray Bates and Michael Hackett at the time.

Conspicuously absent at the time was Arnaiz who was dealing with an injury at the time. The man also known as “Mr. Clutch” detailed what happened that year.

[L to R] Virgilio Cortez, Francis Arnaiz and Ramon S. Fernandez of the Toyota Comets [Brian Yalung photo collection]
[L to R] Virgilio Cortez, Francis Arnaiz and Ramon S. Fernandez of the Toyota Comets [Brian Yalung photo collection]

“What happened was 1986, that was the first year Gilbeys won a conference right? I remember before the third conference I was injured. So I didn’t play the last conference when we had Michael Hackett and they won,” the 72-year-old said.

The turning point for Francis Arnaiz

The PBA Hall of Famer added that he headed to the United States before that conference. He did a lot of soul-searching and decided it was time to walk away.

“When I was there I said: ‘Tama na.’ My heart wasn’t in the game anymore. It was a chore to wake up every morning and have to play. I said I don’t want to play this way. I don’t want to play half-hearted. Wala na yung puso ko eh. So sabi ko, tama na,” Arnaiz quipped.

Past is past

Did he regret that decision? Arnaiz confidently said that while he enjoyed his time playing competitive basketball, it is a life in the past.

“It’s a life that’s past. I’ve tried to live in the present. The past, wala sa akin yon. Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate that past life,” he explained.

“I love it, of course! I don’t dwell on that and I appreciate it when people come up to me,” Arnaiz added.

Little had been heard of Arnaiz although he kept in touch with some of his teammates. He reached another goal, that of which was to serve the state of California. When he reached the age of 65, the three-time PBA Mythical First Team member retired for good.

Arnaiz’s actual retirement

“The last 20 years, I worked for the state of California. I had other jobs. But when I turned 45 or 50, I said I would work for the state of California. And I did. I made my mark. When I turned 65, I said, tama na. I’m going to enjoy my grandkids now, so I retired. Life is good,” he said.

From beyond the arc to inside the ‘paint’

Now, Arnaiz is spending his time on something different – painting. However, the former PBA player admits that he is nowhere near being a master artist.

“I am nowhere near a master painter. But God has just blessed me with a passion with a desire to put the pencil into the paper. I started this seven years ago. That’s how young I am in this field. Every night before I sleep, I am already thinking what will I paint tomorrow? The next day, 8 hours I’m painting,” he said.

Although he is not a master painter, Arnaiz explains why each stroke of his brush is important.

“In my case in the field of art, I must say the bar is set kinda low. If you want to summarize my work, it’s not really the expertise, being a master getting every stroke well. It’s what the painting is saying to you,” he quipped.

Finally and even in painting, Arnaiz still remembers the things that his former coach taught them.

“I talked about Dante Silverio teaching us perseverance and hard work. That’s all it is. Put in the hours and there is no way but to improve,” the PBA legend stressed.

This November, Arnaiz will be holding his second art exhibit in Manila, Philippines. It will be held at the art gallery of Silverio in Makati.

“On the 29th of November, I’m having an exhibit in the art gallery of Dante Silverio. Dante, he is always there. When he heard I was going to exhibit, he said ‘gawin mo na sa gallery ko.’ This is my second exhibit in Manila. The first one was in 2018.”

In essence, it is safe to say that Francis “Kiko” Arnaiz has gone from beyond the arc to inside the paint.

Brian Yalung

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