Robert Tamondong bids Saipan adieu

Basketball referee Robert Tamondong, center, is bidding the CNMI adieu today after making the islands his second home since 1991.

Basketball referee Robert Tamondong, center, is bidding the CNMI adieu today after making the islands his second home since 1991. (Mark Rabago)

Basketball referee Robert Tamondong will leave the CNMI today after calling the islands his second home for 30 years.

The 59-year-old from Pangasinan, Philippines first arrived in the Commonwealth in 1991 and originally worked for the Chamorro House Restaurant.

Tamondong, a longtime accountant at Herman’s Bakery, said he is leaving Saipan for greener pastures in neighboring Guam.

Before donning the black and white stripes of basketball’s arbiter, Tamondong actually was a sweet-shooting speedy point guard who won championships in a handful of leagues on island.

“My favorite team was Samahang Ilokano at Pangasinense. We had a great run before, especially when we got that rare three-peat. I really can’t count how many championship I won as a player,” he said.

Unfortunately, his basketball career on island was cut short by a knee injury.

“I decided to become a referee after I ruptured my left knee cap during a game. I’ve gone through rehab, hard training, and attempted to come back, but unfortunately, I couldn’t get myself back to the fitness level I want. That’s the time I decided to quit and become a referee,” he said.

That was 2009 and Tamondong said through the years he has a lot of fond memories being the 11th, 12th, and sometimes even the 13th man on the basketball court as a referee.

“The most memorable game I officiated was Micronesian Basketball Tournament that was held at the Gilbert C. Ada Gymnasium maybe in 2013. I officiated the championship game between Guam and Palau. It was such a good experience and it gave me confidence to officiate at the next and higher level,” he said.

Tamondong also volunteered that being a referee is not an easy job and entails you to have thick skin as not everyone will agree with your calls.

“If you can’t control the game, most likely fights will occur,” he said.

Being a top-level referee also needs a lot of training and a high level of physical fitness.

“You must attend a seminar, do a lot of training, and pass the physical fitness from the national federation,” he said.

Aside from serving as a referee, Tamondong is also proud to have won accolades as a runner and is also an avid cyclist after retiring from his favorite sport of basketball.

“I changed my sports to running and cycling. When I first joined a half marathon I got third place in the 50-and-over category. The following year, I also finished third again,” he said.

When asked what he’ll miss most about life on Saipan, Tamondong said: “What I will miss most are my friends here on Saipan.”

Mark Rabago | Associate Editor
Mark Rabago is the Associate Editor of Saipan Tribune. Contact him at

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