Monday, March 17, 2008

Hoopla from Manila, Grand Reunion of PBA Greats

Team coverage by photographers:Albert Vargas, Nic Arriola, Jerry Ubalde, Art Santos, Benny Uy, Philip Ner, and Ver Penaranda

March 15 2008. Cal State Dominguez is a sprawling university in Dominguez Hills, Carson city, Southern California. Right off the 91 freeway and relatively close to the Pacific ocean, the gymnasium in this school was the site for the 1st Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) Grand Reunion tour in the USA.

The PBA Legends USA Foundation is the brain child of Abe King Jr(CEO), backed up by powerful help from Rey Santos (VP), Rufino Ignacio (Secty/Treas) and other fellow cagers like Senator Bobby Jaworski. These men of vision saw the potential of uniting the global Filipino and helping the less fortunate thru their passion which is basketball. The main objective of this unity is to raise funds for educational needs via scholarships, donate computers, provide medical/dental missions for the less fortunate Filipinos in the homeland. Another goal would be to assist the hard up PBA players (past and present) who have fallen to hard times.

Abe King Jr is a big man with a giant heart. He currently stays in the USA and reminisces about the times when newly arrived from the Philippines, he worked late shifts at a convenience store so he could support the family. Kind of like all of us willing to take on any job in America just to get started. His positivity migrates to people around him making him the hub of a fun group.

Definitely, this PBA presentation intends to entertain Filipino Americans who remember the good old days, being glued to that TV set watching the games. Times when you cheered your favorite PBA heroes to make that 3point shot to even the game or drive in with that basketball to lay the winning shot. Although life was hard in the old country, those PBA games made it easier to tolerate. Something to look forward to.

Time flew by and your PBA heroes retired and moved on to different lives. Some became celebrities, politicians, and businessmen. Some just dropped out not to be heard of again until now. Others immigrated to other countries like America.

This is a list of PBA Legend players and where they are currently based:

RP-BASED PLAYERS: Ramon Fernandez, Philip Cezar, Atoy Co, Bogs Adornado, Manny Paner, Manny Victorino, Hector Calma, Alvin Patrimonio, Allan Caidic, Jojo Lastimosa, Ronnie Magsanoc, Gerry Esplana, Bong Alvarez, Vergel Meneses, Dindo Umaren, Johnny Abarrientos, Olsen Racela, Jerry Codinera, Art DeLa Cruz, Sonny Cabatu

U.S. BASED PLAYERS: Francis Arnaiz, Abe King Jr., Abet Guidaben, Bernie Fabiosa, Estoy Estrada, Yoyoy Villamin, Big Boy Reynoso, Rudolf Kutch, Marte Saldana, Ricardo Brown, Onchie DeLa Cruz, Tim Coloso, Cris Bade, Dennis Abbatuan, Noni Robles, Allan De Los Reyes, Etok Lobo, Yves Dignadice, Elmer Lago, Bokyo Lauchengco, Jun Jabar

R.P. BASED COACHES: Virgilio Dalupan, Danny Florencio, Robert Jaworski, Rino Salazar

U.S. BASED COACHES: Oni Padilla, Jun Paguinto, Django Rivera, Peter Aguilar, Romy DeLa Rosa, Naning Valenciano, Boy Valera, Anthony Dasalla, Rey Yncierto, Jerome Cueto, Jose Francisco, Robert Concepcion, Ricardo J Cleofas, Danilo Basilan


11:00AM was the official start time for the festivities. Tickets were at $20/bleachers and $40/ringside. Attendance towards the end of the event topped 3,000 people.

Abet Guidaben being interviewed by John Lacson

The actual legends game itself would take place a little bit later on. Meanwhile, visitors started arriving as early as 10AM hoping to catch a glimpse of their PBA idols. ABET GUIDABEN, BONG ADORNADO, YOYOY VILLAMIN, ALVIN PATRIMONIO, JOJO LASTIMOSA, and more players started the autograph signing. Set up at a long table close to the locker room, these celebrities patiently took their time in posing with fans, signing T-shirts and basketballs. Through out these event, the flash of digital cameras capturing photos of regular Fil-Ams with their tall PBA idols was ongoing.

Refreshments were served by the gate at the concession stands. The media station located by the entrance door sold basketballs for visitors who wanted to take advantage of this once in a lifetime opportunity to have signatures on these balls from the players.

Like all Filipino-American events, this PBA happening was an opportunity for the local pinoys to get away from a boring week-end and spend time with kababayans, hoping to shake hands and have their photos taken with their sports heroes, past and present.

There were some pre-main event activities. One of which was a one on one three point shot duel between visitors and PBA legends. Surprisingly, this contest was won by guest Philip J Marte against Jojo Lastimosa. Score was 19-18. Close score which just goes to show how basketball can be anyone’s passion.

The actual main event itself kicked off about 3:00PM. The two teams represented Martin Purefood (Red team) and Ohana Harbor Coffee(white team). The players were introduced. The teams were a mix of both RP and USA based players.

Here is the first five line-up for both teams.

MARTIN PUREFOOD/Red Team - Fabioso, Guidaben, Cesar, Co, Adornado

OHANA HARBOR COFFEE/White Team - Arnaiz, Coloso, Paner, King, Fernandez

True to form playing comedian, Atoy Co(red team) jokingly complained from the very beginning that there were more players at the white team. He tried to obtain compassion from the crowd who just laughed at his antics. Atoy, by nature, is so full of energy in such a funny way that everyone loves him.

1st quarter score Red 24 -White 16
After the first 5minutes of the game, it seemed that time and age had indeed caught up with our heroes. The effort put in playing full court basketball showed in their breathing and body language. Stooped over trying to regain wind, some players realized they should have exercise more to get back in shape for this legends reunion. However, as the game progressed, they regained the skill of pacing themselves and managed to avoid more air balls. White team started slow and barely making their shots. a couple of missed lay ups. Red team did better, making their shots and controlling the game.

2nd quarter score Red 48- White 43
White team shooting better and keeping within winning distance from the Red team. However Red team point guard RONNIE MAGSANOC’S superb ball handling keeps the white team at bay.

Half Time
One on One Rivalries (2 minute pick up basketball)
Arnaiz VS Fabiosa - Fabiosa wins 3-0
King Vs Cesar - Cesar wins 5-2
Cesar Vs Fernandez- Even score 0-0

3rd Quarter score Red 80 - White 69
Red team stretches the lead with better shooting and passing.

4th quarter score Red 104 - White 100
White team close to catching up with Red Team. ATOY CO and couple team mates posing for pictures in the middle of court while game still going on. Audience cracks up laughing while referee pretends to get mad.

END SCORE: Red Team 104 - White Team 100

The event winds down about 5:30PM with group pictures of the teams taken by photo journalists at the media station.

Going back to ABE KING JR. Projected funds generated by this event to assist the needy would be between $20-30 thousand. Depending upon the success of the USA tour, he hopes to take the show to Europe. Maybe Italy or England where there is an influx of Filipinos. Most likely the East Coast sometime next year. He hopes to expand the genre of PBA players from the baby boom to the present batch of players.

Atoy Ko and teammates at the PBA Legends Tour

The PBA Legends is like a fraternity. Composed of talent who knew each other well and quite happy to renew the friendships. There are Filipinos overseas who thru the actions of this group, might take it upon themselves to help our poorer countrymen. The example set up by such a group proves that the Philippines is not forgotten. There will always be that link which says, “You can’t deny your roots. Embrace it. Meanwhile.. lets play ball!”

Written by: John F Lacson
photo coverage by Benny Uy, Albert Vargas, Ver Penaranda, Nic Arriola