May 24, 2024

'City of Smiles talaga': PBA All-Stars get humble, grateful with Bacolod opportunity

The PBA All-Stars created memorable moments with the kids who joined this basketball clinic in Bacolod. | Photo (c) Mei-Lin Lozada/One Sports Digital

It's been 16 years since the PBA All-Stars first went to Bacolod. At that time, the South All-Stars won, with Peter June Simon hailed as Most Valuable Player. 

For current All-Star captains Japeth Aguilar and Mark Barroca, it feels like nostalgia.

Aguilar last went here in 2004 as part of the Ateneo Blue Eagles in the University Games. It was his first flight ever to Bacolod.

"Ever since noon, I was looking forward to going back here in Bacolod and immediately pagkalapag pa lang namin we were greeted by the wonderful people and beautiful people of Bacolod, City of Smiles talaga," Aguilar told reporters.

Of course, he couldn't forget about the food. He came from Pampanga, after all.

"Doon din ako na-expose sa ibang cuisine, I mean Filipino food, like inasal. Ever since, doon na nag-start na sana maka-balik ako dito. After a long while, nakabalik din ulit," the big man shared.

The Unigames were also Mark Barroca's last memory of Bacolod. It was a very fond one.

"Nag-champion kami so ngayon [lang] nakabalik dito," Barroca shared. "Syempre marami rin tayong fans dito na nakikita lang tayo sa TV, syempre gawin namin na mas special para sa kanila."

And it did become special on Friday morning, when they surprised some 90 kids, ranging from eight to 14 years old, attending a basketball clinic inside Barangay Villamonte.

As soon as the PBA players came in, all the kids rushed them for photos and autographs.

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THE KIDS ABSOLUTELY LOVE ‘EM 🏀???🔥 Following the basketball clinic held at the Brgy. Villamonte covered court in Bacolod, PBA stars Calvin Abueva, Gabe Norwood, CJ Perez, and Jio Jalalon took the time to sign some shoes and shirts for the young hoopsters! | via Mei-Lin Lozada/One Sports Digital #OSTimeOut #PBASeason48 #PBAAllStar #PBAAngatAngLaban #SportsonTiktok

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It made a lot of the PBA All-Stars reflect on their career and their impact.

"I'm honored na kilala ako ng mga bata. Naglalaro kami ng basketball to inspire them, 'yung young generation na susunod sa amin. We're excited para sa kanila," said CJ Perez of the San Miguel Beermen.

Jio Jalalon of the Magnolia Chicken Timplados Hotshots shared how it brought up a lot of fond memories being a fan himself in Cagayan de Oro and getting a picture with LA Tenorio.

"Naiisip ko kanina, ganito rin talaga ako dati, 'yung mga bata, lahat sila gustong magpa-sign. Sige lahat isa-sign ko. Bumalik 'yung wala pa ko dito sa PBA, bumabalik yung memories ko, ganyan," he shared. "Sobrang thankful and grateful."

"Galing din kami sa ganyang lugar na nakakakitang isang basketball player. Isa ka sa mga tinitignan ng mga bata," added teammate Ian Sangalang. "Sobrang sarap. 'Yung mga players na pinapanood nila, andito ngayon. Ang saya lang, in time ma-achieve nila sana ang mga gusto nila sa buhay."

"Nakakatuwang makita yung mga bata dito. Parang kailan lang, bata rin kami. Sana 'yung mga batang 'to, maabot nila mga pangarap nila," reflected June Mar Fajardo of the Beermen.

"Dapat tinitignan natin kung saan tayo galing. Swerte nga mga batang 'to na may ganito na."

And that's why for Aguilar and Barroca, it's important to give them a show on Sunday for the All-Star Game.

"'Yun nga very important din ito sa PBA para makapag-give back sa mga fans. Para sa mga bumoto sa amin at least magbigay kami ng magandang show para sa mga fans," Aguilar mused.

"Syempre pinaghandaan namin. Pinaghandaan nga namin nila coach, sabi nga namin na i-treat namin itong game this coming Sunday na parang usual talaga na game, palitan ng galing. I-showcase natin ‘yun para sa mga tao rito," Barroca added.

[ALSO READ: PBA: Mark Barroca reveals factors to make Bacolod All-Star Game extra competitive]

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WATCH: Around 90 young Bacolodnon hoopsters are in attendance for the PBA All-Star Basketball Clinic held at the Brgy. Villamonte covered court today. San Miguel and Brgy. Ginebera's assistant coaches Peter Martin and Patrick Patrosa also mentored in the said event. | via Mei-Lin Lozada/One Sports Digital #OSOnTheSpot #PBASeason48 #PBAAllStar #PBAAngatAngLaban

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This basketball clinic with the kids is just as important than any other events, at least for the PBA.

"'Yun ang number one priority natin, for the kids. Kasi dyan din nagsimula 'yung players. Nakita nila 'yung mga idol nila hanggang paglaki nila, 'di nila makakalimutan 'yung mga ganitong pagkakataon," Marcial said.

"That contact, that even a signature, a photo-op, it's important what their dreams might become is right there in front of them. It's heartwarming," said coach Peter Martin of Team Stalwarts, who led the clinic.

"Madaling turuan! 'Di gaya ng mga matatanda," he joked. "Their willingness to give whatever it takes was there."

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"We're here to inspire them." All-Star players Calvin Abueva, Jio Jalalon, Ian Sangalang, and CJ Perez share thoughts on meeting young hoopsters during the PBA basketball clinic held today in Bacolod. | via Mei-Lin Lozada/One Sports Digital #OSOnTheSpot #PBAAllStar #PBASeason48 #PBAAngatAngLaban

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"Nakakainggit! Kasi nung time na age ko sila, wala naman akong na-experience na ganitong may bumisitang PBA players," chimed in Hotshot Paul Lee. "Nung nakita ko sila, parang natuwa rin ako kasi kahit papano, ako naging inspirasyon sa kanila."

His wish? That a PBA star someday would hail from the city of Bacolod. "It gives me drive para mainspire 'yung mga bata. Nakakatuwa lang, 'di nauubos 'yung mga bata sa Pilipinas na mahilig sa basketball."

(With reports from Mei-Lin Lozada/One Sports Digital)