Rise a Knight

Rise a Knight

Rizal Aquatics Center

September 5, 2018

“The darker the night, the brighter the stars.”

Oh life.

We will never know what will happen to us and what life we will end up having. Only the One above knows. Who would have thought that Yan Lariba, an Olympian and at her peak, would pass away at the very young age of 23 due to Leukemia? And just recently, we learned of this terrible news that Letran’s Jerrick Balanza, 21 years old, was out of the season due to a brain tumor. That is truly a sad news. According to Fr. Vic Calvo, OP, Letran’s athletic moderator and representative to the NCAA Management Committee, Balanza will need to undergo operation immediately to remove that tumor found on the temporal lobe of the brain. It is a devastating development not just for the Knights, who will lose one of their pillars of strength, but also Balanza as a person.

What is a temporal lobe? According to Google, it is one of the four major lobes of the cerebral cortex in the brain of mammals and is located behind your ears and extends to both sides of the brain. Its functions are memory, sensory input, language, emotion and comprehension. We will not go deeper into it but I hope you get the meaning. Tumors, if left unchecked, could turn out cancerous. We hope and pray that it doesn’t go to that.

Who is Jerrick Balanza? He’s a former Batang Gilas who played high school basketball for the Squires, showed love and loyalty to his alma mater by choosing the Knights. He could’ve gone somewhere. But he stayed. That’s a quality that is rare these days especially now that most, not all, kids use big money as one of the biggest reasons in choosing a school. As a player, he’s a Letran starter and could emerge as a star in the near future. As a person, he seemed mild-mannered. Never really knew him but the one time I talked to him, which was in the Season 94 presser at the MOA Arena early July, it was a very brief one. And it went like this: Me: Hi Jerrick. You will be one of Letran’s Big Three this season. What can you say? Him: (Just Smiled). The end. But reading between the lines, he’s a little bit shy, unassuming. And he seemed a kind person. I’ve been in the profession for so long now I can sense who are the braggarts, the assholes and the good ones. And Balanza belongs to the third type.

Here’s Balanza’s words:

Arriba to my fellow Letranites and to all our friends and supporters!

It is with a heavy heart that I share with you this news: Recently, I have been diagnosed with a brain tumor and will have to undergo surgery as soon as possible.

This doubly saddens me because I will no longer be able to continue playing for the Knights, this NCAA Season 94.

I am very thankful for the support of my school – the Dominican priests, the lay officials, and the people who have showed love and care, including those on social media. It motivates me to keep faith, to be brave, to overcome this current challenge in my life.

I am filled with the Arriba Spirit: raising my prayers to God, asking Him to raise my body and soul in healing, and lifting the morale of our Letran community. As our coaches always say: Never give up! Never give in!

I am grateful for those who are helping me, spiritually, financially, morally. My only request is for everyone – especially my fellow Letranites – to pray for me, to pray with me, for my healing and recovery and return to active play.

I am very happy, despite the challenges, especially to have my Alma Mater, Letran, the school whose name I have carried since high school, backing me up, encouraging me to get well, to have a speedy recovery. I will always remember this moment.

Salamat po, mahal kong Letran! Sobrang sarap maging Letranista! Siempre Arriba!




Letran Knights

Going back to the operation, Fr. Vic said the operation should cost around P800,000 minimum. Thanks to a very generous neuro-surgeon, Dr. Manuel Mariano, who happens to be a Letran alumnus and an outstanding alumnus awardee at that, the bill was reduced to P500,000. But that’s still a lot. And Letran doesn’t have money that big to shoulder all the bills. This is where we come in. Not just the Letran alumni and community, but us as human beings. I know there are generous people out there. Let us help this guy may it be in prayers or in the form of money or just by spreading the news that this person needs help.

Again, let’s help Jerrick Balanza.

To close, I would like to share to you this quote from a movie I watched a long time ago. It is titled Kingdom of Heaven. And it’s for Jerrick Balanza.

“Be without fear in the face of your enemies. Be brave and upright, that God may love thee. Speak the truth always, even if it leads to your death. Safeguard the helpless and do no wrong; that is your oath. And that is so you remember it. Rise a Knight, rise a knight!”—Godfrey of Ibelin

Follow me on Twitter @JoeySVillar


(Photo culled from Balanza’s Twitter account @Iamjerrick07)


Logistically Creamy

Logistically Creamy

Capitol Commons

July 28, 2018

Before I start, I would like to greet my wife a happy “monthsary.” We wish us more happiness, blessings and good health. I love you with all my heart. Our son loves you with all his heart too. I know its high-schoolish, but that’s how we roll.

And now that I have gotten it all out of my system, let’s start.

They say dreaming is free. We can all dream of winning the lottery or travel the world. Do it, we can and without a cost. Even though there’s 0.000000001 chance it may happen, just do it. It’s God’s gift to mankind. Just like hope.

Today, I decided to exercise that gift. I’m not dreaming of a white Christmas but of a volleyball match pitting Creamline, the Premier Volleyball League champion, and F2, the recently-crowned Phl Superliga titlist. No imports. Just all-Filipino. If you’re a volleyball fan, why would you not want it?


I mean consider the match up.



Ramil de Jesus vs Tai Bundit.

Kim Fajardo vs Jia Morado.

Alyssa Valdez vs Ara Galang or Kim Kianna Dy.

Risa Sato vs Abi Marano.

Melissa Gohing vs Dawn Macandili.

Michelle Gumabao vs Mich Morente

Majoy Baron vs Pau Soriano.

Jema Galanza vs Cha Cruz.

Alex Cabanos vs Michelle Cobb.

Withdrawal vs Alleged Theft.

Ooops, erase that one.

Best of the best. I cry just thinking of it. If that’s not a dream match, I don’t know what is. And I would pay to see that happen. It will probably not happen in this lifetime.


You know what, come to think of it, I think it CAN happen.

Only if all these things occur:

–The PVL and PSL agree.

–Creamline and F2 agree.

–ABS-CBN and ESPN5 agree and televise it simultaneously in both networks. Or they could agree to alternate with the showing. For example, assuming it’s a best-of-five or seven, they draw lots with Games One, Three and Five to one and Games Two, Four and Six to the other. Game Seven, if necessary, could be simultaneously aired depending on how the negotiations turn out.

See? It’s possible. But again, its not up to us. And sadly, we can only dream or just leave it to our imagination.



Which do you think will win?

Follow me on Twitter: @JoeySVillar


(Photos courtesy of Tiebreaker Times and Alan Arcero/Alyssa Valdez)

Creamline State Warriors

Creamline State Warriors

Filoil Flying V Centre

July 14, 2018


If you’re an NBA fan, you got to be aware that the Golden State Warriors are the best basketball team in the world today.

Wait, I’m not saying I’m a fan. Sorry to burst your bubble, I’m not. In fact, I still hate Kevin Durant. To the bones. To every fiber of my basketball being. Hated Draymond Green more and Zaza Pachulia most. But hey, it doesn’t mean I don’t recognize their greatness. Even though they destroy the league’s balance and parity, I respect their game. Titles don’t lie.

I mentioned them because the Creamline Cool Smashers reminded me of the Warriors.

You see, Creamline just snared its very first title by sweeping PayMaya to top the Premier Volleyball League Reinforced Conference. It was a dominant effort for Creamline. And like Dub Nation, Cool Nation has also a very deep bench.

While it was an import-laced conference, Creamline was not too reliant on their reinforcements—Kuttika Kaewpin and Laura Schaudt (who replaced Nina Asceric in the semis)—because of its vast arsenal.

Name it.

Alyssa Valdez. The face of Philippine volleyball today and STILL the BEST player in the country. BAR. FREAKING. NONE. Call her Kevin Durant.

Jia Morado. One of the best, if not the best, setters in the country today as evidenced by her spectacular effort in the Finals where she eventually won the Finals MVP. And she played hurt. You should know also that Valdez—the GREATEST player today—called her one of the greatest players in Phl volleyball history. Isn’t that amazing? Or Jia-mazing? Stephen Curry?

Michele Gumabao. She who has practically won everything. From the UAAP for La Salle to the PVL for Pocari Sweat and now Creamline. I mean, Ms. Philippines Globe is beauty and brawn all rolled into one. Klay Thompson?

Melissa Gohing. The Ninja. UAAP and PVL championships. You name it. She’s a floor sweeper. You want room service, she can do it. She’s the heart and soul of Creamline’s floor defense. Andre Iguodala?

Risa Sato. Like Gumabao, the Fil-Japanese star has also won championships with Bali Pure (2017 PVL Open Conference) and National University (2016 and 2017 PVL Collegiate Conference). She was a vital cog in their title run. Draymond Green?

And boy I can’t wait for the Open Conference where I expect them to splash, splash, splash.

Just like the Golden State Warriors.



Myla Pablo of Pocari Sweat is MVP. James Harden?


Follow me on Twitter: @JoeySVillar


(Photo courtesy of June Mendoza of The Philippine STAR)

NCAA Season 94 Preview

NCAA Season 94 Preview

MOA Arena

July 5, 2018


It’s that time of the year again when we have to write something about the much-awaited 94th NCAA basketball tournament, which will start any day now.

As always, we would break down each team on why they will win the title and why they won’t. Only shorter this time since we’re previewing all 10 teams in just one story, unlike last year when we did it in three parts.

Again, we have Madam Auring to make the prediction for us.

So here it is.

Mapua: Cardinal Rule

Allwell Oraeme is probably out of for good. We were hoping the two-time league MVP would come out of his hibernation this year and help the Cardinals regain lost footing. But he didn’t. So while we love the new recruits, it will be a long season for Mapua.

Why it would not win?

The lack of go-to-guy may play a big factor on this. Perhaps it will be Laurenz Paul Victoria’s time to take the cudgels. I mean the guy can score from everywhere. He’s also relentless. But I’m not sure if he can jump into the next level this year. I want him to prove me wrong. The rest, though talented and hardworking, are all role players.

Why it would win?

I love Warren Bonifacio, a rookie out of Mapau’s high school program, staying put to join his alma mater. That speaks highly of his character. I’ve watched the kid, he’s tough as nails. Jasper Selanga is also a prized acquisition. I’m not sure about Noah Lugo, who has returned to the school where he spent high school after a brief, uneventful stint with Lyceum of the Phl U. The guy is uber talented but his conditioning is dragging him down. If he can be disciplined enough to stay in tip top shape, he would be a force to reckon with in this league.

Madam Auring: Atoy Co has stayed as coach. He’s a funny guy and we all love the Fortune Cookie.  He’s a Hall-of-Fame Quotable Coach winner. We hope and pray we see him in the press room more than thrice that we saw him last season.

Perpetual Help: Big Eze

They’ve changed coach with hopes of changing its floundering fortunes. They have some good hires but their best recruit is Frankie Lim, a multi-titled mentor who has steered San Beda to four championships during his time there more than a decade ago. And kudos to Perpetual Help team owner Antonio “Tony” Tamayo for his foresight of tapping Lim.

Why it would not win?

With the exception of Nigerian Prince Eze, AJ Coronel and playing team manager Anton Tamayo, the Altas have lost practically everyone. Keith Pido was supposed to play but he injured his foot and is out of the season. So it would really be hard to be at par with the likes of San Beda and LPU, which both have kept the core of their rosters from last season and added some to further strengthen it. But who knows.

Why it would win?

Frankie Lim. I’m always a believer of a good system. He has it. And the guy has championship pedigree as a player and coach. He could make a monster out Prince Eze, who if he stays healthy, could be an early candidate for MVP.

Madam Auring: “Eze lang kayo, kaya iyan.”


St. Benilde: TY is the Real Tang

Of the last 15 seasons, the Blazers have only one winning season, which came four years ago when they compiled an 11-7 (win-loss) record but finished only fifth. It’s total record during that span was an atrocious 69-173. The last time they made the Final Four was in 2002 when they eventually finished second to San Sebastian. The long Final Four wait could end this year though. They made heads turn in the Filoil Pre-Season Cup where they topped one group and eventually finished fourth overall and second-best NCAA team behind eventual second placer San Beda. This is the year they could end a long, 16-year Final Four drought and perhaps win it all.

Why it would not win?

Inexperience. As I’ve stated, the last time the Blazers made it that far was in 2002. That was way, way back. Without this, it would be real hard to compete against battle-tested San Beda and LPU should they make it to the finals.

Why it would win?

If you had seen CSB play in the summer, they were an entirely different team from last season. Not only did they strengthen their defense, which was its only strength in seasons past, the Blazers have also displayed some scoring prowess thanks to the return of Yankie Haruna from a season-ending shoulder injury, the significant improvement of Cameroonian Clement Leutcheu, Unique Naboa Edward Dixon, JJ Domingo and Kendrix Belgica and the addition of do-it-all forward Justin Gutang and guard Frederick Pasturan. They’re deep in every position. The long season would be a plus because CSB is improving every game, which should be bad news for the rest of the NCAA. Credit all that to TY Tang, who is fast learning the ropes as a coach.

Madam Auring: Remember 2000? CSB’s team that season was never given a chance. You know what happened? They won it all.


EAC: General Hamadou

Coach Ariel Sison told me during last Tuesday’s press conference at the MOA Arena that Laminou Hamadou made his very first full-contact practice the day before after recovering from an ACL injury that sidelined him most of last season. This is good news for a team that needed a rim protector and an inside presence especially that Sydney Onwubere has left.

Why it would not win?

With Onwubere gone, this team needs a leader. So far, we haven’t seen anyone step up. Perhaps it could be Jerome Garcia or Jethro Mendoza. Maybe Jesse Bautista. We don’t know.

Why it would win?

I’m pinning my hopes on the 6-11 Hamadou to dish out an MVP season. If he can do that, maybe the Generals have a chance.

Madam Auring: This could be the Season Sison is waiting for. Or Ariel’s Season. We’ll see.


AU: Chief Problem

Kent Salado isn’t playing. That is bad news for an AU team that is pinning its hopes on perhaps one of the league’s best combo guards.

Why it wouldn’t win?

Salado. Salado is MVP material. Without him, the Chiefs would be hard-pressed to fill his massive void by committee. And that is hard.

Why it would win?

AU coach Jerry Codinera has nice pieces outside Salado. Rence Luis Alcoriza, Michael Canete, Archie Concepcion, Levi dela Cruz and Brylle Meca among them. They could evolve into someone bigger with minutes bound to come aplenty.

Madam Auring: I SMELL an Elie Ongolo Ongolo breakout season.


Letran: First Knight

They say this year’s batch is the best Letran team ever formed since Louie Alas’ time. No disrespect to the 2015 Letran team that defied logic and every basketball reason by beating everyone including import-laced San Beda. No one (with the exception of Aldin Ayo and Fr. Vic Calvo) expected that Aldin Ayo team to make it to the Final Four, much more win it. On paper, this Jeff Napa team is tall and locked and loaded. Their “Big Three” will remain Bong Quinto, JP Calvo and Jerrick Balanza (Depending if the kid decides to come out of his shell). Leo Ambohot, barring injuries, should improve from an already head-turning effort a season ago. Same with defense-first Jeremiah Taladua and Alexander Mandreza. And oh, have I mentioned the transferees? Edson Batiller and Fran Yu from University of the East, Christian Fajarito from CSB and Larry Muyang from La Salle. Are you gushing now?

Why it would not win?

Jeff Napa. This is the year that he needed to deliver. He has the material. That will be a lot of pressure for the multi-titled high school coach seeking his first shot at a college crown. Can he handle it? That remains to be seen.

Why it would win?

Jeff Napa. Some nerves in my brain think this is the year Napa could end his his tirle chase. I mean this Letran team is strong. Strong as in championship strong. Ooops. There’s that word.

Madam Auring: Who is Aldin Ayo?


San Sebastian: Stag Party?

After overachieving last year, I was hoping they would be a legit title contender this year. But they lost practically half of their team from a season ago including Ryan Costelo, Jayson David, Renzo Navarro, Alfren Gayosa and Justin Mercado. Imagine if they had stayed.

Why it would not win?

Again, the players they lost are vital cogs to their Final Four finish last year. It’s a massive blow losing them.

Why it would win?

Michael Calisaan, RK Ilagan and Allyn Bulanadi had stayed. And so were Alvin Capobres, JM Calma, Ian Valdez and Michae Are. I’m also a believer of Egay Macaraya, who has won championships in all the leagues he had coached. The only hardware that is not yet in his trophy cabinet is the NCAA. It could arrive in October.

Madam Auring: Don’t let Calisaan ride a motorcycle again. Ever.


Jose Rizal: Bombed out

The Bombers are obviously on a rebuilding phase after losing key players in Tey Tey Teodoro, Ervin Grospe, Abdel Poutuouchi and Abdulwahab Abdulrazak. Vergel Meneses has remained as a coach though. Gio Lasquety too, but not as a player, but as one of Meneses’ assistants.

Why it would not win?

Tough to play in a tournament where the fancied teams have kept the core of the rosters and added some while yours have lost almost everyone.

Why it would win? This will be Jed Mendoza’s team for sure. I expect him to break out this year. Mark dela Virgen and Aaron Bordon should get a big share of the minutes also. Another good news is the return of former NCAA high school MVP Darius Estrella. There is a glimmer of hope for this team.

Madam Auring: Mamimiss ang tigas ni Tey Tey.


LPU: Pillaging, Plundering Pirates

You and I know it will only be a matter of time that these Pirates would finally win the title that eluded them last season. Reigning MVP Jaymar Perez, MJ Ayaay, Mike Nzeusseu and Marcelino twins Jayvee and Jayvee are back and for sure have learned from last year’s heartbreaking experience when they swept the elimination only to get swept by the Lions in the Finals. LPU coach Topex Robinson isn’t the type of person who will say it but I know he and his players are itching exact revenge on San Beda.

Why it would not win?

Will last year’s painful finals defeat be enough to serve as motivation for LPU? If not, that title will remain elusive.

Why it would win?

Have I mentioned that Rhanzelle Yong, that transferee from San Sebastian who is so talented that Calisaan backs him up in high school? He is suiting up for the Pirates this year. I hope injury will not deny us of seeing how good this player is.

Madam Auring: Love wins.


San Beda: Dynastic Reign

The Lions remained the league’s yardstick. And for good measure. They have an intact line up that included Robert Bolick, Javee Mocon, reigning Finals MVP Donald Tankoua, Clint Doliguez, AC Soberano, Franz Abuda and Jose Mari Presbitero. Calvin Oftana is evolving into a consistent contributor. Kenmark Carino too. San Beda has also injected 6-9 Toba Eugene of Nigeria as Arnaud Noah’s replacement after the former had a laudable pre-season. Evan Nelle, that talented guard from its high school program, has also joined the team and will be the Lions’ PG of the future.

Why it would not win?

I have seen Bolick benched in the second half of the title game against Ateneo, And boy, the Lions were blown out without Bolick. It will be shame if this happens in the NCAA.

Why it would win?

This could be the year Bolick, who delayed his PBA dream for one more year to chase another ring, emerges as the league MVP. San Beda will need an MVP Bolick to beat all comers. A non-MVP Bolick could be fatal for the Lions.

Madam Auring: Call him Babes Bolick


Sportsmayosep’s prognosis: Time for the real forecast. Who wouldn’t predict a San Beda-LPU Part Two? They remained the consensus favorites to battle for the crown. The opposing coaches say so. Why would we think otherwise? But again, there could be an Aldin Ayo and a Letran somewhere who came from NOT being given a chance to WINNING it all. As they say, “Bilog ang bola (The Ball is round).”


Follow me on Twitter: @JoeySVillar



(Photo by Rey Nillama)

The Dark, Dark Night

The Dark, Dark Night

Philippine Arena

July 3, 2018

“Everyone knows that if you’ve got a brother, you’re going to fight.” —Liam Gallagher

It was a forgettable Monday night.

You could call it one of the darkest nights in the history of Philippine basketball. Our beloved Gilas Pilipinas getting into an ugly brawl with the visiting Aussies. We lost the game that is already lost even before the fight happened. The game eventually ended up with Australia winning by default against the Philippines, our country.


There will be different opinions I’m sure. One side quick to judge the players, coaches involve in the melee, another just prudent enough to wait for the true stories behind the story to come out before passing judgment. I’m for the latter, the unpopular one.

You see, I’m a basketball player. Not good, never greater. Just an ordinary one loving the game. But I’ve been through battles. I’m saying real fights. I’m talking about fights worse than what happened at the Phl Arena in Bulacan that fateful night. I’m not proud of it. Never was. But most of the fights I got into involved mostly protecting my teammates and stood up for them. Basketball, after all, is brotherhood (Thanks KG). How can you expect your teammates to stand by you if you don’t do it for them?

I have nothing against peaceful people. I hold you in high regard. The likes of Junemar Fajardo, Gabe Norwood and Baser Amer. Classy kind of people. That’s the highest moral ground every one of us should take.

But don’t ask me to vilify the ones involved in the fight.

There are always reasons behind everything.

Consider these:

The Aussies disrespected us the moment they removed the FIBA-approved decal from the court the day before. It is utter disrespect. This is our house. Not theirs. If they think its bothersome, they should have asked first.

You probably don’t know that Australia’s Daniel Kickert SHOVED our player Matthew Wright during warmups. Yes, warmups. Why would he do that?


And, as ignorant as you have decided to become by passing judgment based on emotions and what the world would say to us, you probably know that it was also Kickert who blindsided Roger Pogoy with that homicidal elbow on the neck.

And then bedlam.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t condone it. I believe that everyone involved—players and teams—should be punished. It could be suspension from FIBA. There are always consequences for our actions, in this case, bad.

What I hate about this incident are people who are quick to the trigger to pass judgment. I don’t want to mention names (Google it on and look for it in Twitter), but I lost respect to these players who were NOT on the court when the fracas occurred and yet were the noisiest on social media. You know who you are.

But have you ever asked yourselves, how come some of the classiest and calmest players we’ve grown to know stepped out of their character to join the fight?


I’m leaving it at that.

Because whatever you say, my faith in the team will never waiver. We will be suspended, worse, banned by FIBA. We may even be ridiculed by the world. Fuck them. But unlike you, I’m still for Gilas Pilipinas through thick of thin.

Let me close this piece with this quote:

“I don’t want to die without scars.” –Chuck Palahniuk, Fight Club.

Follow me on Twitter: @JoeySVillar

(Photos courtesy of Joaqui Flores of Tiebreaker Times and Jerome Ascano of Spin.ph)

Sinag Pilipinas

Sinag Pilipinas

Century Park Hotel

June 27, 2018

“It is during our darkest moments that we must focus to see the light.” –Aristotle.

One of my favorite blog topics is volleyball.

It is also a subject matter that polarizes us Filipinos. As we all know, there are great divides in Philippine volleyball. I will not dwell to its specifics but I’ll say there’s a lot of hate as much as love in the sport.

Anyway, my topic on this particular blog is the national women’s volleyball team. It is coached by Shaq delos Santos, who is a proven winner, and composed of the country’s top players from the two leagues.

This is a short blog and I will not make it hard for you by making it long.

Will just post my top 10 opinions about the squad.

10- The Larong Volleyball sa Pilipinas, Inc. (LVPI) was correct in re-forming the team now. It’s better late than never. I have no doubt Peter Cayco has good intention and a visionary. He’s not just looking at the Asian Games but beyond it. I hope they keep the core of this team and inject some young guns.

9- Alyssa Valdez and Jia Morado are NOT out of the national team. They only begged off from seeing action in ongoing Phl Superliga (PSL) Invitational. NOT from national team duties.


8-It is not yet too late to get more players from the Premier Volleyball League (PVL). Maybe after the Asian Games in Indonesia this August. I mean, come on guys. Just like in a buffet, you have an unlimited set of players to choose from—Myla Pablo of Pocari, Grethcel Soltones and Jasmine Nabor of PayMaya, and Risa Sato of Creamline—just to name a few.

7-The LVPI, PVL and PSL must open communication lines. Sit down, talk and lay down the country’s program for the whole year. Compromise. If this happens, I’m sure everyone can work out their schedule and synchronize the LVPI program with the PVL and PSL.

6-Time to hush the hate. Let’s just support the team. You may not like some of them, but still they represent OUR country and will carry OUR flag in the international front. So let’s show them some love.

5-I gush at the prospect of seeing Alyssa Valdez, Jaja Santiago, Kim Fajardo, Dindin Manabat, Aby Marano, Jia Morado and Dawn Macandili play together. This is a dream team. The best of the best.

4-Kudos to ESPN5 for stepping in and supporting LVPI and the national team. We need more of them.

3-Time to make this team in the same mold as basketball’s Gilas Pilipinas. We’ve wasted two years already. The time is now.

2-Speaking of Gilas, we should finally give a name to this team. Heard some suggestions. But the one that rang a bell was from Abac Cordero, our senior reporter at The Philippine STAR. He suggested Sinag Pilipinas. Sinag mean’s light. It wasn’t actually original since it was first used eight years ago when the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas used it for our team that we send in regional events like the Southeast Asian Games and SEABA Championship while using the name Smart Gilas Pilipinas for bigger tournaments. The SBP eventually decided to call it simply Gilas Pilipinas. But I like Sinag Pilipinas. So I hope it sticks.


Let me close this piece with this beautiful verse.

“Let light shine out of the darkness.” –2 Corinthians 4:6

Follow me on Twitter: @JoeySVillar


(Photos courtesy of Tiebreaker Times’ Joaqui Flores and Spin.ph’s Jim Campos)

ALAB ng Puso

ALAB ng Puso

Sta. Rosa, Laguna

May 3, 2018

People, specifically those from Southeast Asia and some parts in China, Hong Kong and Chinese Taipei, easily forget what kind of basketball fanatics the Filipinos are. Our very own San Miguel Alab Pilipinas made sure everyone remembered.

This is proof that basketball is a religion in the Philippines.

And we thank the Alab guys for making the whole country proud. Mabuhay po kayo.

It is the reason I’m sharing this post-championship story I wrote for The Philippine STAR just today. Here goes:

San Miguel Alab Pilipinas completed a memorable journey by beating Mono Vampire of Thailand Wednesday night and reclaiming the ASEAN Basketball League (ABL) title for a country that considers the sport as a religion.

It has also achieved a lot for firsts for vital cogs such as the import duo of Renaldo Balkman and Justin Brownlee, Bobby Ray Parks, Jr. coach Jimmy Alapag and even team owner Charlie Dy.

For Balkman, who averaged 30 points, 13 rebounds and 5.6 assists he highlighted with a 32-point effort in the close out game, it served as his redemption and living up to his promise to Alapag four years ago.

Spurned by the PBA and Filipino fans for his infamous outburst against former San Miguel teammate Arwind Santos five years ago, Balkman has been longing for a return somewhere in the future.

The Puerto Rican got his chance when Alapag remembered the former’s promise that he will play if the latter becomes coach someday.

After a long wait, Balkman’s phone rang.

“It was five years since I last played here in the Philippines. I got a call one day and it’s Jimmy (Alapag) telling me to come play, man. I said I’m on my way,” said Balkman.

And Balkman did just that and teamed up with Brownlee—who helped Brgy. Ginebra win championships in the PBA—in turning Alab into a team in disarray to a rampaging squad that has all the markings of a champion team.

Brownlee, for his part, was a perfect fit for Balkman and Alab as he did not only play selfless basketball, he also brought the winning culture to the squad.

“I just want to win, that’s what I came for,” said Brownlee.

For Parks, he was just tired being called negative things.

“You all have been grilling me about not winning championships. We’re here now. Write about it, tweet it, post it, do whatever you got to do, put a billboard up. We got what we came for,” said Parks, who also took home his second local MVP trophy and his first Finals MVP plum.

He also dedicated it to his late dad, many-time PBA best import Bobby Sr.

“To win the championship is definitely the goal, for him, winning the championship is great,” he said.


For Dy, they couldn’t have done it without the support of San Miguel, who came in when Tanduay backed out in the middle of the season last February, as well as their throngs of supporters including the 5,898 paying patrons that showed up in the deciding Game Five at the Sta. Rosa Multi-Purpose Complex.

“Can’t thank God enough for all the blessings,” said an ecstatic Dy, a former coach turned player agent before taking over the Alab franchise as its president last season.

“I got into basketball by accident almost 40 years ago and became a coach and won championships, but this one is the sweetest since I’ve gone through a lot of challenges and struggles,” said Dy. “I’m so thankful to the SMC (San Miguel Corp.), group of companies, to boss RSA (Ramon S. Ang) and SMC sports director Alfrancis Chua for taking over mid-season and believing in the team.”

Dy also mentioned Hans Sy and SMDC, Nike Phl, Gatorade, The City Club, Froelis Tours, Jersey Haven, Brownlee and Balkman’s agent Sheryl Reyes, Virtual Playground and ABS-CBN

“Of course, the fans also not just here but also those who came to cheer of us in hostile territory abroad. We wouldn’t have done this without all of them,” he added.

Follow me on Twitter: @JoeySVillar


(Photos courtesy of ABL)