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)