One of the best ever
PBA commissioner Willie Marcial hesitated to call it the best season-opening program in deference to other inaugural shows that he wasn’t able to watch since the pro league started in 1975 but said last Sunday’s extravaganza had to be one of the best ever.
“I received a lot of texts from people of different backgrounds,” said Marcial the morning after the 44th season reeled off at the Philippine Arena. “Brod Pete, for example, thought it was world-class. ESPN5 did an excellent job of putting up the show. My thanks and congratulations to ESPN5. I recall we had three production meetings where we discussed the details of the program. The execution was impressive.”
Marcial said the whole shebang cost at least P3 Million, maybe even up to P5 Million. Mart Miranda, a production master of light and sound, was the man behind the show. It was the first time that the PBA incorporated the Leo Awards into the opening program which is traditionally highlighted by the parade of teams with a dazzling array of muses.
There were no hitches in the smooth flow of the presentation of the Leo Awards. Videos showing Tony de la Cruz, Johnny Abarrientos and Alvin Patrimonio talking about the awards gave perspective. Spontaneous interviews with awardees were on TV. June Mar Fajardo called in his parents Bonifacio and Maritess to share the moment on stage after he was named MVP for an unprecedented fifth straight year.
The muses didn’t disappoint. They were escorted by their PBA governors to appropriately recognize their presence before the parade began. Magnolia’s Sharon Cuneta set the record of the most senior muse ever at 53 and as expected, got a rousing ovation from the megastar’s legion of fans. It was the second appearance as a muse for Cuneta as she made her debut in the PBA in 1990. Another two-time muse Kylie Verzosa paraded for San Miguel Beer but she waited only three years for the return engagement while Sharon’s interval was 29. Only Blackwater showed up with more than one muse as governor Silliman Sy had both arms busy with Olympic swimmer Jasmine Alkhaldi and volleyball star Myla Pablo.
PBA chairman Ricky Vargas proudly pointed out that among the muses were three female athletes – Alkhaldi and Pablo and for NLEX, volleyball queen Alyssa Valdez. Vargas, concurrently the POC president, said he’s upbeat on women in sports. His optimism is grounded on the fact that female athletes accounted for nearly 70 percent of the country’s medals at the last Asian Games. Hidilyn Diaz of weightlifting, Yuko Saso of golf, Margie Didal of skateboarding, Kiyomi Watanabe of judo and Meggie Ochoa of jiu-jitsu are among the crack Filipina athletes of this generation.
Vargas was bowled over by the spectacle of the opening games. “I’ve come across several people who told me they think it was the best-ever opening program,” he said. “It was very impressive.” Vargas, serving a second straight year as chairman, formally declared the season open in his brief remarks before an audience of 23,711.
Marcial said the opening program and the PBA’s slogan “Laban Kung Laban” topped the trending ladder last Sunday night. “Nakakataba ng puso,” he said. “Everyone worked so hard to make it happen and ESPN5 deserves the credit for producing the show. Congratulations, too, to the PBA Board of Governors, our 12 teams, players, coaches and officers and staff of the PBA. And my thanks to the fans for coming out and following us.”
Marcial said the inaugural game between Ginebra and TNT should’ve started at 6:30 p.m. “The program began about 4:10 p.m. and it continued because the fans wouldn’t let Parokya ni Edgar go,” he said. “It was like a live concert on the side while we cleared the court for the game. This was for the fans so we adjusted the start of the game to 7:15 p.m. We knew from the start, we would experience a delay so ESPN5 made the adjustments in the TV time.”
Marcial said starting tomorrow, Excite Events CEO and PBA head of marketing Gelo Serrano will introduce a variety of “pakulos” to enhance the fans’ experience during live games. Prizes, raffles and interactive features are on top of Serrano’s agenda. The first doubleheader pits Blackwater against NorthPort and Phoenix against Meralco at the Smart Araneta Coliseum tomorrow.