One of the best ever

The Philippine Star - - SPORTS - By JOAQUIN M. HEN­SON

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.

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