The Araneta Center was abuzz yesterday with long lines queuing at the Araneta Coliseum as early as 2pm, for the chance to witness the opening ceremonies and inaugural game of the 2013 PBA Season Philippine Cup between the GlobalPort Batang Pier and the Barangay Ginebra San Miguel Kings.
Truly, yesterday was such a treat for the fans present at the Big Dome as the players from all ten PBA teams were scattered all over the hallway waiting to be called in for the presentation of teams on the hardcourt. This gave fans the opportunity to meet the players, pose with them for pictures, get autographs, and even converse with them. Children and adults alike were giddy as they posed with player after player, sharing rare moments with their cage idols.
A little past half past four in the afternoon, the lights dimmed and the coliseum announcer requested everyone to stand for the Philippine National Anthem. A light, dance, video, and acrobatic show ensued, showcasing the league's different teams. Several fans were made a part of the show, as they unfurled a huge Philippine flag, brought in candles as an 11-year old girl recited a prayer and sang, and stood on court wearing their favorite team colors.
Commissioner Chito Salud addressed the crowd, giving a report about what transpired last season, and what to expect this season, which he dubbed as the "2013 Season of the PBA." He urged the fans to keep supporting the league, and the players to always play hard, with dignity, and respect for each other, and cautioned that he would "weed out" any would-be hooligans who inflict harm and injury on others during games. Then, to everyone's delight, one by one, the beautiful muses for each team were called in.
The lovely ladies did not parade in with the players, but rather met their respective team representatives to the PBA Board of Governors at halfcourt before walking over to their designated spots. Each Governor, except one, made sure to greet his team's muse with a "beso". It was Mikee Romero of GlobalPort who merely shook the hand of his team's muse, Sam Pinto, which left most men in attendance shaking their heads wondering. Anne Curtis was splendid in a blue outfit for the San Mig Coffee Mixers. Other muses were Stephany Stefanowitz (Air 21), Rizzini Alexis Gomez (Alaska), Georgina Wilson (Barangay Ginebra San Miguel), Sophie Albert and the rest of the Artista Academy girls (Meralco), Isabelle Daza (Petron), Camille Guevarra (Rain or Shine), Ciane Xavier (Barako), and Alice Dixson (Talk 'N Text).
Then Pinoy rap group Salbakuta came on the floor to rap the introductions for each team. Players entered the court from different spots in the stands, walking through the aisles right beside the fans, who enjoyed being so close to them. Smoke and music filled the air as the announcer shouted out each name. It was nice to see the players horse around with each other and interact with players from other teams as they stood on the Araneta court. The rookies were visibly in awe of what was happening, smiling as they looked around and took in the scene. Clearly, they were also enjoying the festivities.
The announcer called on the Chairman of the Board of Governors, Robert Non of Barangay Ginebra San Miguel, to formally declare open the 38th Season of the PBA. Mr Non thanked everyone for coming and promised bigger and better things this season. He, of course, took the opportunity to urge on his team's fans, the Barangay Ginebra, to do the "Gi-neb-ra" chant, as the Kings rushed to midcourt and stood around him for a few seconds. He then declared open the 2013 PBA Season as the crowd of almost 19,000 cheered.
As the remains of the opening ceremonies were cleared up, celebrities Bayani Agbayani and Tuesday Vargas kept the crowd entertained with their humor and interaction with fans in the crowd, whom they asked to sing songs. One Alaska fan's nerves got the best of her and she never was able to sing "Dancing Queen", as she said she would.
GlobalPort and Barangay Ginebra San Miguel came in to warm-up. Superstar Gary David entertained the crowd when, during a stretching drill, he started dancing to the tune of Gangnam Style playing in the background. Players from both teams threw out souvenirs to the crowd and, finally, the game was underway.
Barangay Ginebra newcomer LA Tenorio started the game and the Barangay faithful loudly welcomed him during introductions. Rookie Chris Ellis also drew cheers from the crowd, especially whenever he would get the ball for a possible slam dunk, something he is already famous for this early in his career. Rudy Lingganay of GlobalPort scored the first two points for the 2013 PBA Season, but the lead his team had at that point was the only one it would enjoy. Barangay Ginebra went on a tear as Allein Maliksi scored six quick points, ably backed up by Billy Mamaril and Rico Maierhofer. Three pointers by Global Port kept them in the game at the end of one, trailing by just six, 26-20.
In the second quarter, Batang Pier offseason pick-up Willie Miller struggled to keep his team afloat. He made a few baskets, but frequent turnovers forced by the great defense of Barangay Ginebra, which forced Global Port into two or three 24-second violations, caused the lead to expand to sixteen, 55-39, at the half. The Ginebra frontline was thoroughly dominating the Global Port big men, as rookie Keith Jensen came off the bench to immediately produce, and Rudy Hatfield was patrolling the middle and grabbing rebounds.
Things only got worse for Glenn Capacio's team in the third quarter as they could not buy a basket. Capacio went deep into his bench, but could not find any relief. On the other hand, with Tenorio orchestrating and almost everyone else for Barangay Ginebra following his lead, the Kings pulled away even further to lead 86-64 at the end of the third.
David was having one of his worst offensive nights in recent memory, as he struggled to even get his shot off. He was held scoreless until very late in the game, hitting several free throws to finish with only nine points, the first time he did not score in double figures in more than forty games.
The teams went through the motions in the fourth quarter, and GlobalPort made a short run to cut the lead down to just eleven. However, time quickly passed and the game ended with Barangay Ginebra's finishing kick pegging the final score at 110-90, a twenty-point victory in its opening game before a throng of adoring fans.
GlobalPort needs to make adjustments quickly. The pressure of playing in a full house on opening day versus the crowd favorites obviously got to the Batang Pier, but there is obviously room for vast improvement. Jondan Salvador fought bravely underneath the boards, but he needs more muscle from his frontline allies. Angel Raymundo and Rabeh Al-Husseini started last night, but only made their presence felt on occasion. David will not play as terribly as he did last night often, so fans should look for a bounce-back-in-a-big-way game from him coming soon. Miller is still a shot-maker extraordinaire, but as I said in my team-by-team review, there will be an adjustment on how he fits in and works with David. All-in-all, this was not a glamorous debut for the Batang Pier. Nowhere near the team that made the Finals in last year's Philippine Cup, they might struggle for wins.
Barangay Ginebra fans, on the other hand, liked what they saw. Tenorio was adjudged Best Player of the Game even if he only scored two points, since he had nine rebounds and ten assists, playing the point well in only his first game in Ginebra red. Caguioa entertained the crowd, as did Jayjay Helterbrand in limited minutes. Willie Wilson was also his usual reliable self. Everyone, though, was talking about the Ginebra frontline.
While Caguio topscord with 18, Mamaril and Maierhofer had 14 apiece, rookies Jensen and Ellis had 13 and 12, respectively, Hatfield had 11, Kerby Raymundo had 8, and Maliksi finished with 7. Balanced frontline scoring and rebounding spelled instant success for Barangay Ginebra. Dylan Ababou and Elmer Espiritu did not even get a chance to play, and we all know how effective both of them can be. I said that determining the frontline rotation of Barangay Ginebra will be the key on how far they may go. For Coach Siot Tanquincen, it seemed anyone he put in knew what to do and did it pretty well, if not excellently. Let's see how their next few games go, though, before we bring them up to sure title contender status.
In sum, the opening day was a day of celebration, a day for the fans. There was a festive, party atmosphere at the Big Dome yesterday. PBA officials made sure the opening ceremonies were fairly short but entertaining, and there was barely a dull moment the entire time. It's too bad the game was not a close one, but that did little to dampen the spirits of those present, as most of the crowd stayed until the final buzzer. And, of course, Anne Curtis was there. Enough said.
With the mix of talent, old and new, and the unending support of the PBA fans, we are all looking forward to another banner season. O, ano? Habang maaga pa, kampihan na!
You can follow Charlie Cuna on Twitter @Charlie C.
Editor's note: The blogger's views do not represent Yahoo! Southeast Asia's position on the topic or issue being discussed in this post.