Manila Vanilla

What it's like to be a U.S. Fulbright scholar, basketball player, journalist, and the whitest man in Metro Manila.

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Location: Quezon City, Metro Manila, Philippines

New Yorker by birth, shipped across the globe to the world of malls, shanty-towns, patronage, corruption, basketball and a curious burnt-toast smell that wafts around at dusk

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Free Donbel (They did!)

Quinito Henson's Sunday column heralding the opening of the PBA's 35th season reads like a fairly rote list of transactions and announcements for the upcoming season. But a close reading reveals some fabulous laugh lines. Since I'm a terrible blogger, let the fact that I'm actually posting something about the new season be an indication of how excited I am. And I'm 8,000 miles away.

Anyway, more than any other line in Quinito's piece, this one killed me. It made me chortle a fine mist of Diet Coke on my keyboard and it broke my heart at the same time:
In the transition, several veterans were left by the wayside. Gone from the PBA are the likes of ... Topex Robinson (reportedly playing in Masbate).
What? A PBA without Topex? I guess after Purefoods re-acquired Paul Artadi, they decided they didn't need two non-shooting midget point guards in their lineup. But it's simply criminal that no one signed Topex as a backup. He was a solid ball pressure/change-the-tempo backup PG, not to mention his nickname is an acne cream! Did James Yap put the kybosh on him because of his well-chronicled love of Vicky Belo facial products? Now where will we find a 5-foot-6 guy to miraculously corral 3-5 rebounds in 15 minutes per game?

But the truly bizarre thing about the Topex line is the mysterious, almost cryptic "playing in Masbate" line. What's he doing there? He's from Olongapo! Is he playing as an import in an Interbarangay tournament in Masbate City? Is he playing as a local? Seriously, he couldn't play for a Liga Pilipinas team? Did he join the rodeo? It's only eight months until an election, I hope he gets out of there before the trigger-happy Masbateños start licking shots.

Topex, I want you back in the PBA where you belong. I remember I saw you the first time I visited a PBA practice, with Red Bull in 2005. You came over and said what's up to me right away. Maybe because you thought I was the new import. But anyway, I appreciated your kindness. I hope somebody brings you back, or that you set new records in bull-riding.

Then there's this line:
Barako and Coca-Cola are the teams with the most veteran recruits. The Bulls picked up Aris Dimaunahan, Chad Alonzo, Gilbert Lao, Aljamal and Donbel Belano.
Hallelujah! Donbel Belano is finally free from the Talk-N-Text reserve list. Let's hope the only man to ever log a quadruple double (points, assists, rebounds, steals) in the MBA still has some game left in his tank. The Phone Pals/Tropang Texters/whatever-the-hell-they-go-by-nows have been hording reserve talent for years, guys like Belano and Jonathan de Guzman who would be a joy to watch on some of the league's low-budget teams. Finally, Belano is free to share his swashbuckling, sidestepping talents with PBA fans again. (Sadly, there's a decent chance he made more money wasting away as a TNT practice dummy.) The last time he got to play consistently was during the 2007 import conference, when Jimmy Alapag left TNT to play for the national team. And Donbel tore it up! He was one toilet-bowl in-and-out miss from pulling a Rudy Distrito (not that kind of Rudy Distrito!) in the last minute of game seven of the Finals that year. If his last-minute shot went down after rattling around the rim, Alaska might have lost. He's playing on Barako Bull with the rest of the blue-light special all-stars, budget-salaried journeymen from every corner of Philippine basketball, not to mention Alex Crisano in all his tattooed, Rodmanesque glory.

One more line, the buried/misleading sports news item of the year. When Henson mentions the upcoming game between Burger King -- the team that made Japeth Aguilar the #1 draft pick in August, only to almost lose him to the Smart Gilas national team, then get him back two days before the season began by basically threatening to permanently blacklist Aguilar from the PBA -- and Smart Gilas. Here's the line:
Fans are expected to come out in droves to witness Aguilar’s transformation from a Smart-Gilas anchor to a Burger King rookie.
That's certainly one way of looking at it. If I were in the country, I'd be hoping to witness BK coach Yeng Guiao plant an elbow in Chris Tiu's neck, then send a band of his henchmen from the Thug Life Bar at SM Pampanga to make parol -- Christmas lanterns -- out of Gilas coach Rajko Toroman's bones.

Have a great season guys. I'd give anything to be there.


Anonymous curveball said...

thank you for making that kind comment about Jonathan De Guzman. He's back with the Tropang Texters, but not as a practice player. I think he's the teams 3rd string point guard.

12:19 AM  
Blogger RafeBoogs said...

I hope the word about JoNats is true. I was his teammate in a tournament in Boracay nung 2006. Great guy and he deserves a shot.

1:05 AM  

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