PBA celebrates Season of Joy

SPORTING CHANCE - Joaquin M. Henson - The Philippine Star

It was during a recent PBA Board of Governors meeting where vice chairman Bobby Rosales of Terrafirma came up with the idea of calling the holidays a “Season of Joy,” recognizing the efforts of Quezon City Mayor Joy Belmonte in allowing the league to revive games at the Smart Araneta Coliseum and opening the gates to a live audience under IATF guidelines.

PBA commissioner Willie Marcial himself paid a courtesy call on Mayor Joy at City Hall two weeks ago to personally express the Board’s gratitude for her support. Marcial recalled that he first met Mayor Joy when she was still Vice Mayor at a PBA Fun Run years ago and knew she’s a PBA fan. “Alam ni Mayor kung ano yung Manila Clasico, updated siya sa PBA,” he said. “Sabi ni Mayor, full support siya sa PBA.”

Marcial invited Mayor Joy to attend the Manila Clasico game at the Big Dome last Christmas Day but she begged off due to previous commitments. Instead, she was represented by Councilor Irene Belmonte, wife of Mayor Joy’s first cousin Vincent. Councilor Irene, accompanied by Marcial, made the ceremonial tip-off before the Magnolia-Barangay Ginebra game. “Ang sipag ni Mayor Joy, tuloy-tuloy mga meetings niya at todo-todo ang kampanya for vaccination at tulong sa mga taga-QC,” said Marcial. “Si Councilor Irene, masipag din at matulungin kagaya ni Mayor. Honored kami sa PBA na nakapunta siya sa Manila Clasico.”

Marcial said IATF put a limit of 50 percent capacity for a live audience to witness a sporting event but the PBA set a ceiling of a little more than 4,000 tickets for sale every game day with the general admission blacked out. Araneta has a ticket capacity of about 18,000. On Christmas morning, Araneta staff asked Marcial if the PBA would agree to open up the general admission because of the long lines at the ticket booth. “’Di kami prepared at walang marshals, walang markers sa upuan for social distancing so ‘di namin pinabukas,” said Marcial. “Priority natin ay safety kaya pagaaralan namin muna mga protocols in case close to 50 percent capacity na tayo.” The Christmas Day doubleheader brought in a crowd of over 4,800 which was a sellout.

Marcial said the PBA has a lot to thank for this Season of Joy. First, a second conference has rolled out, the first since 2019. Second, the games are back at Araneta. Third, a live audience is enjoying the action once more. Fourth, there has been no positive testing of anyone involved in the PBA since the start of the Governors Cup last Dec. 8. And finally, it’s 100 percent vaccination for players, coaches and staff. The final non-vaxxed holdout Rafi Reavis of Magnolia has gotten his Johnson & Johnson jab in the US and will fly in to quarantine then rejoin the Hotshots in a few weeks.

Marcial said he’s hoping everyone takes care during the holiday break so the record of zero positive stays intact. Players, coaches and staff will return from the break for RT-PCR testing on Monday, Jan. 3 before the resumption of the games on Jan. 5. “Ang pakiusap ko sa lahat ay huwag magpabaya, patuloy tayo mag-ingat, mag-suot ng face mask, mag-hugas ng mga kamay lagi at mag-social distancing,” said Marcial. “Sana, ituloy natin ang Season of Joy sa 2022.”


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