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A thrill of a lifetime

WHAT would you feel when you have PBA Hall of Famer and four-time Most Valuable Player Alvin Patrimonio, former MVP Kenneth Duremdes and Senator Sonny Angara joining you in a benefit basketball game?

How does it feel passing the ball to The Captain, or him feeding you for a bucket or setting up a screen to free you up from your man? How about Captain Marbel shooting at will and making those buckets with ease?

Isn’t it a joy to watch and see these cage legends take over during crucial moments of the game, like they’ve done a thousand times while playing for their respective teams?

And Senator Angara? Yes, the young Senator can play ball. He has those nifty moves to the basket and despite his busy schedule, has kept himself in shape playing competitive basketball for the Senate Defenders. 

At some point of our lives, everyone wants to be in the company of these gentlemen and for those who played with them or against them on that eventful Tuesday night at the state-of-the-art University of Makati gym, it was a dream come true.

It was a thrill of a lifetime.

I grew up watching Patrimonio and Duremdes and marveled at how they played. It’s not surprising they became some of the greatest players ever in the PBA.

But beyond their gifted skills inside the court, they too, are plain folks just like us. I was able to know them more and fortunate enough to befriend them.

Like many of those who aspired to be in the company of these cage greats, I was also given opportunities either to coach them or compete against them.

I would normally work on the sidelines, chronicling their exploits inside the court and jotting down notes at how they were able to play and compete at the highest level, but on this rare night, I was fortunate to become part of the action coaching Patrimonio—the third time I’ve done such “masquerading” as coach of a basketball team. There was Alvin, back in his competitive nature and sharing the same passion I had that night when I wanted to win so bad for my team, the Judge Juan Luna High School Alumni team.

“Huwag tayong magpapatalo sa kanila, pare,” Alvin would tell the rest of the team.

For each instruction I made, Alvin has been a keen listener. He tried to rally the players as we were down for most part of the game against the Duremdes-led Senate Defenders’ squad that also had, aside from Senator Angara, quite a number of commercial players, including Marlon Legaspi, who played for San Miguel Beer and Shell.

We rallied, chopped down a 24-point deficit to just three right after Patrimonio buried his third straight triple in the final quarter before Duremdes took over at the other end and bailed his team out of trouble.

The final score: 90-83.  At least, the deficit somehow didn’t make me look like a bad coach.

But more than the outcome, it was the significance of the event where the proceeds would be donated to JJLHS to raise additional mono bloc chairs for the graduation rites, that mattered.

It was also this night when we paid tribute to a great Lunarian, The Skywalker Samboy Lim, an alumnus of JJLHS. Samboy’s physical presence wasn’t there as he has been sidelined for several months after falling into a coma, but everyone felt the spirit of this true gentleman of the hard-court. A caricature of Samboy was turned over to Alvin and Kenneth, a symbol of how much we care for JJLHS’s favorite son.

A moment like this is hard to come by and you can’t blame all the people around who had this wonderful experience to savor every moment in the ‘Laro Para Sa Isang Silya.’ We were fortunate to have these great guys— Alvin, Kenneth and Senator Angara —ready to help out for a good cause.   

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