Coming from the Philippines, one of my favorite sports is basketball. Basketball in the Philippines is as crazy as football is to South America and Europe. So when I learned in 2010 that thereâ€™s a new league of basketball for this region - Southeast Asia - I was so cheerful and followed almost every game. I was already working in Thailand during that time and, if given the opportunity, I would come to watch the games live.
The intensity of the league is very captivating, because even if it is a club versus club ballgame, the countryâ€™s pride is still at stake. I automatically became a fan of Philippine Patriots then, supporting and watching their games.
Because of ABL, we basketball fans were so delighted. It means Iâ€™ll have a break from watching the Premier League and La Liga, and watch my favorite sport, which is not so common here in Thailand.
The arrival of the 2012 season of ABL became more interesting as there were teams that have been added. And when I learned who the players of the new team from the Philippines, San Miguel Beermen, were I switched from being a fan of Patriots to a San Miguel fan. I kept on watching their games on ESPN and sometimes at the Thai-Japanese stadium here in Bangkok.
As an avid ABL fan, I also participated in the discussions on the Official ABL Facebook page, interacting with fellow basketball fans in this region. The page actually added excitement and a sense of competition and spirit.
As the season came to a close and the games reached the playoffs stage, I was really hoping that my favorite team, the San Miguel Beermen can make it to the finals. So when I learned that they beat the Westports Malaysia Dragons in the semifinals, I was so happy.
And yet what made me happier was that ABL had chosen me to be the lucky fan to watch the game live in Indonesia. I was given the chance to watch Game 2 of the finals with a friend at the Mahaka Square in Jakarta, Indonesia.
The San Miguel Beermen had already won Game 1 so there I was, hoping for a sweep so that I could experience a championship celebration too.
I was so excited. I departed Bangkok together with a friend and proceeded to Jakarta, courtesy of ABL. So here I am excited to watch my team play live. And hoping they beat the Warriors.
We arrived at Jakarta at around 1am and we were picked up from the airport and taken straight to our hotel provided by ABL. The hotel was luxurious, a 5-star hotel where my favorite team is also housed- a thousand thanks to ABL.
After a good nightâ€™s rest we headed for the buffet breakfast and met the players there. I also saw the Beermen's head coach Bobby Parks and Coach Rajko Toroman, Philippineâ€™s former national coach. We took photos and had a little chat with them. It was a great privilege, as a fan, to actually meet those guys. Since we lived under one roof, we always bumped into the players in the lobby, in the elevator, and hallways. Froilan Baguion, San Miguelâ€™s star point guard really took time in talking to us and entertained us-a very down to earth professional basketball player.
After lunch we headed to the BritAma arena.Â After our liaison officer gave us our first class tickets, we immediately went in and watched the players during their warm up.
Finally the game started. We were quite nervous as we were really hoping for a San Miguel win. The crowd in the arena was so noisy. Indonesiaâ€™s crowd really supported their team well. There were loud cheers, drums and horns.
During the first quarter, it was a close fight. But as the game progressed, the Warriorsâ€™ lead became bigger and bigger. Then Brock and Pringle couldnâ€™t be stopped anymore. So instead of celebrating in Jakarta, there will be another game, this time in the Philippines. And whoever wins that game will be the champions.
Although sad that my team didnâ€™t win, at the same time, I was really grateful and glad to be able to experience an ABL final. The experience was really unforgettable.
We explored the city of Jakarta that night after the game as our time was limited. We were leaving the next day. We enjoyed our stay in Jakarta. We were able to explore the city and try local dishes.
The next day, inevitably, was the time to go home. As we packed our things and waited for our driver to take us to the airport, I felt so pleased and so thankful for the wonderful, memorable experience that ABL had given unto us. We even had the opportunity to say good bye to some of the players and wished them luck for next weekâ€™s game.
* Text and photos courtesy of Regin S. Reyno