It’s not often that you get to meet your heroes, but in the case of Albay-based basketball fans, it was a dream come true when the Alaska Aces came to town.
With a game set for Saturday, May 20, the Never Quit Squad were scheduled to arrive at the Legazpi International Airport in the afternoon of May 17. While the morning had been blessed with picture-perfect weather, the afternoon was a different story entirely; dark clouds gathered after lunch, giving way to torrential rains that battered the province, delaying the PBA stars’ flight.
As media and fans waited anxiously, the announcement came through that the Aces were finally on their way from Manila. On touchdown, the Aces were swarmed at Arrivals as fans and fellow passengers positioned for selfies and autographs. As the team gathered their luggage, Coach Alex Compton and team captain JVee Casio granted impromptu interviews for the gathered media. From the airport, the Aces visited Ayala Legazpi, for a quick meet and greet session with fans.
The following day showed no trace of the previous evening’s downpour, graces the Aces with a bright and sunny morning as they headed out to Bagumbayan Central Elementary School for a round of community service and educating the kids on proper nutrition. There, surrounded by enthusiastic students and teachers, the Aces applied their trademark teamwork to a school clean-up effort as part of the Brigada Eskwela 2017 program. While the Aces exercised their cleaning skills, the coaching staff hosted a special mini Power Camp for kids to polish their basketball skills.
The event was particularly noteworthy as this was the first out-of-town event for newly-minted Aces import Cory Jefferson, who told PlayPH that it was an honor to be able to bond with his teammates while seeing firsthand what the team meant to people. Later that day, the Aces paid a courtesy call on Albay Governor Al Francis Bichara, who greeted them with a sumptuous lunch.
That evening, the Aces staged a larger meet and greet at the LCC Department store, where fans waited in line patiently for a chance to get autographs and photos with their idols. The local host hyped up the crowd with a trivia game that gave everyone a chance to win exclusive merchandise. As the fans set about immortalizing their moments, everyone’s favorite E. Cow entertained the audience with his antics.
On Saturday, Calvin Abueva arrived in Legazpi, fresh from his Gold-winning effort at the 2017 SEABA Championship with the Gilas Pilipinas National Team. E. Cow himself went out onto the tarmac to greet The Beast’s plane, delighting airport staff, arriving passengers, and Abueva himself, when he saw who was out to meet him. Chants of “A-BUE-VA!” rang out form the passenger greeting area as the Beat steppes out of the terminal. Abueva gave the fans a wave and a big smile before getting into his van.
The Beast was the guest of honor at the Alaska halo-halo festival, which was ongoing at the nearby LCC Mall. Excited fans swarmed around the Ace and Gilas veteran as he went from booth to booth, exploring the different delicacies on offer.
That afternoon, Calvin reunited with the Aces for the first time in weeks, eager to get back on the hard court with his teammates. Their opponents for the evening were the Talk n Text KaTropa, who were debuting their new import, Joshua Smith.
Though the Aces played with heart, they were unable to sustain an early double-digit lead, falling to TNT, 110-119. That night, as the Aces mulled over their loss, they gamely posed for photos with fans who ran into them in them in their hotel lobby. Though the Aces proved ultimately unable to win the game, the enthusiasm, passion, and warmth with which Legazpi, Albay greeted the Alaska Aces won’t soon be forgotten.
After all, it’s not every day you get to meet your heroes.
The Alaska Aces’ next game will be against the NLEX Road Warriors in a must-win scenario to retain a shot at the PBA Commissioner’s Cup.