It was an emotional night at the elegant Enderun Atrium in Taguig City; the occasion was the 30th anniversary dinner of the Alaska Aces, and members from every generation had turned out for this once-in-a-lifetime family reunion. Aces past and present had converged to celebrate the milestone, and members of the media jostled for a chance to chat with some of the personalities who had gathered.
Players past and present converged at the Enderun Atrium for the Alaska Aces 30th Anniversary celebration.
“It’s amazing!” said a visibly-elated Sean Chambers. The legendary player, recognized as the greatest import in PBA history, had flown in from the United States to join the festivities. “Being able to come back and see the guys…We went through so much together, the highs and the lows – the highs more than the lows – and we sweat together, we fought for a common goal, and to build that Alaska tradition and legacy is what it was all about.”
“It feels good to see all the present players, all the past players,” said team manager and event organizer Dickie Bachman. “I even tried to bring in the media fro now and the media from before, and fans of before and fans from now, so it’s nice to bring everyone together… Once we called, they all came over. It speaks to the organization we have, and it speaks to the family – the Alaska family.”
Current point guard Jvee Casio said that he was extremely proud to be a part of the family and its history, calling it an honor to be part of something that was going strong after so long, a sentiment shared by fellow Ace and current national team member Calvin Abueva, who said that Alaska was where he learned the importance of pouring his whole heart into his endeavors.
The program proper kicked off with a word from the family’s father himself, Alaska President and CEO Wilfred Uytengsu, who spoke on the legacy of the storied franchise. He led off by citing the impressive figures the team has garnered, including 1606 games played with 879 wins (for a winning percentage of 54.7%), 154 players, 53 imports, 28 Finals appearances, 14 titles won under 9 head coaches, and 6 jerseys retired for posterity. To date, Alaska is the third oldest franchise in the PBA, as well as the third to have scored a Grand Slam by bagging all three league conference titles back in 1996.
The high point of the evening came when when Uytengsu named, in no particular order, the 30 greatest players in Alaska Aces history: Yoyoy Villamin, Willie Pearson, Biboy Ravanes, Boy Cabahug, Paul Alvarez, Rick Rick Marata, Sean Chambers, Eugene Quilban, Jojo Lastimosa, Johnny Abarrientos, Bong Hawkins, Poch Juinio, Jeff Cariaso, Kenneth Duremdes, John Rodney Santos, Devin Davis, Ali Peek, Mike Cortez, Reynel Hugnatan, Sonny Thoss, Willie Miller Jr., Tony dela Cruz, Rosell Ellis, LA Tenorio, Diamon Simpson, Cyrus Baguio, Rob Dozier, Calvin Abueva, Dondon Hontiveros, and Jvee Casio.
Team owner Fred Uytengsu (standing) is all smiles with Head Coach Alex Compton and Grand slam team member Sean Chambers.
Legacy and family were very much the order of the day, as seen in the AVP tribute that took guests on a visual journey of the last three decades, while tradition of another sort was observed when this year’s rookies took center stage with Dubsmash-inspired performances that met with raucous applause. At the end of the evening, two commemorative items were handed out to the enthusiastic attendees in the form of a 30th Anniversary souvenir magazine and a specially-designed cap featuring the names of every player who ever donned the Alaska colors.
“I didn’t think we’d be around 30 years later, and I just want to thank everyone who’s played for Alaska,” Uytengsu told playPH. “We honor them tonight in a couple of ways: one is just the journey, the length of our journey, and the other is having every player who’s ever played for Alaska on that cap to let them know they will always be a part of the family. We want everyone to have their little piece of Alaska history, and for those we had difficulty contacting, 30 years is a long time, so if you’re reading this, if you see it, give us a call, we want to share this souvenir with you.”
The 30th Anniversary dinner was a chance for Aces old and new to reunite and reminisce, while showing their support for the current team.
When asked just what it is that sets the Aces family apart, Grand Slam team member and former assistant coach Jojo Lastimosa, credited Uytengsu for being the team’s moral compass, saying that the core values of teamwork, commitment, dedication and integrity had always come from the top. “From the very first day that I met him, I knew that he was a very black and white kind of guy – there’s no gray area – and I like that. The way he has run the team, we always knew what were getting into, and that we were never going to be shortchanged. He was always going to be expecting a lot from us, to give our everything, to always play with integrity and with heart – that has never changed over the years.”
Strong words, but then, we would expect nothing less from the team that built its reputation on the notion that, “Good enough, never is.”