A year ago, PBA hosted a grand opening at Araneta Coliseum

Published March 8, 2021, 9:14 PM

by Carlo Anolin

Photo from PBA

Exactly a year ago today, March 8, the 2020 PBA Philippine Cup opened with much fanfare at the Araneta Coliseum in Cubao, Quezon City.

The league ushered the lavish ceremony, starting with the 44th Season Leo Awards Night which saw an injured June Mar Fajardo, all smiles riding an electric scooter, crowned as the sixth-time Most Valuable Player.

There was also the opening rites of the 45th season, with the customary parade of teams and dazzling muses creating a vibe of excitement among the people inside the decades-old arena.

The early rematch between 2019 Philippine Cup Finals rivals San Miguel Beermen and the Magnolia Hotshots also rolled on as San Miguel won, 94-78, over Magnolia in what turned out to be the start of the major move of the league calendar.

Several sports scribes covering the PBA, including Manila Bulletin‘s Jonas Terrado and veteran sportscaster Sev Sarmenta took to social media their sentiments a year after the historic event.

Terrado retweeted an old post, showing a not-so-typical sight for the Big Dome as half of the audience seat wasn’t even filled with spectators while performers just finished their routine during the opening ceremonies.

It would be recalled that the Philippines reported the first coronavirus death outside of China on February 1, which was also the second reported case in the country, involving a 44-year-old Chinese man who was admitted to San Lazaro Hospital in Sta. Cruz Manila for pneumonia after suffering fever, cough and sore throat — the known symptoms of the disease.

The Chinese man was a companion of the 38-year-old Chinese woman, who was earlier confirmed as the first case of infection on local shore. Both were from Wuhan and had arrived in the Philippines last January 21.

For Terrado, a long-time PBA sportswriter, one year felt like five years have already passed, recalling a looming danger that may hound the league’s future.

Sarmenta, for his part, posted a photo of him alongside host Rizza Diaz with players all lined up behind them, sans social distancing and face masks, or event mini-bottles of alcohol or hand sanitizers.

This writer was also present during the opening ceremony, pitching in sidebar and light stories as a rookie in Manila Bulletin’s sports section.

Three days after the still-festive opening, the WHO declared a pandemic. A week later, the national government imposed a strict lockdown measure, which is later known as enhanced community quarantine (ECQ).

In essence, ECQ follows the protocols of a lockdown, requiring people to stay at home while several establishments in different industries were forced to close down.

After more than half a year of hiatus, backed up with strict health protocols and guidelines, the PBA successfully held the inaugural bubble season in Pampanga — a continuation of the lone game from March 8 — which saw the Barangay Ginebra San Miguel Kings bag their 13th overall championship after beating the TNT Tropang Giga in a 4-1 Finals duel last December at the Angeles University Foundation Sports and Cultural Center.

Veteran guard LA Tenorio, after 14 years, would capture his first All-Filipino title while coach Tim Cone, a two-time Grand Slam winner, had copped a record-extending 23rd PBA title.

Jeremiah Sevilla, Manila Bulletin’s new recruit contributing to the newly-launched e-sports section, had covered the PBA games live alongside four select sportswriters from different media organizations and the PBA crew.

Terrado, Waylon Galvez, and this writer would later on monitor the matches on-screen to kickstart the new normal for the Philippine media landscape.

Fast forward today, with the arrival of vaccines from world-class pharmaceutical firms and laboratories in the country, the PBA is looking to start its 46th season campaign tentatively in April.

Who knows if the league would hold another bubble, but after the PBA Press Corps virtual awards ceremony held at the TV5 studios in Mandaluyong City, it looks the PBA is leaning on the positives to unfold another historic season.