Bacolod mayor backs PBA for MassKara Festival

Mayor Alfredo “Albee” Benitez (3rd from right) and PBA Commissioner Willie Marcial (3rd from left) during a press briefing at The Upper East Thursday, signaling the start of the PBA All-Star Weekend Game at the University of St. La Salle (USLS) Coliseum in Bacolod City on March 23 and 24. Joining them are (from left) Deputy Commissioner Eric Castro, players Japeth Aguilar and Mark Barroca, and Coach Jorge Gallent. (Glazyl Y. Masculino Photo)

By Glazyl Y. Masculino

BACOLOD CITY – Mayor Alfredo “Albee” Benitez believes that attracting sporting events such as the Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) All-Star Game will lead to a successful run of this year’s MassKara Festival.

Benitez said the city typically hosts sports tourism events during the first week of the festival. “If we can get the top sporting events during the MassKara season, then we will have a successful festival,” he added.

City officials, led by Benitez, welcomed the PBA delegation headed by Commissioner Willie Marcial at the Bacolod City Government Center (BCGC) last Thursday.

“Welcome to the city of Bacolod. Not only will you bring smiles to the city, but also an exciting game this weekend,” the mayor said.

Benitez mentioned that they plan to coordinate with national sports agencies to help promote sports tourism during the MassKara Festival.

“If we can organize not just national but international sporting events, we will not only have locals but also tourists coming from other countries. If they experience good food and hospitable people, they will have reasons to come back,” he said.

The two-day basketball matches organized by the Balik Yuhum Foundation Inc. (BYFI) will be held at the University of St. La Salle (USLS) Coliseum here on March 23 and 24.

“Exciting times this weekend. Hoping to have a good show,” Benitez stated in a press conference, with Marcia were deputy commissioner Eric Castro, players Japeth Aguilar and Mark Barroca, and coach Jorge Gallent at Megaworld The Upper East.

Aguilar’s team won the PBA All-Star Game in Iloilo province last year, and he said that they would defend their title here.

Despite Team Barroca having a different coach for this game, Aguilar said that they would try their best for a back-to-back win.

Aguilar recalled that it was in 2004 during his Ateneo De Manila University (ADMU) years when he first came here. “Ever since, I’ve been looking forward to going back here,” he said.

He expressed the importance of giving back to the fans and providing them with a good show.

For Barroca, he views this as a special game because they have prepared for it. Through this game, he aims to inspire others.

Gallent, Team Barroca’s coach, believes that Barroca has chosen good, active, and energetic players. “I think we have a good chance of winning this game. We’re going to make it competitive,” he added.

One of the anticipated activities during the weekend’s game is the dance showdown between the two teams to entertain the fans and showcase that they have talents aside from playing basketball.

Meanwhile, Marcial invited Bacolodnons and Negrenses to witness the thrilling game, thanking the city government for the warm welcome extended to the delegation.

On March 23, Team Greats vs. Team Stalwarts will take to the court with a Skills Challenge starting at 3 p.m., while the actual game between the two teams will start at 6:15 p.m. The skills challenge will feature a 3-point shootout among the players.

Team Japhet vs. Team Barroca will face off on March 24 starting at 5 p.m., with Shooting Stars, followed by the Dance Showdown between the teams before the actual game.

Team captains Aguilar and Barroca will be coached by Tim Cone and Gallent, respectively. Team Greats will be coached by Patrick Partosa vs. the Stalwarts under Coach Peter Martin.

Team Barroca will feature Most Valuable Player June Mar Fajardo, along with Negrense baller James Yap, and teammates Jason Perkins, CJ Perez, Robert Bolick, Jio Jalalon, Ian Sangalang, Calvin Abueva, Jayson Castro, Gabe Norwood, Ricci Rivero, Cliff Hodge, Juami Tiongson, and John Pinto.

Team Aguilar will star Christian Standhardinger, accompanied by Scottie Thompson, Paul Lee, Calvin Oftana, Jamie Malonzo, Chris Newsome, Don Trollano, Marcio Lassiter, Arvin Tolentino, Maverick Ahanmisi, Tyler Tio, Stanley Pringle, and Terrence Romeo.

Meanwhile, Benitez noted that sports are a highly sought-after activity the city is promoting. He said the game could motivate people, especially kids, to be more involved in sports rather than in other activities.

“This will encourage people to get into sports and be healthy,” Benitez said.

When asked if this could become a regular event, Benitez said he is open to the idea.