It seems like relaunching our very own Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) would be difficult in the National Capital Region what with the increasing number of covid 19 cases in the area. If the PBA would really want to continue its interrupted season, I believe the league should start considering a provincial-based program for the country’s premier pay for play league.
Similar to the National Basketball Association’s Disneyland “Bubble” where all participating teams are planned to be tested, housed and secured in that one area to resume their interrupted season, the PBA should probably need to explore a similar outside the box solution to make the season happen.
I believe an area under Modified General Community Quarantine with enough resources (practice and game venues, hotels, hospitals, etc) should do the trick. With this idea in mind, the first place I could think of is Baguio City. The summer capital has done a great job in security and discipline to control the Covid 19 spread in the area. Hon. Mayor Benjamin Magalong and his staff should be given due credit for Baguio’s resiliency at a time of crisis.
Being a major tourist destination, Baguio City has more than enough hotels that would benefit from hosting the PBA and accommodate all 12 PBA teams. Practice and game venues would not be a problem either as the area has some major university gymnasiums the pro teams could use like the St Louis University, the University of Baguio and the University of the Cordilleras gymnasiums. Since the concept is to play games without fans on the stands, smaller gymnasiums would not be an issue. What’s important is the teams get to practice and the games can be shown live on television to give the Filipino people a good first step in getting back to our new normal.
I have worked in Baguio City in one of the major Business Process Outsourcing companies in the area and have watched and covered their college varsity league, the Baguio- Benguet Educational Athletic League (BBEAL) for this daily and I could attest to the readiness of the area to host major sporting events. Baguio has played host to the Milo Little Olympics and the Palarong Pambansa (regional division) over the course of the past two years. The Manor, Camp John Hay, and the Holiday Inn are a few hotels that can accommodate large contingents and if in case the teams need some cardio work, the Teacher’s camp, the Philippine Military Academy and even the Baguio Athletic Bowl can be ideal places for a good calorie burn.
I believe this concept is truly possible should the PBA decide to partner with the Baguio City LGU on the aspects of housing the PBA teams and continuing the stalled All Filipino Conference. Security should not be an issue nor crowd control since Baguio has already proven to have the discipline, the resources, and the political will to get things under control. Of course, health protocols should be practiced/ maintained such as testing of players and staff, quarantine measures, and venue sanitation. Border controls should also help control security and people traffic in the area.
Baguio can possibly give the PBA the ideal venue to relaunch the season. It would only take 3-4 months to complete one conference season and I think the City of Pines can more than live up to expectations. If this approach is considered, teams can start practicing mid-July, re-open mid-August, and crown the champion by mid-December, right at the peak of the best weather up north.
Personally, I feel the “Go Provincial” concept has potential for the PBA. If Baguio is not considered, perhaps further South can be an option wherein Iloilo and Bacolod, both under Modified GCQ, can potentially co-host. The PBA is not alien to holding games in the provinces and I am sure that the provincial government units will be more than happy to extend a helping hand to the country’s favorite sport. Perhaps shifting to the provinces might even rekindle the general interest of fans in local hoops. This is something that the Maharlika Pilipinas Basketball League (MPBL) and the defunct Metropolitan Basketball Association (MBA) did to win the masses over.
The PBA is an institution that can continue thriving amidst the uncertainty brought about by the global pandemic. Commissioner Willie Marcial should not confine himself to Metro Manila if he wishes the league to flourish this year. It might take a while for things to stabilize in the NCR. I do hope that this article reaches the PBA think tank and entertain it as a possible solution in continuing the interrupted season.
(The writer is a senior leader in the Business Process Outsourcing industry managing Philippine countryside operations)