Meet some of Ginebra's most loyal fans
MANILA, Philippines – Edna Robles, a corporate employee turned housewife, arrived at the Filoil Flying V Arena in San Juan at 11 pm on Saturday, October 22 and spent the night there.
She was more than 12 hours early for the Barangay Ginebra fans day scheduled for 12 noon on Sunday, an event held to give the Gin Kings an opportunity to give back to their loyal fans after winning their first championship in 8 years in the 2016 PBA Governors' Cup last week.
Robles, who sports short blonde hair, inherited her Ginebra fandom from her mother as early as 10 years old. Now 41, she proudly rocks a Robert Jaworski tattoo on the back of her right leg. She wore shorts to the fans day event, the tattoo of the Ginebra and PBA icon on full display.
"Mga 30 years na [akong fan], nakuha ko sa mom ko. Siya yung talagang Ginebra fan e (I've been a fan for 30 years, I got it from my mom. She's the real Ginebra fan)," Robles shared a bit of her childhood.
"Siyempre hindi na pwede ilipat ang TV pag nanonood so napapa-nood na rin ako hanggang sa nagustuhan ko na rin, tapos naging solid din ako kay Jaworski. From there, the rest is history."
(You couldn't change the channel on TV when the game was on so I watched it with her until I started becoming a fan, and then I loved Jaworski.)
Robles has since constantly watched the games live. She and her friends make sure they're always present for Ginebra's playoff games, do-or-die games, and of course, the regular "Manila Clasico" matchup against rival Star Hotshots (then Purefoods).
"Mas present pa ako sa game kesa sa work minsan (I'm sometimes more present at games than at work)," she quipped.
In the post-Jaworski era of Ginebra, Robles has developed a new fandom for Mark Caguioa, the face of the franchise in at least the past decade.
Being one of the first in line for the fans day or thanksgiving party, Robles sat at front row before the stage on Sunday. She was eventually handed a microphone and given the rare chance to speak to her idols seated on stage.
Robles directed her message to Caguioa, saying she's long wanted to tell him how much she loves him – and that she's crushed the veteran star is set to be married. (WATCH: Mark Caguioa proposes to girlfriend after Ginebra wins championship)
"Super saya kasi yun na pinakaaasam ko na masabi sa kanya na mahal ko siya," Robles gushed. "Idol ko talaga siya after Jaworski. Medyo na-hurt ako kasi ikakasal na siya pero at the same time, hindi naman mawawala yung pag-idol ko sa kanya."
(I'm very happy because I've long wanted to tell him I love him. He's my idol after Jaworski. I got hurt a little bit now that he's getting married but at the same time, he's still my idol.)
Caguioa was in awe of the commitment fans like Robles have for Ginebra.
"You look at that, you look at the fans of Ginebra, it goes way back. Nakita mo yung fans ng Ginebra, hindi henna e, tattoo siya (You see the Ginebra fans, it's not henna, it's a real tattoo)," Caguioa said backstage. "It’s just millions of fans of Ginebra are super diehard. Naglalabasan lalo ngayon (They're coming out now)."
Robles also has the San Miguel Corporation logo tattooed on her entire back and plans on getting another tattoo soon of the Ginebra team logo on her left thigh.
Even Caguioa's backcourt partner Jayjay Helterbrand was left impressed.
"That’s just true commitment," he said. "You know she’s going to be a Ginebra fan forever. That’s awesome."
Robles went to every single one of Ginebra's playoff games in the Governors' Cup despite the stiff ticket competition. Her efforts did not go in vain as she witnessed import Justin Brownlee knock down the title-winning shot in Game 6 – a shot that will go down in Ginebra lore for generations to come.
"When Brownlee hit the 3-pointer, parang nag-flashback lahat ng memories na sobrang sakit, yung natalo kami maraming nag-bash, maraming nanglait kangkong ganyan," she said. (READ: Ginebra's Mark Caguioa gets last laugh: 'Sino'ng kangkong ngayon?')
"Everything nag-flashback tapos napaiyak na lang ako na parang finally narinig na rin ni Lord yung dasal namin. Ngayon we're hoping na Grand Slam naman."
(When Brownlee hit the 3-pointer, I had a flashback of all the painful memories, the losses where so many bashed us, and people called us kangkong. I cried because finally the Lord heard our prayers. Now we're hoping for a Grand Slam.)
A few rows back sat a man that turned a lot of heads and drew cheers and laughter each time he stood or walked around.
He was bald with a red headband wrapped around his head. He wore the uncanny, carefully curated goatee that occupied only his chin and just below his lower lip. He even had that signature smug look best attributed to only one man in the PBA.
Alvin Corpuz, 28 and from Quezon City, has perfected the Mark Caguioa look for years now or since Caguioa shaved his head.
Corpuz, who works in an electronics company, also plays basketball "Caguioa-style."
He has been a fan practically since Caguioa joined the PBA in 2001. And Corpuz is not afraid to show it every day.
Corpuz lined up as early as 5 am on Sunday for the fans day event. He had met Caguioa many times prior every time he dropped by Ginebra practice.
The two already have a kind of bond as Caguioa likes to call Corpuz "idol" each time he sees him.
"He always goes to practice. I think it’s funny," Caguioa said of Corpuz. "Mas kamukha niya yata si Sol (Mercado) e, kung naka-headband si Sol (He looks more like Sol though if Sol wears a headband)."
Like most Gin Kings supporters, Corpuz finally felt relief after waiting 8 years for a championship.
"Masaya, minsan yung mga kapitbahay ko [sinasabihan ako na] 'wala nang kangkungan ah'," shared Corpuz, who watched Game 6 from the big screen set up outside the Smart Araneta Coliseum for those who couldn't get in.
"Tapos napapaiyak siyempre, 8 years ba naman."
(I'm happy, sometimes my neighbors will tell me 'no more kangkong'. I felt like crying because I waited 8 years.)
Sunday's event was meant for the Gin Kings to mingle and celebrate the title with their fans. Players each gave a short message and were, at several points, even egged on to dance on stage lest they wanted to miss out on getting a bonus.
Players were shy, but team manager & gov Alfrancis Chua says "Pag di sumayaw, walang bonus."— Jane Bracher (@janebracher) October 23, 2016
Then all the Gin Kings busted out their moves pic.twitter.com/BymxOw9PGv
After the program, the players and coaches went around the arena to sign autographs and take photos with supporters.
This is the second time this season Ginebra's been to the Arena in San Juan after they first held an open practice session for fans midway in the eliminations as well.
"Just amazing. I can’t think of a more appropriate word than amazing. I’m just amazed by it all. I’ve been been around for 27 years and I’ve never seen anything like this before," head coach Tim Cone said.
"It meant so much to us to be able to win for them. So this is our payback."
Cone was smiling from ear to ear throughout the entire program and gamely held up smartphones and cameras in front of him to take photos for fans.
"The Alaska fans were as loyal as you can be. They were very, very loyal and the Purefoods fans were really sweet. They were nice to us. They went through our ups and downs, they were always supportive," Cone said when asked to differentiate the fandoms from the 3 teams he's coached in the PBA.
"But this is just another level. It’s almost like you’re the national team coach. The whole country’s eyes are upon you. They have these great expectations and I think that’s been a burden for the players. And for the first time we were able to make that burden a blessing."
"And really feel the love and support. Instead of always disappointing them we were able to make them happy. I think that’s really, truly important to the players that they were able to do that," he added.
Caguioa spent nearly an hour accommodating the supporters but felt it still was not enough to return the love.
"We’re just thanking them, how they’ve been supporting us all throughout, not just the series, not just for this championship, but all throughout the times that we never won a championship," said Caguioa, who also sang the lyrics to Maria Gonzales' Ginebra song that went viral in the finals.
"Parang kulang pa nga ‘to (This doesn't seem enough). I just wish I could sign each and every one of them."
Helterbrand left a little bit of himself with one fan who asked for his cap during the program.
"That was my favorite hat, too," he said, laughing. "But you know it’s okay. It’s a small sacrifice for them, just being out there at 7 o’clock in the morning, waiting in that line just to get a glimpse of their favorite players. It’s just a small token of my appreciation for them." – Rappler.com