Zamboanga Valientes: Rebuilding a city name through basketball

When the Zamboanga Peninsula Valientes MLV took the 3x3 basketball floor, the team paraded a lineup of battle-scarred players who were unfazed by any opposition that stood their way.

After all, the Valientes – from the players to the coaching staff to the management – are battle-scarred, quite literally.

Players Rudy Lingganay, Gino Jumaoas, Med Salim, Ar-Ar De Leon, and Jonjon Rebollos all hail from Zamboanga City, a place that in recent years has gotten some bad press due to its unstable peace and order situation, perceived or otherwise.

The people of Zamboanga know that the stigma from 7 years ago, which turned the city into a virtual war zone, has tarnished the reputation of their city.

The conflict displaced 100,000 citizens and burned down over 6,000 houses in a gripping armed combat that lasted weeks in 2013, paralyzing their hometown in what is now known as the Zamboanga Siege.

But the game of basketball has become a vehicle that the Valientes seek to utilize to show that there’s more to Zamboanga City.

“We want to be able to uplift the image of our hometown. Usually, when people think of Zamboanga, they think of a dangerous place which should be avoided,” said team owner Rolando “Junnie” Navarro Jr. 

“We want to change that because Zamboanga is a beautiful place that has a lot to offer.” 

As underdogs in the 2020 Chooks-to-Go Pilipinas 3x3 President’s Cup, Valientes also want to mirror the resilience and determination of the Zamboangueños every time they see action. 

Mentored by coach Joseph Romarate, the Valientes pulled off a surprise in the first leg when they reached the semifinals. 

They were not able to duplicate their run in the second leg, but the team remains confident about their chances in the remaining games.

But more than just winning, Navarro hopes this foray into professional 3x3 basketball will also open doors for young players from their city to be discovered by scouts in Manila. 

“I want players from Zamboanga to have a bigger platform where they can showcase their talents,” he said.

“Most of them were already happy with playing in the local leagues in the city. I want them to see that there are opportunities for those who dream big and are willing to work hard to make a name for themselves.”

The chances of that happening is not at all far-fetched considering that Zamboanga City has always been a breeding ground for top-caliber athletes. 

Olympic weightlifting silver medalist Hidilyn Diaz and world boxing silver winner Eumir Marcial are both proud Zamboangueños. 

In the basketball scene, Zamboanga has seemingly become an assembly line that produces outstanding guards such as Mark Barroca, RR Garcia, Chico and Garvo Lanete, Mike Tolomia, Jens Knuettel, Bernard Tanpua, plus promising young cagers like Forthsky Padrigao of the Ateneo Blue Eaglets, and Peter Alfaro and Ryan Amsali of San Beda. 

But Navarro wants to see more from the Valientes, a moniker that fits them as valiente in the city vernacular of Chavacano means “brave.”

It takes bravery, after all, to rise above the strife and violence that the people of Zamboanga faced just a few years ago. 

“I want them to play without fear, but I also expect that as professional basketball players, they will play, act, and behave in a manner that will give other people a good impression of our city,” he said. “I want the city of Zamboanga to be proud of this team of homegrown Zamboangueños.” –