As I approached the low lit room, the smell of old papers greeted me. It has been awhile since I came back to our old stock room. As the cobwebs enveloped the pile of worn out shoe boxes, a newspaper clip was struggling to get out. I wiped out the cobwebs and got the green shoe box and freed the newspaper clip from the grasp of the shoebox lid. It was one of the articles that I tediously cut from the defunct MBA (Metropolitan Basketball Association) league. A picture of Dondon Hontiveros wearing the Cebu Gems jersey…
The clip was like a stone ingrained with geological and historical memories. It weathered storms and dust mites as it stood above all the cutout papers in the room.
Just one game left, one more push to finally end the 2-year title drought
The game was tied at 33 all… Alaska has a 3-0 advantage against San Miguel in the 2016 PBA all-Filipino finals. Just one game left, one more push to finally end the 2-year title drought. On a Vic Manuel screen, Dondon was momentarily free from San Miguel’s crippling defense. Dondon shot the ball from beyond the arc and it went down. As the crowd rouse to its feet, memories came back on a one hot summer day.
The smell of sweat and popcorn’s with bottles of water scattered around Cebu Coliseum. This was my first MBA experience. People were already there lining up for hours just to watch a glimpse of the Cebu Gems in action. Dondon during the game is scorching hot. Cebu was leading at that time when their opponent came crawling back and went ahead. I could see the disappointment on people’s faces. As the referee missed an intentional foul against a hapless Hontiveros, bottles of water came stumbling down the court. I have a half-full bottle in my hand and when everyone was already throwing I decided to join the frenzied crowd.
The Cebu Gems reunion
We always want a piece of Dondon, we celebrate when he won his first PBA championship, and we felt frustrated when he left Cebu Gems for a much greener and stable league. Every three point shot, every occasional dunk, it seemed like us doing those impossible feats. We always see Dondon in us and that’s what makes him unique. Everyone questioned coach Tab Baldwin when he asked Dondon to join the Gilas team, but Dondon always came out ready especially when Gilas fought Japan for a finals slot.
17 years and Dondon is still shooting threes, driving to the basket and playing solid defense. But there was a point in Dondon’s career that looks like an end to his final chapter of his basketball life. The demise of carrying the team and becoming more of a role player can be an attribute that the team is slowly moving on and delegating the work towards a younger generation of stars. Hontiveros is not the number one option in offense anymore, the Cebu Gems days are over and his team with the Alaska Aces are gearing towards Calvin Abueva as their energizer bunny both on offense and defense. We have watched PBA’s rich history of washed up superstars trying to run and play with the younger and faster players. The receding hairlines and short shorts, trying to prolonged a career that somehow ended a decade ago. But looking at Dondon, the defense might be a step slower but he still can shoot. He is like Ray Allen, old but dangerous. And just like a ticking time bomb, waiting for the right time to explode.
As the buzzer ended Alaska lost to San Miguel, Dondon came out close to carrying his team to a win but came out short. San Miguel eventually made history winning the championship after facing a 0-3 deficit wherein no team has come back and won it all the way. Hontiveros played in spurts but he never got the chance to relive his glory days.
When Dondon Hontiveros announced he will be retiring at the end of the PBA season, part of us are still in denial. Part of us still want to see him win a championship for the very last time…
I smiled as I read the newspaper clip for the very last time… Beyond the pile of shoe boxes and cobwebs this cutout clip wanted to get out, now it’s free as I started to let it go.
It’s about time.