BULUAN, Maguindanao (MindaNews/14 April) – Surprising even themselves, a local team beat retired veterans of the Philippine Basketball Association, 89-81, in a friendship game on Saturday.
Members of the Bangsamoro Youth for Peace (MYP) said they used speed, teamwork and heart in beating the bigger, more experienced PBA Legends led by Fortunato “Atoy” Co.
Co said his team accepted the invitation from Maguindanao Governor Esmael “Toto” Mangudadatu to a friendship match with the MYP as a gesture of their support to the implementation of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro signed last March 27 by the government and Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).
Co urged both parties and other concerned sectors to respect and sincerely implement the peace deal to end decades of Moro rebellion in Mindanao and harness the untapped potentials of the region.
“We have started to promote other sports and tourism potentials of this province,” Mangudadatu said, adding the stories coming from the province are no longer about violence “but the culture of peace and reshaping of the province where people can see the hope.”
He said he was delighted by the coming of the PBA Legends and their support to his campaign for government-MILF peace accord, and “doubly happy” for the victory of his local team.
Mangududadatu described the local team as “a composite of Muslim, Christian and Lumad enthusiasts, representing the tri-people that are stakeholders and inhabitants of the Bangsamoro.”
He said the team is composed of 16 sons of MILF and MNLF members, Army and police personnel and Moro civilians.
Team captain Najim Juanday, a son of an MILF member, said they did not expect to win, as their aim was just to play the game.
Gov. Esmael Mangudadatu does the ceremonial tip-off during the friendship game between the PBA Legends and Bangsamoro Youth Team. Photo by Ferdinandh B. Cabrera
“What we have in mind, it’s not a big deal if we lost. They are once basketball superstars and bigger than us, and so we are very happy that we made it tonight”, he said.
Co, called “The Fortune Cookie” by sports scribes, was joined by Marlou Aquino, Bonnel Balingit, Bal David, Bong Hawkins, Jerry Codinera, Zaldy Realuvit, Nelson Asaytono, Kenneth Duremdes, and Bong Alvarez, among others.
Co, the 1979 PBA Most Valuable Player and nine-team Mythical First Team member, played for the fabled Crispa Redmanizers that won two Grand Slams. When Crispa disbanded he joined Manila Beer and later Great Taste before retiring in 1988.
Co, the Legends’ playing coach that night, attributed their loss to a “lousy” performance. He admitted they rarely lost in games with hometown teams.
He laughingly attributed it to “old age” during a short post-game briefing.
He added MYP’s win proved that if the people of Mindanao work together with firm “determination and teamwork,” they can the dream for peace and prosperity in the south.
The game’s organizer, Buluan vice-mayor Datu King Jhazzer Mangudadatu said they wanted to infuse in the minds of the youth the beauty of sports to make them stay away from illegal drugs.
Lodge 209 of the Freemasons of which the governor is a member co-sponsored the game.
Last week too, young football enthusiasts in Maguindanao attended a summer clinic with Askalz team captain Chieffy Caligdong with the assistance of Philippine Sports Commission. (Ferdinandh B. Cabrera/MindaNews)