THE MEETING with Barako Bull’s George Chua yesterday morning at the coffee shop of Richmonde Hotel in Eastwood was purely accidental but lasted much longer than my breakfast appointment before it.
George was with his brother Renato, son Michael, who he introduced himself as Barako’s head of basketball operations, and team manager-alternate governor Raffy Casyao, who is considered family by the Chuas because of his closeness and loyalty to his boss, George.
As soon as my first meeting ended and people in my table stood up, George invited me over to have a second cup of coffee.
Somehow there was something different about George that morning. He had the same glow about him long ago when his team was winning PBA championships.
He looked and sounded so upbeat I kidded him that he might have gulped down several bottles of the energy drink his company manufactured.
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“If my optimism is showing, it’s because I’m excited about the coming PBA season, where the team will now be known as Barako Bull Energy Cola,” George said.
Another source of his happiness is that the market has accepted the new product.
“It’s both a softdrink and an energy drink and it comes in three flavors: classic, lemon and lime,” explained George’s marketing-oriented son Michael.
According to Michael, they have put together a competitive team, capable of making it to the semifinals.
“Our initial target is to get to the Final Four,” he said. “Once we get there, anything can happen.”
“This season, it will no longer be appropriate for our team to be called ‘Manong Brigade’ because we have recruited many young players like Sean Anthony, Roger Yap, Ronald Tubid, and rookies Dave Marcelo, Lester Alvarez and Eman Monfort.”
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The way I look at it, the entire Chua family is happiest about the return of its former players. Especially Chief Raging Bull himself Enrico Villanueva, who established a name for himself in the pro league while playing for the George Chua franchise.
“One by one, the pioneers are returning. Enrico, Mick Pennisi, Leo Najorda, and Celino Cruz. Willie Millier has gone full circle and is starting a new one,” George said.
Expect the Barakos to be more rugged and physical this season than the last, when several players, as well as Pennisi, got hurt in the second conference. This brand of play almost led them to the semifinal round.
With the addition of Villanueva, who built a reputation for being an enforcer during his early years in the PBA, Tubid, Anthony, Doug Kramer, burly Dave Marcelo and small but terrible Monfort, the Barakos will certainly be tougher and more aggressive. Such traits could propel them this time to the coveted round or four.
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Mixed Martial Arts fans say Fil-Am fighter Mark Striegl is cute enough to be a movie star. That’s if he manages to keep his bones intact and his face bash-free.
In a brief interview after his victory last Saturday over Robert Wusstig of Guam at the Ynares Center, I asked Mark if it was true that he had chosen a stint with PXC over an offer to be part of the Azkals.
“Do you also play football well?” I asked the 24-year-old fighter now based in Baguio City.
He laughed. He said fans were teasing him about having features similar to the Younghusbands. Unlike Phil and James, though, he doesn’t play football. Like the Younghusbands, he is also half-Filipino.
“My father is American but I grew up in Tokyo. My original sport was wrestling and this evolved into MMA,” said Mark.