When the pandemic broke out, doubts were raised over the staging of the 46th season of the Philippine Basketball Association (PBA).
With Covid-19 infection reaching all-time high and the league still bleeding from the expensive bubble season the year before, sideliners were doubtful over the success of the new season, especially after the government imposed another round of lockdowns in Metro Manila and fringe provinces.
But the PBA soldiered on.
The league, which withstood the imposition of martial law, the Edsa Revolution, the Asian financial crisis and various natural and man-made calamities, refused to give up, knowing that basketball is what exactly the country needs to somehow bury the impact of the raging pandemic.
Instead of the league or the teams spearheading the resumption of the season, the players themselves took the initiative to chip in until they pooled an amount that is sufficient enough to cover their accommodation, food and other expenses.
It was bayanihan at its finest. No amount of pandemic could stop the league and its players from giving joy to thousands of fans, whose only source of hope is whenever Barangay Ginebra San Miguel rallies from a huge deficit or when TNT Tropang Giga asserts its might with its red-hot shooting and vaunted running game.
But funding alone wasn’t the backbone of the league’s resumption.
From the players, coaches and team officials down to league personnel, officials and other staff, everybody contributes to the success of the PBA restart by observing the strict implementation of health and safety protocols to make sure the games would be held safely and effectively.
Everybody is required to undergo a RT-PCR test twice a week, while players took the pain of working out with their masks on, as well as observe social distancing, washing of hands and sanitation.
Yes, it wasn’t perfect.
There were also some hiccups when NorthPort had to suspend its games for one week after head coach Pido Jarencio and his staff tested positive for coronavirus, while Alaska and Meralco were placed under safety protocols.
But still, it hardly made an impact as the league pushes through with the games with the Tropang Giga taking the first quarterfinal seat, setting the stage for an explosive, action-packed playoffs.
True enough, the pandemic had brought out the best in everyone.
It tested not just the resolve and stability of the PBA, but also the friendship, camaraderie and unity among teams, coaches and players.
Containing the pandemic to a tolerable level is obviously still far from over.
But the PBA is making those small sacrifices just to give Filipinos something to cheer for amid this monstrous crisis.