Barako Bullied


If you look at it, Jerwin Gaco and Al Vergara has certainly arrived in the PBA.

Vergara made his second stint with the league as a Barako Coffee Master last season after getting some sort of a “vacation” from the Singapore Slingers when he played for the Purefoods TJ Giants.

Same can be said for Gaco. Mikee Romero’s most valuable henchman (after Erick Arejola) was signed by the Coffee Masters at the start of the second conference to finally debut in the PBA.

Vergara ranked fifth in minutes for his squad in the Fiesta Cup. He also ranked seventh in points (5.4ppg), fourth in steals (0.7spg), and second in assists, only behind import Sammy Monroe with 3.7apg. In more than a quarter of playing time (13.9mpg), Gaco managed to claim 5.3ppg and 3.5rpg.

Certainly this season is something these two should ponder on but they still chose to waive their rights to play for the Asia Basketball League (Gaco to the Philippine Patriots and Vergara to the Singapore Slingers).

Maybe they are thinking “At least in the ABL... they are winning”.


Jason Castro, Chico Lanete, Jonathan Fernandez, Solomon Mercado, TY Tang, Joseph Yeo, Benedict Fernandez, JC Intal, Beau Belga, Reed Juntilla, Edwin Asoro, Chad Alonzo, and a number of others were part of an exclusive group that donned the Harbour Centre colors in the Philippine Basketball League. Gaco and Vergara played in most of their championship teams when they had no choice but to continue their semi-pro careers when ten PBA teams snubbed them when they applied for the draft. There is no question that they could have been key figures as part of Barako but the winning feel is sort of non-existent. Vergara, as Singapore’s top guard, will carry the Slingers to finally challenge Gaco, and his Philippine Patriots to the ABL finals, which was fought by the Philippines and Indonesia last year. One thing is for sure - expect Vergara and Gaco to log heavy minutes and have a "mythical" season.

Meanwhile, Barako is again bannered by a ragtag mix of talent with no star player in the picture.

Without Gaco and Vergara, returning to the fold are Reed Juntilla, Paolo Hubalde, Jojo Duncil, Rob Wainwright, Rob Reyes, Bryan Faundo, and Chad Alonzo. There were a couple of midseason pickups in the fold like Richard Yee (for Leo Najorda) and Mark Isip (part of the trade that sent Pong Escobal, Yousif Aljamal, and Ogie Menor). From the Yeng Guiao era, only Hubalde, Duncil, and Juntilla remained with the squad. Juntilla was sacked by Guiao for being a headcase while Yee and Alonzo played for Guiao at Burger King but they were eventually traded for old Guiao henchmen like Carlo Sharma and Najorda. After parading five rookies at the start of last season (Menor, Benedict Fernandez, Jim Viray, and Gaco), only Faundo remains with the team. Gone from their squad last season were Menor, Fernandez, Viray, Donbel Belano, Christian Coronel, Magnum Membrere, Gilbert Lao, Leo Najorda, Adonis Sta. Maria, and former team captain Alex Crisano. From this year’s draft, Barako picked up current San Beda Red Lion Borgie Hermida as the seventeenth pick and they have already picked up former UE do-it-all guy Hans Thiele from free agency.

So what now?

First of all, if someone old is running the creative department, he must need to do something elsewhere. Naming your team “Masters” is too 1975. You know the team names that stuck over the years? They are the Redmanizers, the Beermen, the Gin Kings, the Hotdogs, and even the Turbo Chargers because it was distinct to Shell! The team is a master of losing! When Red Bull had Thunder and Barako, they had an attitude, a swagger, and the confidence to maul their foes. As much as I hate the colors of the San Juan Knights squad, thei...

Wait, let me do this again.

As much as I hate the colors of the BMEG Derby Ace Llamados (my bad because they look like the SJ Knights uniform), Llamados is a good moniker for BMEG. And as much as I hate Rain or Shine for dropping the Dragons’ name and changing it to Elasto Painters, the team suffered a break out of the cellar so you can’t really be mad if Elasto Painters is a wall coating term which means success.

Great Taste was indeed a "Coffee Master". They had a lot of stars in their mix like Bogs Adornado, Atoy Co, Bernie Fabiosa, Ricky Brown, Willie Pearson, Chito Loyzaga, Pongkie Alolor, Larry Mumar, Steve Watson, Loreto Tolentino, Florendo Ritualo (Renren’s dad), Boy Clarino, Arthur Herrera, Fritz Gaston, Estoy Estrada, and Manny Paner. During Great Taste’s transition to Presto, they picked up a rookie named Allan Caidic and added established and up and coming players like Abe King, Arnie Tuadles, Willie Generalao, Gerry Esplana, and Vergel Meneses during the Presto days.

This my friends, is how a Coffee Master should look like but if Great Taste exists up to this day, they should know that their title sucks. More than that, their rosters spell “whipping boys” over them! Luckily, it seems like free agency is kind to them, just like last year.

This is how the current Red Bull lineup looks like:

STARTING FIVE: PAOLO HUBALDE, REED JUNTILLA, ROB WAINWRIGHT, RICHARD YEE, MARK ISIP
RELIEF: BORGIE HERMIDA, JOJO DUNCIL, BRYAN FAUNDO, CHAD ALONZO, ROB REYES

From the looks of this, they need at last five more names in order for them to at least... give the public an assurance that they are fighting for a crown.

Let’s check some out.

SUNDAY SALVACION – Red Bull must be stupid to not hire him. If he knocks, let him. Sunday has been used poorly ever since Ginebra and the SMC teams decided to haul all the best talent. When Barako traded for Junthy Valenzuela, he should have been part of that deal. One facet he needs to recover is his ability to slash in the paint. I’m hoping he can reawaken the days when he was St. Benilde’s resident offensive powerhouse.

MARVIN CRUZ – No idea why Marvellous Marvin bolted out of Powerade even if the team is crawling with veteran point guards but hopefully he can play for Barako. His offense has been shallow and he has been misguided in terms directing traffic and hopefully he could play well here to put some semblance in his career.

CHRISTIAN CALAGUIO – He wants to prove there is still spring in his hop. During his days in NCAA’s Letran, PBL’s Chowking, MBA’s San Juan, and PBA’s Shell, “Hot Hands” could be dubbed as the next Jojo Lastimosa. However, accepting a reserve role in San Miguel for an extended period of time makes me think this tryout would end badly for this cager.

CHITO JAIME – The former AMA Cyber Titan has the tools but I doubt if he could be a star in the PBA. I doubt if he can earn a spot in this team. To boost his stock maybe he needs to play for a team that could give him exposure and re-tooling. Maybe he should try out with the Philippine Patriots?

JOHN SMITH – He sounds normal. He sounds too normal. You Google his name and there must be millions of hits uncovering millions of namesakes. Hell, the guy from Pocahontas... could very well his ancestor. PBA teams passed up on him because they thought his skills were normal but he wants to prove naysayers wrong.

MARK CANLAS – I was surprised he was passed up because he is a combo forward. There is doubt if he can carry his offense to the pro circuit but no question, he can be quick enough to guard the SF’s and be able enough to guard the not-so-bulky PF’s in the league today.

CHRISTIAN CABATU – I was hoping the sports section article in the Philippine Star mixed up Christian over brother Junjun. Junjun had a good 2008-09 season but never saw action last season for Ginebra. Christian had a good showing at St. Benilde but his exposure to basketball is limited if you compare him with his brother.

Apart from the mentioned, vying for a slot in the squad are former UST stalwart Anthony Espiritu, and Dennis Rodriguez, the shortest player to apply in the 2010 PBA Draft.

However these players aren’t impact players. Perhaps souped-up squads could loan their players to Barako to create an equal environment. There are a lot of players who barely gets playing time but they should like San Miguel’s Lordy Tugade, Ginebra’s Junthy Valenzuela and Yancy de Ocampo, Air21’s Rich Alvarez, Powerade’s Rodney Santos, Alaska’s Kelvin dela Pena, BMEG’s Jondan Salvador, Rain or Shine’s Allan Salangsang, TNT’s Mark Yee, and others. As it is, Barako doesn’t have a chance to claim big time draft picks because most of their draft selections are bundled on trade deals they acted as “conduits”.

The players with the good financial feedback could find their selves having more.

Barako on the other hand, will continue to get little.

Game over.

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