30 August 2010

Meralco's Bolts Launched

Meralco Bolts
The Manila Electric Company (Meralco) recently launched their Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) team on 26 August 2010 together with their sports advocacy program.

According to an avid PBA historian, Jay P. Mercado, the launching which was held at the Meralco complex in Ortigas was considered significant because it was timed on the birthdate of their former head coach, the late Valentin "Tito" Eduque. Eduque became Meralco's coach, replacing Lauro "Bay" Mumar in the post-Robert Jaworski era. The event highlights how Meralco values its rich basketball history and will try to revive the same 'never-say-die' spirit that the Reddy Kilowatts were known for back then.

Mercado added that many would have considered it a proper launching only if Jaworski was appointed a team official, even its head coach. He was the team's best player in the 70's, their most popular superstar who was also the most glamorous player in that era and part of arguably the most popular squad. He would have created instant fan base with this present lineup, and would have served as the link of the past and present Meralco teams.

Meralco's sports advocacy, on the other hand, would serve as one of the company's vehicle to reach out to the community it serves. Central to the said program is furthering Meralco's role in economic development through socio-civic sports endeavors.

Meralco recently has had its share of the limelight in Philippine sports as it made a comeback to professional basketball with its entry into the Philippine Basketball Association (PBA). Meralco President and CEO Manuel V. Pangilinan, however, said that this whole program is more than just about basketball. In a press conference during the Meralco basketball team launch at the Meralco corporate offices in Ortigas Avenue, Pasig City, Pangilinan said, “Basketball serves as a perfect springboard for us to carry out our sports advocacy given the fact that the sport transcends all social strata in the country. Our advocacy revolves around the concept of a ‘Basketboy’, a representative of young talents from the marginalized poor sector who possess the distinctive potential of becoming future basketball stars. With a professional sports team to serve as an ambassador of our program, we hope more people will embrace our vision of giving hope to the dreams of many of our young aspiring athletes.”

Meanwhile, Meralco Senior Vice President and Head of Human Resources Ramon B. Segismundo, who will also act as the Meralco team’s governor in the PBA, said that among the company's current sports advocacy projects is a basketball scholarship program. Through this program, talented high school students from poor families will be given the chance to attend college and play for the country’s best universities. "It is central to Meralco’s advocacy to nurture these young talents by opening up opportunities and providing them the needed guidance to advance their development," Segismundo shared.

Aside from the scholarship program, the Meralco basketball team also established a partnership program with a charity in which part of the team’s PBA gate revenue share will be donated to the charitable organization.

Segismundo shared to the media that Meralco has chosen the well-esteemed local charity Caritas Manila (Church of the Poor) to be its partner. With its reputation as the leading social arm of the Archdiocese of Manila, Caritas Manila was selected among a number of organizations because of its empowered mission for total human development and improvement of the urban poor family. These are goals that Meralco considered as most consistent with those of its sports advocacy. In fact, the logo of Caritas Manila will be seen alongside Meralco’s logo on the Meralco basketball team’s jersey. "Every time one buys a ticket to watch a Meralco PBA game, a percentage of that purchase will be donated to Caritas Manila," Segismundo said.

Segismundo also mentioned Meralco's past basketball history as a driving factor for joining the current PBA roster. He said, "Meralco intends to relive its glory through building a team of winners that will live up to the company’s own basketball legacy. The strength of a competitive team powered by a strong sports advocacy hopes to catapult MERALCO into a powerful contender and future champion in the league, and at the same time, help and assist the less privileged in life."

Meralco has had a rich basketball tradition. Back in the 1970s, the Meralco team, known as the Reddy Kilowatts, won the 1971 championship in the old Manila Inter-Commercial Athletic Association (MICAA). The team was bolstered by basketball legends Robert Jaworski, Jr., Francis Arnaiz, brothers Alberto and Tino Reynoso, Orly Bauzon, Alfonso Marquez, Jimmy Mariano and Larry Mumar and was handled by Lauro “The Fox" Mumar.

The current Meralco PBA team will be known as the MERALCO BOLTS. Its roster includes: Marlou Aquino, Yousif Aljamal, Pong Escobal, Bitoy Omolon, Ogie Menor, Beau Belga, Mark Cardona, Chris Ross and Gabby Espinas among others. The team’s head coach is Ryan Gregorio. He will be assisted by a competent coaching staff composed of Ronnie Magsanoc, Boyet Fernandez and Patrick Fran. Virgil Villavicencio, meanwhile, will assume the role of team manager and Dino Martin the function of liaison officer. Meralco’s Chief Finance Officer Betty Siy-Yap will serve as alternate governor in the PBA.

Pangilinan said, "Meralco’s sports program goes well beyond the confines of the court. It is meant to be a shared experience between the company, the players, the staff and the community at large where basketball and sports in general become synonymous with 'the game of life'. Sports, then, becomes a key enabler for learning skills and imbibing values necessary for success in life."

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