FORMER Purefoods banger Jondan Salvador considers himself lucky to have found one true fan who has stayed with him through thick and thin.
Such was Ezekiel Nitura's loyalty to Salvador what he has followed the wide-bodied forward's career since his college days with College of St. Benilde in the early 2000 and remains his fan whatever team - or league - he plays in.
“Ang kwento niya sa akin, Benilde pa lang ako, napapanood na ko. Nakukwento ako ng tatay niya sa kanya. Bata pa lang siya, gusto na raw niya ko ma-meet,” said Salvador.
The two never got to meet during Salvador's six seasons with Purefoods, but a bond developed when the former first-round pick moved to GlobalPort in 2012 after a brief stint with the Air21/ Barako franchise in 2012.
“Nalulungkot po ako nun, kasi Saturday ko lang siya napapa-follow. Di pa masyadong uso noon ang social media,” said Nitura, now a fourth-year Political Science student at Arellano University.
Salvador said: “Dun na niya ako una nakita ng personal. Tapos nun, parang nakita ko sincerity ng bata kaya natuwa ako sa kanya.”
They became so close that Salvador, 35, would often tag Nitura along to social engagements he’d attend, something that was appreciated warmly and enthusiastically by his No. 1 fan.
“Sobrang bait po ni Kuya Jondan, saka sincere siya na tao. Minsan po may pupuntahan siyang birthday ng kapwa player, tatawagan niya pa ako at isasama,” he said.
Now Nitura switches loyalties as far as teams are concerned, cheering for whichever team Salvador plays for. Their latest journey has taken them to the Pacquiao Powervit Philippine Aguilas in the Asean Basketball League (ABL).
“Nung na-trade siya sa Air21, kahit gustong gusto ko ang Purefoods, napilitan ako lumipat dun. One year ako nag support sa Air21 at Barako bago ako lumipat 'nung ma-trade naman siya Globalport,” said Nitura.
“Dito na rin ako ngayon (sa Aguilas). Marami nga akong naging kaibigan sa fan page ng GlobalPort, tinatanong nila ako bakit di na raw ako active. Sinasabi ko na lang na wala na run si Kuya Jondan,” he said.
Asked what drew him to Salvador, Nitura said it was the player's genuine personality.
“Dati po kasi 'yung laro ni Kuya Jondan, yung versatility niya as a big man ang hinangaan ko," he said. "And since naging close pa kami at nakita ko ang pagiging totoong tao niya, mas hinangaan ko ang personalidad niya kesa sa career niya as a player.”
As for Salvador, earning the unwavering loyalty of a fan like Nitura is one of joys of his career.
“Sa akin, isa siguro yung magka-fan na tulad ni Ezekiel sa mga masasabi kong success ko as a player. Sobrang grabe ang suporta sa akin ng bata na 'yan. Sobrang swerte ko na magkaroon ako ng ganyan fan,” he said.
“One in a million ang ganyang klaseng fan. May iba kasing fan, parang paru-paro, patalon-talon ng idol. Pero ito, talagang solid siya. Yan ang never-say-die fan,” he added.