Palawan basketball champs win 19 classrooms for communities in novel prize scheme
Puerto Princesa has so far won nine classrooms under the novel prizing scheme of the Palawan Basketball Association (PaBA). Snow Badua

TRUE to its promise, the Palawan Basketball Association (PaBA) has started building classrooms in various municipalities as prizes for the first two seasons of its province-wide tournament.

Launched February 2014 by the Rio Tuba Nickel Mining Corporation and Coral Bay Nickel Corporation, PaBA has in two seasons already pledged a total of 14 classrooms to the municipalities, with two-time champion Puerto Princesa City winning nine classrooms in total.

“We only wanted to create a professionally organized league, sabi nga nila. Ang dami daw liga dito sa Palawan ang hindi natatapos. So far, PaBA has already staged two seasons,” said JB Baylon, vice president for corporate affairs of Nickel Asia.

“And before the league took off last year, our Rio Tuba Community relations head thought about giving classroom buildings as extra prize, extra motivation for the teams. The result: a more passionate support in every game,” he added.

Baylon bared that under the PaBA prizing, the champion will receive a two classroom building while the runner-up and conference champions will be gifted with one classroom each.

After ruling the juniors and seniors divisions of the first two PaBA seasons, powerhouse Puerto Princesa was awarded nine classrooms which they decided to turn over to the city’s two most populated schools - Francis Ubay and Manuel Austria Elementary Schools. The construction of a day care center in barangay Tagburos is also underway.

Here's a video of the classrooms under construction:

The school building won by 2014 seniors runner-up Bataraza, where Rio Tuba mining is based, is already standing while groundbreaking ceremonies for school buildings in Brooke’s Point town, the 2014 juniors and 2015 seniors runner-up, have been held at the Mary Edwards Venturanza School and Paratungon East Elementary School.

“Nakita nyo naman siguro sitwasyon ng mga eskwelahan dito sa amin. Sira sira na, nilulubog pa. Mga mamamayan na nga lang rito ang nagtutulong tulong para i-repair at i-maintain ang mga 'yan,” said Mayor Mary Jean Feliciano of Brooke’s Point.

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“Pero ang nakakatuwa sa mga kabataan rito, kahit ganyan ang lagay ng mga classrooms nila, hindi sila nawawalan ng loob. Nagsisipag sila na mag-aral,” she added.

Another school building is being erected at Iraan Elementary School in far-flung Roxas, while a classroom and a teachers' office are now under construction in Narra town.

“Sobrang natutuwa kami sa proyekto ng PaBA, kasi sino ang mag-aakala na sa basketball unti-unting matutupad ang pangarap ng mga kabataan dito sa amin,” said Vice Mayor Crispin Lumba of Narra town, four hours south of Puerto Princesa.

Rio Tuba community relations head Bong Dela Rosa, who got the project rolling, bared that their PaBA program will continue as the third season is already set on February 2016.

“Very positive ang naging pagtanggap ng mga kababayan natin sa PaBA. At hangga’t nakikita naming marami pang pangarap sa basketball at pag-aaral ang ating mga kababayan dito sa Palawan, itutuloy natin at mas papalakihin,” said Dela Rosa.

Rio Tuba social development head and former Palawan board member Ernesto Llacuna said the PaBA program is like shooting two birds with one stone.

“Kasi we get to discover new basketball talent na pwede nating i-export sa Manila, at the same time, nahahasa natin ang utak ng mga kabataan rito through the school buildings, equipping them with the right knowledge to one day become executives and decision makers sa Makati at iba pang lugar,” said Llacuna.

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