SAN Miguel may have the distinct edge in firepower against Alaska in the ongoing PBA Philippine Cup Finals. But when it comes to the two teams’ supporters, the Aces’ fan base known as the Gatas Republik, obviously has the advantage.
San Miguel fan leader Ryan Ponce concedes followers of the Beermen are still miles away from Alaska's fans in terms of organization and passion.
“Actually, isa sila sa pinaka-organized na fan group. Ginagawa na lang namin ang makakaya namin para i-cheer ang San Miguel,” Ponce, a call center agent for Citibank who is a longtime San Miguel Beer fan, told Spin.ph.
Ponce said two major SMB fan groups, the Blazing Beermen Clan and the San Miguel Beermen Family Barkadahan, had to join forces in Game Four at the Smart-Araneta Coliseum rafters just to match the Alaska supporters.
“Mahirap silang sabayan, kasi organized ang grupo nila. Kung sasabayan namin sila, we will need all the effort we have para makasabay sa kanila. Kahit ibang grupo, nagsanib kami para makasabay sa kanila,” he added.
"Dalawang group nga kami na nagtutulong para i-cheer ang San Miguel."
Ponce admitted being amazed at how loyal Alaska fans are to their team, observing that they remain inside the venue cheering the Aces on until the final buzzer even if their team was losing by 20 points or more.
“The Alaska fanbase is very good. Kita mo kahit tambak sila, sigaw pa rin sila ng sigaw to cheer their team,” he said.
“Kung may top three na (fan base) groups na organized, Alaska, San Miguel, at Purefoods. Yung Ginebra kasi, marami sila. Pero hindi sila sing-organized ng tatlo.
“(Yung Alaska fans) may unity sila, kahit tambak sila, cheer pa rin sila ng cheer,” he added.
The San Miguel cheerleader stressed that Beermen supporters should take the cue from how committed the Aces fans are to their team.
“Kailangang magsanib pwersa: Una maingay ang drums, kaya hindi kakayanin ng isang grupo lang. At least dalawang grupo, para mas malakas, madinig ng players,” Ponce said.
“(We need to organize our flock). Kasi kelan ba huling nag-champion ang San Miguel, first time sa amin three years na. First time naming ginagawa ito na nag-co-combine kami, nagsasama kami, kaya kahit ibang grupo, nagsasama-sama kami,” he added.
Watch a video of the fans:
Ponce also noted that rivalries among fans are no longer confined to playing venues but have spilled over to social networking sites, where fans wage war daily.
“Pati yung community namin sa internet, sa Facebook, ni-u-utilize namin. Pati nga profile pic nila sinasabi namin na gamitin nila yung logo ng team namin,” he said.
Meanwhile, Lucy Buenaventura, one of the elders of the Gatas Republik, disclosed that most members of their fan base are mostly professionals and employees of different companies.
“May mga government employees dun, may iba mga barangay officials kaya cultured. Makikita mo walang nag-aaway among the members. Wala ring naghahamon sa ibang fans, kasi bawal sa amin yun,” Buenaventura told Spin.ph.
“May paglalagyan sa management ang mga unruly na fans kasi ayaw ni Mr. (Wilfred) Uytengsu 'yun. Ayaw namin na kukutsain ng below the belt ang mga fans ng kabilang team. Respeto ang una sa amin,” she said.
A longtime member of the team’s United Friendship Club of Alaska (UFCA), Buenaventura likewise bared the team has fan members who work for the franchise for free either as photographers or writers for different social media sites of the Aces.
“Twenty six years na ang UFCA, 16 years na akong active doon. Kaya alam ko ang ugali ng aming mga members,” said the 54-year old former legal secretary.