THEY came from the same province, belong to the same stable and had played together a number of times in the past, yet it has become evident that Arwind Santos and Calvin Abueva hate each other's guts.
Or do they?
The two figured not just in physical but bloody skirmishes, and verbal sparring that is more than just trash talk, the last time they faced off in the PBA Philippine Cup Finals, and fans expect it's only a matter of time when they clash again in the ongoing Governors Cup title playoffs.
The violent scenes, however, were no longer a surprise for Allan Trinidad, a veteran coach based in Pampanga who said games pitting Abueva against Santos have been intense even before they became PBA stars.
"Kahit noon pa man, ganyan na ang mga 'yan," he said.
Abueva acknowledged that he and Santos spent time as stablemates under Pampanga vice governor Dennis Pineda, who has a program in place that takes care of promising players from the province.
“Nag-abot kami sa stable ni boss Delta (Pineda). Sa mga laro-laro na ano (sa mga liga ng team ni Vice),” he said.
'The Beast,' however, was vague when asked how their relationship turned sour, insisting that he has nothing personal against Santos and that an elbow that opened a cut on Santos' head during the Philippine Cup Finals was no more than an accident.
“Hindi naman ako mainit sa kanya (Santos) eh. Wala na 'yun (sa akin), tapos na yung finals na 'yun. Ewan ko kasi binabalik nila ngayon,” said the former NCAA MVP out of San Sebastian.
“Bakit ako mananakit? Eh kilala ko naman siya eh. Talagang nadidisgrasya lang talaga. Kaya nga may salitang disgrasya eh. Di natin sinasadya pero nangyayari,” he added.
Santos, for his part, said he and Abueva are friends, but aren't close.
“Hindi man ganun kalalim yung pagkakakilanlan namin sa isa’t isa pero lagi kaming magkasama niyan. Sa Pampanga, pag nagpapatawag si Vice Gov, nagkakasama kami,” said Santos.
Like Abueva, Santos insisted he has no hatred towards his provincemate and their skirmishes and verbal exchanges were just part of the game, although his words and action often betray him.
“Hindi nila dapat i-interpret na magka-away kami o may samaan kami ng loob kasi basketball ito eh. Magkakapisikalan at magkakapisikalan sa laro,” said the former league MVP.
Trinidad said the rivalry of the two is fed not by personal hatred, but by pride.
"Fighter lang talaga ang mga 'yan," said the Pampanga-based coach. "Basta laro, kung hindi ka ka-uniporme ibig sabihin kaaway ka.
"Saka syempre meron ding pride na involved dyan," he added. "Yung isa iniisip Arwind Santos na ako bago ka pa naging Abueva; yung isa naman iniisip pinaghirapan ko ring magka-pangalan sa basketball."
But why did the rivalry have to degenerate into scuffles, Trinidad was asked.
"Kung ako tatanungin mo, mas gusto ko ng nakikitang nagkakabanatan sila kesa sabihin ng tao na nagbibigayan sila dahil pareho silang Kapampangan," he replied, recounting there were also times when Abueva and his former college teammate, Ian Sangalang, had ugly skirmishes during games.
Trinidad also assured that once one or the other overstep their bounds, Santos and Abueva are sure to get a call, if not a tongue-lashing, from their longtime patron.
Pineda said: “Sinanay kasi namin na maging matigas yang mga players namin. Nagkaton lang na parehong tigasin sina Arwind at Calvin, kaya nung magkasalubong parang mga torong nanlilisik.
“Pero hindi ako nagkukulang ng pasabi sa dalawa na hanggang pisikalan lang. Wag nang aabot sa talagang magkakasakitan dahil kawawa ang pamilya nila,” he added.
Abueva said he doesn't care about the rivalry, adding all he cares about is winning a championship.
“Wala na sa akin yun (finals rivalry namin ni Arwind). Kung tirahin nila (San Miguel players) ako, bahala sila, nasa kanila yun. Basta ako, kailangang kailangan ko itong championship na to,” he said.
“Nasa kanya (Santos) yun ... trabaho lang ako, walang personalan. Basta sa akin, trabaho lang, kung ano ang binubuhay ko sa pamilya ko, yun ang pinapakain ko.”
Watch video of interview with Abueva and Santos: