FOR nearly two decades now, he's been one of the most popular characters at Alaska, never mind if only a few people outside the Aces organization recognize him without his suit on.
Meet Jamil Pangaibat, a 41-year-old from Tondo who since 1998 has brought to life the lovable character E-Cow - the cuddly and playful mascot who is a fixture during the matches of the Aces interacting with fans, exchanging high-fives with players, and being mobbed by kids.
Pangaibat is a frustrated basketball player who has long admired the Alaska stars back when the team was led by players like Johnny Abarrientos, Jojo Lastimosa, and Bong Hawkins, and his job has brought him closer not only to the game he loves but the players he idolized.
“Noong araw pa talaga mahilig na akong maglaro. Frustrated kasi akong player. (Hanggang) liga lang sa barangay sa Tondo,” said Pangaibat, who started as a mascot assistant in 1996 before he eventually inherited the job as the main character two years after.
In this video, meet the man behind the E-Cow character:
He was so rabid a baskeball fan that when the chance to work for Alaska came along, he immediately grabbed the job without any second thoughts.
“Idol na idol ko po kasi talaga noon sina Johnny Abarrientos at Jojo Lastimosa,” said Pangaibat.
Spending hours all sweaty inside a suit is in no way easy, but Pangaibat considers it the best job in the world.
The job does have its perks. Not only has he become friends with the players he idolized, among them Abarrientos and Poch Juinio and now Gabby Espinas, but the task of bringing joy to fans inside a packed coliseum has made him feel like a star as well.
“Masarap talaga yung trabaho ko kasi para akong sikat. Para akong player,” said Pangaibat. “Masaya (dahil) kasama ako sa team. Mahilig din ako sa basketball, nandito pa mga idol ko.”
Wearing a suit or not, Pangaibat is a jolly fellow. But entertaining fans is a job he takes seriously, so much so that he makes it a point to climb all the way to the Upper Box level - not an easy task when wearing a heavy suit - to bring joy to fans, especially the kids.
“Inaakyat ko sila sa taas. Wala namang kaso sa akin yun. Kasi nakakatuwa na makitang natutuwa sila sa akin, lalo na yung mga bata,” he said.
“Kaya rin ako umaakyat kasi naawa ako sa ibang bata. Kasi pag nasa taas sila, hanggang tingin lang sila sa akin pag nasa courtside ako,” he added. “Kaya ako na ang umakyat doon. Mas maraming bata sa Upper Box eh."
Jamil likes the job so much that he wouldn't trade it for anything.
“Masayang-masaya ako sa trabaho ko. Kaya hindi na ako naghahanap ng iba. Sana naman, wag nila akong i-trade,” said Pangibat before bursting into laughter.
Having heard that the Aces will be treated to a trip to Disneyland in Los Angeles as their bonus for winning the last Commissioner's Cup, Pangaibat expressed hope that he could tag along to meet another idol.
“Sana masama ako sa Disneyland, para ma-meet ko si Mickey Mouse, idol ko din yun eh," he laughed.