CAGAYAN DE ORO –Jio Jalalon was so thrilled to return to his hometown that is set to host a game between the Mindanao All-Stars and Gilas Pilipinas on Wednesday night that he took his homecoming to the next level on the eve of the PBA All-Star game.
The rookie playmaker and his mom, Jocelyn, hosted a lunch party at their family home on Tuesday for his Star family who were with him in the Mindanao leg of the All-Star week, as well as college rival and buddy Scottie Thompson.
Jalalon invited Hotshots coach Chito Victolero, assistant Jason Webb, who are handling the Mindanao All-Stars, veteran teammate PJ Simon, and Ginebra’s Thompson, both of whom are playing for the Mindanao team.
“Niyaya ko sila, kasi naghanda yung nanay ko, nag-lechon,” Jalalon bared in a chat with scribes after watching Gilas practice at Xavier University gym from the sidelines on Tuesday night.
Jalalon would’ve invited more if not for the league also hosting a separate lunch for the entire delegation at Buffalo Resto Grill.
“Hindi naman pwede lahat (imbitahin) eh, kasi may pagkain din (na handa ang PBA),” Jalalon, the third of six siblings, said with a smile.
Inviting more people, after all, would not have been ideal as the Thompson, Simon, and the Hotshots coaching staff, alone, were more than enough to rock the entire neighborhood.
“Nagkagulo dun sa namin,” Jalalon said with a chuckle. “Halos lahat ng kapitbahay namin, nandun sa bahay ko. Parang nakakita sila ng sobrang star player talaga. Tuwang-tuwa yung mga kapitbahay ko.”
The 24-year-old former Arellano star marveled at how he has been getting countless photo requests as an emerging hometown hero after being a virtual unknown when he was still in high school at Sacred Heart of Jesus Montessori School.
“Syempre masarap talaga sa pakiramdam kasi parang nag-level up na din siguro ako eh,” Jalalon said. “Sana hindi lumaki yung ulo ko, down to earth pa rin.”
On Wednesday, Jalalon is relishing playing his first game in over half a decade at Xavier.
“Sobrang saya ko kasi ngayon na lang ulit ako nakabalik dito (sa Xavier). Nung high school pa lang ako (last) dito eh,” Jalalon said. “Sobrang sarap sa pakiramdama na nakabalik ako dito.”