YOU see them when they troop to the Smart-Araneta Coliseum court, setting up a perimeter during timeouts, wearing tight-fitting yellow polo shirts, black utility pants, and a pensive stare with their arms crossed together.
But if you think that’s all bouncers do and they hardly enjoy their job, you’re wrong.
After all, they have best view in the house. And the best part about it? They don’t have to pay for it.
“Napaka-swerte namin kasi yung mga event dito nakakalibre kami ng panood at habang nanonood kami, sinasahuran pa kami,” Gibson Balangbang, one of the Big Dome’s bouncers, said during a lull in a recent PBA Commissioner’s Cup game.
“Ang kaibahan namin sa fans, sila kasi sinasaway namin kapag may mga illegalities silang ginagawa o bawal sa venue, kahit nagbabayad pa sila. Kami naman, nagsasaway kami tapos binabayaran pa kami,” he added.
The 26-year-old Caloocan native has been working at the Big Dome for almost six years, having witnessed countless events from concerts of Elton John and other internationally known artists to Pia Wurtzbach’s Miss Universe homecoming, apart from pro and college sports events.
And when they’re assigned to be bodyguards to the performing celebrities, they even get to rub elbows with them.
“Yung nanalo si Pia, sinundo namin sa airport tapos ten days kaming naka-close in,” Balangbang related. “Kung saan siya pumunta, naka-escort kami. Kami yung pinaka-security ng Araneta group.”
“Nakakatuwa lang na kahit yung term nila sa Miss Universe tapos na, pag nagkikita kami dito, binabati-bati pa din kami,” he added, saying MJ Lastimosa, the country’s representative to the 2014 Miss Universe, was among the friendliest he has ever encountered. “Malaking impact kasi sa amin yung ganung pagkakataon.”
Balangbang has also developed an even stronger bond with PBA players, especially RJ Jazul, who gave him red Jordan XXX shoes which the veteran gunner wore when he was still with Alaska, and Chris Tiu, who gave him a D-Rose pair. He would also escort for longtime player agent Danny Espiritu, who brings him along in his meetings with his clients.
“Nakakatuwa dito na marami kaming nakikilalang mga bigatin tapos makakatulong talaga sila sa’yo,” Balanbgang said.
“Parang normal na tao lang din naman sila,” he added, marveling at the celebrities’ humility. “Dati, pangarap ko talaga makapag-trabaho dito dahil gusto kong makapanood ng basketball game. Eh nagkataon pa na ngayon medyo nagka-posisyon na ako.”
But it’s not all fun and games as Balangbang, now the assistant head of security, attested.
Balangbang underwent a baptism of fire in 2012 when his very first assignment was in the NCAA Finals between archrivals San Beda and Letran in a best-of-three series that went the limit.
“Nung una, hindi pa ako nakaka-adjust … tapos nakikita namin nun na lahat ng kalokohan, mga middle-finger sign, tapos murahan kabilaan,” Balangbang recounted. “Sabi ko parang gusto ko umatras, parang ayaw ko na ituloy.”
“Pero sabi nga nila, hindi ka naman tatatag kung hindi mo susubukan, kaya ayun, tinry ko pa rin,” he added, saying the toughest sports events to secure are the UAAP games between Ateneo and La Salle and the Manila Clasico between Ginebra and Star.
“Yan talaga yung umuubos ng ticket. After ng UAAP na yan, yung Manila Clasico, yan talagang napakaraming tao tapos maraming pasaway,” he said.
Seeing the fans get rowdy with each other is one thing. But when the bouncers get involved, that’s a different story.
“Ang pinaka-worse na nangyari sa amin dito yung hinahamon kami ng away ng fans,” Balangbang said, recounting one instance when the cousin of a Ginebra player tried to pick a fight with him after a game.
“Nagkadikitan lang kami nun,” he said. “Pag nagsisita kami at pinapalipat namin ng upuan, uwian na kasi yun at lahat ng relatives dito dumadaan, ‘di ba? Sabi ko, ‘Sir, dito na po kayo mag-antay,’ kasi nagki-clearing na kami eh. Ewan ko lang kung bakit niya ako hinamon-hamon nun, ano daw yung gusto ko. Bakit daw ang strikto ko.”
In the end, Balangbang had to give in.
“Customer service eh, tapos customer is always right, so ako na lang nagpakumbaba,” he said. “Natuwa naman ako kasi lumapit siya at humingi rin ng pasensya.”
“Mahirap talaga mag-sita, pero meron naman tayong tinatawag na…nakikiusap ka rin, ‘di ba?” he added. “Pag-usapan natin; basta yung attitude natin, yun ang pinakamahalaga, tapos alam mo rin yung attitude ng sinisita mo bago mo siya sitahin.”
Balangbang, the second eldest of 10 siblings, is not complaining about how tough the balancing act of doing his job and being polite at the same time is. He’s doing this as the breadwinner of the family, not to mention being a working student.
Balangbang is a scholar set to graduate with a Hotel and Restaurant Management degree next month from Access Computer College in Lagro, Quezon City where he also works part-time as an escort to the school’s owner and a tour guide.
“After ten years, makakakuha ako ng bachelor’s degree,” he said with a chuckle.
Balangbang has to work several jobs to make ends meet.
“Hindi kami arawan ang sahod dito eh. Per ora kami,” he bared. “Advantage para sa mga single na tulad ko, pero sa mga may mga pamilya na, mahirap yung kasi per event lang. Minsan sa isang buwan, may apat na event lang tapos yun lang yun ipagkakasya mo.
“Kaya rumaraket kami sa labas,” he added.
But again, don’t take it against the bouncers for looking at you in a defensive way.
They’re just simply doing their jobs – and enjoying the perks.
“Trabaho pa rin. May rules and regulations lang,” Balangbang said. “Malaking privilege lang is napapanood namin yung mga event then nae-escortan namin yung mga sikat na artista, international na nagco-concert dito.”