June Mar Fajardo the center of attention as he arrives in CDO for PBA All-Star Game
June Mar Fajardo poses for a photo with airline staff upon arrival in CDO. Karlo Sacamos

CAGAYAN DE ORO – As he submitted his boarding pass on Tuesday morning in Manila, June Mar Fajardo was momentarily held up before he could enter the air-bridge as a Philippine Airlines ground staff looked for a seat with leg room long enough for the 6-foot-10 slotman’s limbs.

But as long as it took for the female staff to find him a seat, it was as quick for Fajardo to warm up to fans when he arrived at the Misamis Oriental capital.

The Gilas Pilipinas star immediately became the center of attention, drawing the loudest cheers and the most photo requests from the time he set foot on the baggage claim area.

Ever humble, the gentle giant played down his fame.

“Hindi naman, wala yun,” Fajardo insisted with a smile as he readily granted as many photo requests as he could before he needed to rejoin the PBA All-Star delegation in the stopovers.

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As game as he was in interacting with the fans, Fajardo is as eager to lead the national team in its buildup for the Southeast Asian Basketball (Seaba) Championship next month – starting with their matchup against the Mindanao All-Stars on Wednesday at Xavier University gym.

“Excited ako,” Fajardo said. “Sana makuha namin agad yung chemistry namin, kasi kulang yung isang buwan na preparation namin para sa tournament.”

Fajardo anchors the Gilas team in the CDO leg that also features Terrence Romeo, Roger Pogoy, Matthew Wright, LA Revilla, Mike Tolomia, Kevin Ferrer, Carl Bryan Cruz, Bradwyn Guinto, and Fonzo Gotladera.

“Sana maging good example kami sa mga youngsters,” the 27-year-old Fajardo, the oldest in this particular batch of Gilas team agains the Mindanao selection.

“Siguro mangangapa pa kami sa una kasi yung mga plays, hindi pa masydong kabisado, pero makukuha rin namin yan,” he added.

Follow the writer on Twitter: @KarloSacamos