IT was but a frustrating homecoming for Yeng Guiao.
Other than a fifth straight loss absorbed by NLEX in the PBA Philippine Cup, the current pathetic condition of the Philsports Arena greeted Guiao upon his return to the once popular playing venue in Pasig City.
Guiao didn’t hold back in suggesting the urgent need to refurbish the stadium first inaugurated in 1985, if only to uphold and preserve its historical significance especially in Philippine sports.
“I hope it would be physically improved para ma-preserve yung mga historical values nito, something which can be improved commercially, or it can be made more viable,” Guiao said in a talk with SPIN.ph.
The sports complex formerly known as Ultra (University of Life Theater and Recreational Arena) holds a sentimental feeling for Guiao. It’s the venue where he first won a PBA championship as coach when he steered Tony Harris and the rest of the Swift Mighty Meaties to their very first league championship following a four-game sweep of Seven-Up in the best-of-seven finals of the 1992 Third Conference.
The game – and championship – served as the final playing day of the league in its former home as the PBA would transfer to the Astrodome in Pasay the following year.
It was also at Ultra where Guiao made his coaching debut in the pros when Sarsi was accepted as an expansion franchise in 1990 along with Pepsi.
“I started my career here, and we’ve had really good memories here of winning a championship,” recalled the outspoken coach.
“I had the privilege to have coached against Baby Dalupan, coached against Sonny Jaworski in this venue,” he added. “So it’s always nostalgic coming back and playing again here."
It was also at Ultra where the University of the Philippines won its first and only UAAP men’s basketball title in 1986, the fight-marred 1999 NCAA men’s cage finals between Letran and Jose Rizal University, the dramatic 1991 Game 7 championship between Barangay Ginebra and Formula Shell, the 2011 FIBA Asia Champions Cup, among others.
Guiao wants to preserve the memories of those historical events, and what better way to do it than to rehabilitate the sprawling complex now owned and run by the Philippine Sports Commission (PSC).
“Kasama sa pag promote nito yung pag preserve ng mga memories and historical values nito,” said the former Pampanga congressman. “If we can promote it better and improve the venue better, mas maarmi pang manonood dito.”
“Marami ng market dito na may malapit pang commercial center. Kaya yung mga taga Pasig and Mandaluyong area, pag alam nilang may regular games, mas darating pa sila dito,” he added.
Guiao said it would have been better recalling the good, old days had the Road Warriors (1-5) arrested their losing skid in the season-opening meet. Unfortunately, Rain or Shine had other things in mind as it completed a second half comeback to pull off the 107-97 win in the first meeting between the champion coach and his former ballclub.
“It does not take away anything in the past yung mga fond memories na na-create dito,” said Guiao. “Pero mas maganda talaga kung nanalo.”