IF you were an ardent PBA fan during the 1990s, you might recall an odd moment in the history of the league when all the members of the Swift team shaved their head clean.
That occurred in the 1994 All-Filipino Conference when a talent-laden Swift side, then struggling to live up to preseason expectations, collectively agreed to go bald if it suffers another defeat in its campaign.
Yeng Guiao, the head coach of the Mighty Meaties at that time, recalled the event with a laugh during a recent SPIN Sidelines episode.
“Ang alam ko nun, we were struggling,” said Guiao, piecing together the events that led to the unforgettable dare. “We were supposed to contend sa conference na ‘yun pero mababa ang laro namin. Nagkakanda-talo kami.”
The Mighty Meaties at that time had the likes of Vergel Meneses, Nelson Asaytono, Al Solis, Rudy Distrito, Bonel Balingit, Zaldy Realubit, and Yoyoy Villamin - the nucleus of two champion teams in 1992 and 1993 under Guiao.
With the team struggling, Guiao said his longtime lead assistant, the late Rhoel Nadurata, came up with the plan to shave their heads en masse - a dare originally hatched by Ysmael from its old rivalry with Yco in the Micaa.
“Sabi ko kay coach, 'Ano kayang puwedeng gawin para boljakin natin itong team na ‘to?'” said Guiao. “Alam pa ni coach Rhoel ‘yung ginawa ng Ysmael.”
Nadurata, Guiao said, recalled the story of how the old Ysmael Steel players shaved their head following a loss during its campaign in the 1967 Micaa season.
“Hindi naman kami ang unang nagpakalbo. Sabi niya, 'Gawin din natin ‘yung [ginawa ng] Ysmael. Sabi ko, 'Sige, gawin natin kahit hindi ko na maalala ‘yan. Ikaw kasi, matanda ka na, alam mo pa ‘yan o nandoon ka yata,” said Guiao with a smile.
“Sabihin natin, i-challenge natin ‘yung team. 'Kailangang manalo tayo. Kapag hindi tayo nanalo, magpapakalbo tayo,' sabi ko sa team.
"Nung una, akala ko kokontrahin ako kasi hindi pa uso ang kalbo nun. Kapag nagpa-kalbo ka nun, comedian ka nung araw na ‘yun. Sabi ko, ganito gawin natin para at least, may consequence sa atin. To my surprise, pumayag lahat,” said Guiao.
The dare sparked a resurgence for Swift, which racked up consecutive wins during the semifinal round. The Mighty Meaties beat San Miguel, 98-84, on April 22, 1994 at the start of their vow and went on a five-game winning streak.
The Swift run, however, ended with a 97-87 lost to San Miguel on May 6, 1994, and the entire team - from the ballboys to the coaches to the players - were forced to shave their head clean the following day.
To ensure compliance, one player brought a barber to practice the next day. But most of the players didn't need much prodding, with some, like then reigning league MVP Vergel Meneses, showing up for practice already clean shaven.
“Pagdating the next day, hindi ko alam kung si Al Solis, nagdala na sila ng barbero sa praktis at may pang-ahit na. Surprisingly, meron nang dumating na kalbo na. ‘Yung iba na hindi pa, kinalbo sa practice na ‘yun,” said Guiao.
Guiao said the team exempted Swift's silver-haired team manager Elmer Yanga, who nonetheless showed up with jet-back mien.
“Nagpa-dye na siya. Nakisama na rin siya sa amin,” said Guiao laughing.
The dare also proved to be a turning point for the multi-titled coach, who, until then, still maintained a full hair that was beginning to show some bald patches.
After that, Guiao grew comfortable with a buzz cut before deciding to go with the bald look that soon became his trademark.
“From there, medyo naging komportable na ako maging kalbo. Ang ginagawa ko noon, ang pinakabuhok ko ‘yung de-uno. Hanggang sa kinalbo ko na rin talaga,” said Guiao.
When asked why, Guiao said: “Kahit magpatubo, ayaw na rin. Tanggapin ko na lang. Nagpakatotoo na lang ako."
"Nagtampo," he added laughing.
The Mighty Meaties’ bald, err, bold act was never repeated by another team again, and Guiao isn't too sure if there will be another ballclub in the future willing to do it.
“Hindi ko alam kung meron pang sira-ulong gagawa nun,” Guiao said.