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The Noob's Guide to "Manila Clasico"

PBA (file photo)
By Ivan Saldajeno

THE Purefoods-Ginebra rivalry, known by its modern-day name "Manila Clasico", is arguably the most talked-about rift in the PBA apart from the fabled Crispa-Toyota clash.

While the hardcore hoop junkies are very knowledgeable about the Crispa-Toyota rivalry even if most of them were born way after both clubs left the league, for the casual millennial basketball fans, their PBA life revolves around the "Manila Clasico".

But for those who are just following the Association recently, what is this Purefoods-Ginebra rivalry all about? Here are some things to remember.

When Toyota disbanded...

Let's go back to 1984, the year Asia Brewery took over the Toyota franchise. The new team, which would be named Beer Hausen and later Manila Beer, wanted to keep the core of the Tamaraws led by their "Big 3", Robert Jaworski, Mon Fernandez, and Francis Arnaiz. However, "Jawo" cried foul over the franchise sale, eventually leading to him, Arnaiz, and some others not joining Beer Hausen, and a team called Gilbey's absorbed Jaworski and Arnaiz. Gilbey's, the following year, changed its name to Ginebra, and that year would start the "never-say-die" era that made the Barangay the league's crowd darlings.

"Don Ramon", on the other hand, would not last long with Beer Hausen as also in 1985, he was traded to Tanduay (YCO-Tanduay, that is) for Abet Guidaben, the first of two times both players were traded for each other.

The next year, Ginebra and Tanduay engaged in that season's Philippine Cup Finals, which became hyped following a reported personal rift between Jaworski and Fernandez, in which the root was traced during Beer Hausen's Toyota takeover.

Two more years later, the Elizaldes had to let go of their PBA franchise (and even the ownership of the entire Tanduay company), and the Ayalas came to the picture, renaming the franchise as Purefoods. And, with Purefoods keeping the Tanduay core including Fernandez and his reported personal issues with Jaworski still there,... voila! The "Manila Clasico" is born! (Jaworski and Fernandez would patch things up in 1989 and became the PBA's historic example of "BFF goals".)

Young people's delight vs. "The People's Club"

While the Jaworski-Fernandez feud fanned the flames for the "Manila Clasico", it was both Ginebra and Purefoods' respective mantras that made the rivalry special.

Thanks to the instilling of Jawo's "never-say-die" attitude on them, the Barangay have become the PBA version of the PFL's Global FC, that is, "The People's Club".

Meanwhile, the arrival of Purefoods somehow made the PBA more accessible to younger audiences, especially the girls. It became more evident after the other Fernandez-Guidaben trade that led to Alvin Patrimonio, Jojo Lastimosa, and Jerry Codinera becoming the new stars of the franchise currently known as, guess what, Star. Their youthful approach to the game plus the charm led to younger and more well-to-do people flocking the PhilSports Arena just to watch them live and even until now, with the Smart Araneta Coliseum as the league's unofficial home.

That being said, the Ginebra-Purefoods matches have become battles between two different walks of life, the "masa" and the yuppies.

Christmas Clasico...

The Hotshots currently lead their head-to-head clash with the Barangay, but the latter has the better of the former during Dec. 25. Since 2007, Ginebra and Star played twice right on Christmas night, and the former won both those games. Both matches, however, were close ones. Ginebra subdued Star, 100-98, on Yuletide 2007. In the other Christmas meeting last year, LA Tenorio drained a game-winning as the Barangay repeated over the Hotshots, 92-89. The latter turned out to be more heartbreaking for Star as the team blew a late 18-point lead and was eliminated from the Philippine Cup playoffs.

...in Bocaue!?

This year, however, will be entirely different. The Christmas 2016 edition of the "Manila Clasico" will be played outside Metro Manila, that is, at the Philippine Arena in Bocaue, Bulacan. The PBA actually insisted on having Araneta and the Mall of Asia Arena as the venue, but both arenas are booked for Christmas events. The league may have opted to just postpone the Ginebra-Star game plus the preceding match-up between Blackwater and Mahindra to a later date, but with the Iglesia Ni Cristo-owned stadium opening its doors, we have a Christmas Clasico! However, it is now in the form of the first out-of-town Purefoods-Ginebra game in recent memory (unless you want to treat the Philippine Arena like how the PBA is treating the Ynares Center in Antipolo and the Alonte Sports Arena in BiƱan, i.e., venues outside Metro Manila serving as alternate Metro Manila arenas, but that's another story).

What to expect

While this will be an elimination round game like in 2007, playoff implications are still there. Star, currently at 3-2, wants to inch closer to a Top 2 spot which could mean a twice-to-beat advantage in the quarterfinals. Ginebra, at 2-3, looks to at least spoil Star's bid and somehow make things complicated in the middle of the standings. Also to watch out is the first "Clasico" in Star's Paul Lee era and on whether Lee can give the Star and Ginebra fans something to remember like how James Yap matched up against Mark Caguioa as a Hotshot. Likewise, Scottie Thompson and Jio Jalalon, with all the debates on who's the better point guard during their college days, collide.

Follow him on Twitter: @IvanSaldajeno