Several players have been thankful for the formation of the Maharlika Pilipinas Basketball League.
One of them is former PBA player Chris Baluyot, who serves as a municipal councilor in Hagonoy town, Bulacan.
The 6-foot-3 swingman now plays for the Bulacan Kuyas, one of 10 clubs playing in the MPBL.
“Swerte ako’t nabigyan tayo ng pagkakataon ni Senator Manny (Pacquiao) na magkaroon ng ganitong liga dahil pwede na akong maglaro sa homecourt namin,” he told ABS-CBN News.
“I can now train everyday kasi hindi ganoong kalayo sa bayan namin kaya nag-decide akong mag-commit sa Bulacan Kuyas.”
Baluyot played for Air21 in the 2007-08 PBA season before he decided to throw his hat in the political arena.
He acknowledged that he needed to stay away from pro basketball during his first term as councilor.
“Nag-focus talaga ako bilang public servant kasi kelangang sulitin natin ang tiwalang ibinigay ng kababayan natin. So siguro for the first 3-4 years nag-lie low ako sa high-level basketball,” Baluyot said.
But when Pacquiao formed the MPBL, which brought the games to provinces, this gave Baluyot a chance to lace his sneakers up again.
What Baluyot likes most about the league is that it brings unheralded players a chance to shine in the national spotlight. He said this is a big break for talented players from far-flung areas who remain undiscovered.
“Malaking opportunity ito para sa mga kabataan. Dati kasi pag pang inter-barangay, inter-town 'yung program nandoon lang ang mga players,” he said.
“ ‘Yung mga mahihiyain na players na magagaling, ‘yung di sanay sa camera, ‘di makapuntang Manila, di makapunta sa malalaking college teams, nahihiya, natatakot mag-aral, ito na ang chance nila.
“Dito hindi ka na dadaan sa malalaking college teams sa Manila. Pwede ka ng maglaro directly 'pag na-discover ka ng mga different teams ng province and cities,” he added.
Baluyot said his PBA experience has given him a slight edge over his younger counterparts, but wants to use that to mentor his teammates.
"Kahit papano nandoon pa rin ang respect sa 'tin, pero kakabalik lang natin so kailangan ibalik pa rin ang dating hard work," he said.
"May kasabihan tayo na 'yung talent natatalo ng hardwork. 'Yun siguro ang sikreto at 'yun din ang shine-share natin sa mga magagaling sa amin. Useless ang galing natin kung hindi tayo masisipag."
(For more sports coverage, visit the ABS-CBN Sports website.)