Hello there again gents and PBL fans! After another long layoff, we're back in circulation. I can probably attribute the lengthy silence to this tough economic downturn when even my brain and not just my pen went surprisingly dry. I have to wait for the much needed stimulus package to get things rolling again! You can also blame the Conficker computer virus caveat on April Fools Day for the delay. Well, so much for these wishful nonsense and let's get to work.

To start with, let's recap the highlights of the last quarter in 2008. Rei's Suave defeated the defending champion Direct's Hooters in the finals and Amante Bueno emerged as the MVP. His relentless play and overall hustle especially on the boards throughout the whole season and not just for the playoffs earned him a much deserved award. Chaired by the tireless Abet Lising, we ran a very successful fundraising campaign that culminated to an enjoyable Christmas party at season's end. Even when a lot of companies were tightening their budgets to cancel most year-ending celebrations, we still managed to fulfill our yearly and traditional affair. Much of the tribute goes to our hardworking committees, the PBL First Ladies headed by Linda Gragasin, and of course to our very own players, family and friends who graced the occasion. As usual, there was plenty of sumptuous food, great exchange of goodwill among attendees and excellent array of entertainment. The highlight of the evening went to the much annticipated performance of the Macho dancers, composed of PBL officers who gave a high energy, gyrating, memorable dance routine that brought the crowd screaming and dancing in their seats. Thanks to Rose Estipona who choreographed the dance number and we look forward to the next performance. In a year-ending highlight, Oskie "Big Time" Estipona stepped down as PBL commissioner and passed the torch to Abet Lising and his deputy, Dean "the Dream" Santos. We wish nothing but the best and lots of gratitude to Oskie for the wonderful job he has done and we may add, as we used to say in naval lingo, fair winds and following seas! As far as Abet and Dean are concerned, they'll face a lot of challenges ahead but there's no doubt that they'll do well.

As we move to the current scene, we've noticed how competitive the teams are with the exception of a few ones. For most of the teams that made the playoffs, there are newer faces, younger and fresher talent. Our own version of PBL March madness that will linger past April "fools-ishness" will at least give us one of the best playoff runs we had in years. The bottom three teams- Rudy's Defenders, Tony's Turbochargers and Pete's Matipid- did not qualify for the playoffs. It's a lonely feeling to have while at the bottom of the heap and your only consolation is that after a few weeks this playoff season will be over and things will get rolling again, hopefully with a better team to start the new season. When you're someone like me trying to survive the rigors of those senior moments, you can't help but have a wishful thinking of a Benjamin Button syndrome, hoping that your body undergoes an aging process backwards and transform to a youthful presence on the playing court. Moving to the first round of the playoffs, Oskie's Gurus, Randy's Saints, D'Boys' Finest and Noel's Drink Team were all ousted.

Here's my not-so expert analyses for the remaining four quarterfinal matches this weekend:

Rei's Suave vs. Jojo's Milkmen - the defending champions versus a very dangerous team. The question will be if the Suave's key players like reigning MVP Amante Bueno and Jay Dodds will return to their championship form. The Milkmen, prior to the playoffs, were like a wounded animal but fought their way through. As the saying goes, be careful of the wounded one as this team is well balanced, having arguably the best point guard in the league and given the right circumstances might win it all.

Direct's Hooters vs. 3X Trippers - The Hooters have a nice core of experienced and game savvy players against the Trippers' young guns. It will be half court game execution versus speed on this one. But I don't think the comparison will go as far as a turbo-charged Camaro against a Yugo or a Tata Nano.

Gill's Sprinters Daw vs. Abet's Gunslingers - the top seed of the regular season against one of the quality teams in the playoffs. The Sprinters don't have a true center but play well as a team while the "Kenny's" have an adequate inside-outside game. It will be interesting which team can enforce its will on the other.

Dick's Dickies vs. Rocky's Hornies - this match will perhaps be the most competitive this weekend. The Dickies have a true center with excellent short to medium range shooting capability but the team can sometimes be obssessed with three pointers. The key for the Hornies is if their center is fully healthy and back to his MVP form with a nice compliment of
guards, including a former MICAA star.

Finally, let's put all those rumors to rest about team make-up manipulations and game-fixings coming from a few players.
I have been in this league for so long to know if any secret arrangements or conspiracy exist to favor any player or team. All our meetings are held in the open for any officer or team captain to question any form of unfairness and the like. Let's face the reality that the game outcome is beyond our control sometimes as in players absence due to work or family priority, illness, game performance, etc. Let's move on and instead of dwelling on the negatives let's try to keep improving the league so we can all be proud and enjoy the fruits of our labor! Hope to see you all this weekend folks.