By Hilda Austria

CONTRACT SIGNING. Members of Pangasinan Heat with Maharlika Pilipinas Basketball League (MPBL) legal counsel lawyer Glenn Gacal (seated from left to right), MPBL commissioner Kenneth Duremdes, Pangasinan Heat franchise owner Cezar Quiambao, Pangasinan Governor Ramon Guico III, Pangasinan Heat team manager and Alaminos City Mayor Arth Bryan Celeste, and Pangasinan 1st District Rep. Arthur Celeste pose for a photo after the contract signing at the Urduja House in Lingayen town, Pangasinan on Wednesday (Feb. 7, 2024). The team will join the next season of the MPBL that aims to hone homegrown basketball players. (Photo courtesy of Liwayway Yparraguirre)

LINGAYEN, Pangasinan – The province of Pangasinan will be part of the next season of the Maharlika Pilipinas Basketball League (MPBL), which aims to hone homegrown basketball players and give them opportunity to play in professional league. 

The team will be called Pangasinan Heat, the 29th team in the MPBL, to signify the province’s rich solar resource, team franchise owner Cezar Quiambao said during a press conference at the Urduja House in Lingayen town, Pangasinan on Wednesday. 

“I support all the projects of the governor that would help the youth. This could also be the tool to market the province of Pangasinan aside from the youth development,” Quiambao, the former mayor of the province’s Bayambang town, said. 

Alaminos City Mayor Arth Bryan Celeste, who is the team manager, said majority of the players are homegrown, mostly coming from the cities of Urdaneta and Alaminos and Sual town, but they will also import from outside the province. 

“Ten to 12 players are homegrown but we will import five to seven from outside of Pangasinan to be a formidable team,” he said.

The team’s coaching staff are composed of former pro-basketball players Jun Marzan Jr., Cris Calaguio, Lordy Tugade and collegiate basketball coach Sonny de Jesus; while former pro-basketball players Marlou Aquino and Danny Ildefonso are among the team’s consultants. 

Since the team is a franchise, its funding will come from the franchise owner. 

“No government fund (will be used) but whatever support in our own capacity as Pangasinenses, we will give to the team,” Pangasinan Governor Ramon Guico III said during the same briefing. 

Guico said it took a while for the province to join the league due to prioritization of the province’s affairs but added that “since it’s almost stable already, it’s high time to look into governing and promoting social responsibility in sports.” 

Among the well-known Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) players who hail from Pangasinan are Marlou Aquino, Danny Ildefonso, Lordy Tugade, and Mark Pingris. 

“I am glad of the composition of team Pangasinan and their plans as it is aligned in the vision of the league which is to develop homegrown players and give more opportunities and exposure to shine in the professional basketball league,” MPBL Commissioner Kenneth Duremdes said. 

The opening of the next season is on March 16 and it will be held in Calasiao town, Pangasinan which is expected to bring economic activity in the province. 

MPBL was founded by Senator Manny Pacquiao in 2017 and the league’s previous champions are San Juan, Davao, Nueva Ecija and Pampanga. (PNA)