What the Nueva Ecija Rice Vanguards are doling out during this COVID-19 pandemic is a giveaway. Rice, of course.
Headed by team owner Bong Cuevas and his wife, Mayor Rianne Cuevas of Palayan City, the Rice Vanguards are distributing the Filipinos’ staple food in Central Luzon and other areas as their main contribution to the needy population hardest hit by the Luzon-wide lockdown.
According to Jai Reyes, the Rice Vanguards’ head of basketball operations and main point guard at the same time, the Cuevases also donated PPEs (personal protective equipment) to frontliners against the coronavirus.
Owing to Nueva Ecija’s distinction as Rice Bowl of the Philippines, however, the Cuevases make sure the precious commodity is delivered daily to depressed areas, charitable institutions, and even to companies affected by work stoppage like the Maharlika Pilipinas Basketball League where the Rice Vanguards belong.
With the Chooks-to-Go Lakan Season division championships and national finals stalled by the implementation of the Enhanced Community Quarantine, the Cuevases included MPBL personnel among the recipients of their rice allocation on Sunday.
“Mr. Cuevas and the Mayor commiserate with the people in these trying times,” said Reyes, an MPBL All-Star. “They want to help ease the suffering of the people.”
Fact is, apart from food packs 12,000 Palayan families got P3,000 each.
While the Cuevases are compassionate, they are also driven to excel in their undertakings. The Rice Vanguards’ failure to advance to the Lakan Season playoffs is not to be repeated.
No wonder, they have given Reyes the leeway to bolster the team’s roster and go after the national title of the MPBL fourth season supposed to start on June 12 but will be reset till the end of the Lakan Season.
“Championship talaga is the goal. We want Novo Ecijanos to be proud of us” said Reyes, who believes the Rice Vanguards’ buildup will spur the other teams to strengthen their lineups as well for the good of the league.
Reyes’ acquisitions thus far are Datu Cup MVP Gab Banal from the Bacoor Strikers, brothers Juan and Javi Gomez de Liano from the University of the Philippines Fighting Maroons and Gilas, former Alaska Ace Renz Palma and former Muntinlupa Cager Edzel Mag-isa.
Aside from Reyes, former pro Tonino Gonzaga and Maclean Sabellina will also return to form the nucleus of the Rice Vanguards being mentored by Chris Tiu with Tyron Tang as assistant.
As proof of Nueva Ecija’s long term commitment to the MPBL, Mayor Cuevas has secured funding from private investors to construct a modern gymnasium in Palayan which will serve as the Rice Vanguards’ homecourt.
While an average of 500 Novo Ecijanos were bussed to the Rice Vanguards’ games, the Cuevases expect an even bigger local crowd next season, especially when they begin winning.