Sons of the south: PJ Simon, basketball stars from Mindanao join grand ‘homecoming’ in Davao with PLDT Home

PLDT Home’s Fiber Fastbreak series flies far south to connect with the city’s passionate hoops community. Bannering the meet-and-greet are ‘The Scoring Apostle’ Peter June Simon and TNT Tropang Giga players Gryann Mendoza from Davao and Poy Erram and Glenn Khobuntin from Cagayan de Oro, plus teammate and PBA star Jayson ‘The Blur’ Castro

TNT Tropang Giga stars Gryann Mendoza, Poy Erram, Glenn Khobuntin, and Jayson Castro plus Davao-based PJ “The Scoring Apostle” Simon at PLDT Ponciano Davao. TNT Tropang Giga stars Gryann Mendoza, Poy Erram, Glenn Khobuntin, and Jayson Castro plus Davao-based PJ “The Scoring Apostle” Simon at PLDT Ponciano Davao.

The Philippines is no doubt a hoop-crazed country, with some standout areas becoming well-known for developing top amateur and professional talent. Down south in Mindanao is no exception, being the home of stars such as NLEX Road Warriors’ Baser Amer and Meralco Bolts’ Alvin Pasaol from Davao, and “The Scoring Apostle” Peter June Simon from Cotabato who would later become a bigger name playing for Davao.

On a mission to celebrate the Filipinos’ love of the game far south, PLDT Home flew to Davao City for the second leg of its Fiber Fastbreak series. On April 27, TNT Tropang Giga hotshots Gryann Mendoza from Davao, Poy Erram and Glenn Khobuntin from Cagayan De Oro, and teammate Jayson “The Blur” Castro made a quick visit to their home region – connecting with passionate local basketball fans and reaching out to nearby communities in hopes to provide inspiration.

Now based in Davao City and happily retired from the PBA, Peter June “PJ” Simon briefly also made a special participation at the event. The newly hailed Pilipinas Super League Deputy Commissioner for Mindanao joined the four TNT stars for one afternoon of interactive activities with PLDT Home customers and mallgoers at the brand’s pop-up booth inside Gaisano Mall, before heading to the PLDT Smart Store Ponciano for another fun-filled fan session with loyal customers.

The Davao leg of the PLDT Home Fiber Fastbreak series follows the kickoff in SM Seaside Cebu City last April 20, which witnessed Cebuano players Carl Tamayo and Calvin Oftana of Gilas Pilipinas and TNT Tropang Giga star Robert “RR” Pogoy with Bacolod-native teammate Kib Montalbo coming home and doing the same. The event saw hard-court heroes coming full circle by giving back to their hometown while reflecting on their own journeys as athletes.

“It is my utmost pleasure to be connecting with fans and supporters back in my homeland. Basketball is my first love and will always be my home,” said eight-time PBA champion and bona fide family man PJ Simon, leading the lineup of returning players. “Davao and the rest of Mindanao are a gold mine of rising basketball talent, and I want to help spread the word and give more opportunities to our young players here.”

PBA stars show off their “off court” skills with a game of NBA 2K24 at the PLDT Home Fiber Fastbreak booth inside Gaisano Mall of Davao. PBA stars show off their “off court” skills with a game of NBA 2K24 at the PLDT Home Fiber Fastbreak booth inside Gaisano Mall of Davao.

Once the hottest prospect in Mindanao, the Cotabato-born Simon honed his craft in the region. He carried his competitive fire in the PBA, where he played from 2014-2020 with the Magnolia Hotshots. He was a part of the franchise’s 2013-2014 Grand Slam season, winning the PBA Philippine Cup, Commissioner’s Cup, and Governor’s Cup in a single season. Although retired from the PBA, the 43-year-old star made a quick basketball comeback just this year – playing for a new Davao-based club in a separate league.

Meanwhile, PBA 3×3 League Champion Gryann Mendoza was born and raised in Davao City. He once captained the Far Eastern University Tamaraws in the UAAP. At the professional level, he further flourished after becoming one of the top 3v3 players in the PBA 3×3 League.

“Nothing beats coming home and seeing the passion the city has for basketball. I’m proud to inspire fellow Davaoeños to start their sports journey,” he said.

Glenn Khobuntin, who hails from nearby Cagayan de Oro City, is another testament of how extra talented and driven the south is. A hardworking player willing to adapt to the needs of his team, he was part of the history-making National University squad that won the UAAP Championship in 2014, their first in 60 years at the time. In the PBA, he became one of the most reliable forwards in the league, becoming a key member of the TNT Tropang Giga roster that won the 2021 Philippine Cup and 2023 Governor’s Cup. “Mindanao is home to many passionate players and fans, and them making it to the PBA shows the whole country that we have the talent and determination to make it big,” he said.

Another Cagayan de Oro pride who also enjoys playing in front of the city’s passionate fans is John Paul “Poy” Erram, who has become a defensive stalwart in a physical league like the PBA.

“Playing games in my home region is a very exciting experience, as they get to see the action closer to home and cheer for their favorite teams and players,” the TNT Tropang Giga star said. “As for Davaoeños, you just know they’re all ready to flock to the arena as soon as the gates open.”

A part of the Ateneo Blue Eagles’ UAAP title-winning teams from 2010 to 2012, Erram made his presence felt in PBA, winning Defensive Player of the Year in 2018 and becoming a two-time All-Star. His strength in the paint also contributed to TNT’s 2021 Philippine Cup and 2023 Governor’s Cup wins.

The PLDT Fiber Fastbreak star players sign basketballs to be gifted to lucky PLDT Home customers. The PLDT Fiber Fastbreak star players sign basketballs to be gifted to lucky PLDT Home customers.

Jayson Castro, the only non-Mindanaoan player who came along for the trip, could only express his thrill having witnessed his teammates’ homecoming. While hailing from Pampanga, whole seas away from Davao, he knows the value of reaching out to loyal fans across the country to spread their love of the game.

“In my long career, one of my favorite experiences is playing outside of Manila. Being able to connect to different communities and see fans all over the country is humbling,” he said. “I hope to continue to inspire more players as long as I can still play.”

In a country with a rich pedigree of star point guards, Castro was able to carve out a storied legacy. “The Blur” was part of the legendary Philippine Christian University Dolphins team that punched above their weight, winning the NCAA title in 2004. In the PBA, he is a nine-time All-Star and eight-time champion with TNT Tropang Giga, where he became an integral part of the franchise’s most successful period. As part of the Gilas Pilipinas national men’s basketball team, he solidified his legend as one of the best point guards in Asia, leading the national team to silver medal finishes in the 2013 and 2015 FIBA Asia Cups, reestablishing the country as a regional force.

After Davao, the PLDT Home Fiber Fastbreak series returns to Luzon and makes its last stop in Metro Manila on May 11. Basketball fans will still be in for more treats as the series promises to bring more local stars to celebrate the sport with more communities.

To culminate the series, the last leg happening inside SM Megamall will feature a star-studded lineup from Gilas Pilipinas, TNT Tropang Giga, and more club and collegiate teams all paying it forward to the next generation of basketball players with a camp and a tournament.

Inspired by Filipinos’ undeniable love of the game and just in time for the NBA Playoffs, PLDT Home is offering a promo for new Fiber customers. From April 1, 2024 to May 31, 2024, new applicants of the Fiber Unli All 2099 plan will be awarded a complimentary one-month NBA League Pass they can use to catch more live games and moments right inside the comforts of their home.

Get your basketball fix and catch more NBA action with NBA League Pass via PLDT Home. Sign up for a PLDT Home Fiber Unli All 2099 plan and above to enjoy a complimentary one-month NBA League Pass subscription! To learn more, visit https://pldthome.com/fiber.

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