MANILA, Philippines -- Fans will not be allowed at the Angeles University Foundation Gym when the PBA returns to action after seven months in limbo, but San Miguel's Arwind Santos knows he will still feel the support of his "kabalen" in Pampanga.
A native of Angeles City, Santos feels a special pride in playing in his hometown, where his potential was first discovered and honed by former Lubao mayor and current Pampanga governor Dennis "Delta" Pineda.
"Dito ako sumibol," Santos told reporters during a media availability session on Sunday morning at the Quest Hotel, where all PBA teams are staying for the duration of the Philippine Cup.
"Dito rin ang tatay-tatayan ko na si Gov. Delta Pineda, na alam kong proud na proud siya dahil aside from that, and'yan din ang suporta niya para magbigay, mag-offer ng ganito kalaking facility para sa ating lahat," he added.
In an unprecedented development, the whole PBA conference will be held in one location at the AUF Gym, with all teams staying in the Quest Hotel to minimize the spread of the novel coronavirus disease.
The PBA patterned their "bubble" after those done by foreign leagues, such as the NBA, the WNBA, the National Women's Soccer League, and the Major League Soccer in the United States.
Among the stringent rules implemented by the PBA, the Clark Development Corporation, and the Bases Conversion and Development Authority is that no fans will be allowed at the AUF Gym, which serves as both the games venue and the practice facility.
But Santos is confident that his fellow Kapampangans will find a way to make their presence and support felt.
"Siyempre sa mga kabalen ko, na dito ako kasi ako nag-pedicab noong mga time na 'yun. Nakakatuwa lahat ng mga pedicab driver, nanonood sila," said Santos.
"So masaya ako para doon dahil dito ako sumikat, dito ako nakilala," he added.
The upcoming conference will be a difficult one for San Miguel in many ways. Not only are they playing in a bubble, but they will also be without All-Star center June Mar Fajardo who is still recovering from a leg injury he suffered in February.
Much is expected of the SMB supporting cast, including Santos who showed his readiness to step up in the Beermen's first game of the season -- a 94-78 rout of Magnolia last March. It was the only game played in the Philippine Cup before the league suspended all activities due to the coronavirus pandemic.
In that game, Santos put up 18 points, 15 rebounds, 5 steals, 3 assists, and a block in an all-around performance.
"Habang wala si June Mar, kailangan ko mag-double effort," said Santos, who maintained that winning another MVP award is the farthest thing on his mind.
"Kung magiging maganda ang performance ko, at mas magiging maganda ang performance ng team, masaya ako doon. Kung maganda nga ang performance mo, No. 1 ka sa stats pero kulelat naman kami, hindi ako masaya," he added.
Santos was the last player to win MVP honors in 2013, before Fajardo ran off an unprecedented streak of six consecutive awards.
San Miguel opens its season on Tuesday against the Rain or Shine Elasto Painters.