MANILA, Philippines -- Strict health and safety protocols will be observed when Chooks-to-Go Pilipinas 3x3 starts its first professional season inside the Inspire Sports Academy in Calamba, Laguna next week.
Teams are already entering the campus, where they will hold scrimmages and a brief pre-season before the first leg of the tournament officially begins on October 21. Three more legs will be held every other day, and the conference concludes with the grand finals on October 30.
While inside the Inspire complex -- the new campus of National University in Calamba -- all players and other personnel are subject to the minimum health standards, according to the league's physician.
"Handshakes and high fives are discouraged during the conduct of the games inside the bubble," warned Dr. Butch Ong. "Babantayan po namin 'yung mobility and galaw ng mga players and all stakeholders."
"We will still be performing and conducting minimal health standards. In fact, kahit hindi naglalaro, they will still be performing physical distancing. Staff and other members will be wearing their masks and face shields also," he added.
There were strict protocols that the players had to follow even before they entered the bubble in Inspire. For instance, everyone who entered the bubble went through a five-day home quarantine from October 8-13, and they were tested via RT-PCR ahead of their entry into the campus.
Once there, the players will again quarantine for two days inside their rooms before being given the go-signal to practice.
The players who are already there, including Joshua Munzon of the powerhouse Zamboanga Chooks squad, said their ingress went smoothly.
"I think the protocols were well-executed," he said. "Everything has been top tier on keeping everybody safe and healthy."
According to Ong, they will do random testing once the bubble is in full swing, to make sure that there will be no outbreaks. Two or three tests will be done per day.
"It really is to monitor, continuous surveillance tayo inside the bubble," explained Ong. "We do not just stop upon ingress. We continue our surveillance even during the two-week bubble."
There's a reason that Chooks 3x3 has put together protocols that are seemingly stricter than those of other leagues that are also restarting their campaigns. The Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) initially rejected their proposal of a "semi-bubble" where teams spend four days at Inspire before exiting.
The rejection was disappointing, admitted Chooks 3x3 commissioner Eric Altamirano, but it only spurred them to craft better guidelines.
"I feel it was a blessing in disguise. Lalo pa namin napatibay 'yung protocols namin, and we feel confident that with the bubble that we're going to execute, we can protect all the members of the teams and all the participants ng liga namin," said Altamirano.
Their new protocols "covered all bases," he added. Altamirano noted that even Baham Mitra, the chairman of the Games and Amusements Board, felt they may have gone overboard.
"OA na kami," said Altamirano. "Pero sa totoo lang, 'di bale na on that side kami, kaysa pagdating sa IATF, denied na naman kami. I think on the side of the JAO (joint administrative order), they were very happy with the proposal."
Of the league's 12 teams, seven are already inside the Inspire bubble, with the other five set to make their entry Thursday.