Ballad of a PBA journeyman
by rick olivares
For Alaska, there was Sonny Thoss, John Ferriols, Reynel Hugnatan, Jun Jun Cabatu, JR Quiñahan, and Poch Juinio.
While at San Miguel there was Dorian Peña, Jay Washington, Danny Seigle, Danny Ildefonso, and Samigue Eman.
Over at Barako Bull, there was Mark Andaya, Mark Isip, and Mark Yee.
Playing for the Coca Cola Tigers, there was Asi Taulava, Dennis Espino, Larry Rodriguez, and Ricky Calimag.
Moving to San Mig, there was Rafi Reavis, Yancy De Ocampo, Joe Devance, Isaan Holstein, and Marc Pingris.
Oh, and there was Jerwin Gaco.
Ken Bono knows all their names.
After all, he sat on the bench watching all those people get playing time ahead of him while he burned a hole on the seat of his pants for five different PBA teams.
Maybe the sixth time will be the charm for Ken.
He’s like a 2K version of Cris Bolado, a perennial back-up/bench player who was like a lucky charm for mostly for Alaska during its 1990s heyday and later Ginebra as they won titles.
The 6’5” Bono, of course, hopes that he won’t be remembered for that. He knows he can play. “Hangad ko more than the championships (he was a part of title teams with San Miguel and B-Meg/San Mig Coffee) and bonuses ay makapaglaro na talaga.”
The constant benching has greatly told on his confidence not to mention his self-esteem. There are days when he is sullen and morose. The joy that the game gave him for so long has changed to one of survival.
“Ang hirap talaga,” admitted Bono who was a star for Iloilo Central Commercial High School and Adamson University where he won the 2006 Most Valuable Player Award. He was also named to a couple of Mythical teams in the Philippine Basketball League before jumping to the pro circuit. “Di naman tayo nagkukulang sa effort pero baka talagang marami lang tayo ka-position sa PBA. At puro star-studded ang mga napupuntahan kong teams.”
Bono did get a few chances. He once scored 16 points in a victory by San Miguel over Ginebra in 2009. While at Barako Bull he scored in double figures several times. Just when it seemed that he was going to be inserted in the regular rotation, the team disbanded.
“May chance sana sa Barako Bull pero nag-disband naman kami mid-season…”
Coincidentally, he oft found himself on the same teams as Wesley Gonzales who was in a similar predicament. When the stars were injured, they got playing time and produced. When the starters returned so did Gonzales and Bono to the bench where they were once more nailed to the bench.
“Mahirap naman din magreklamo kasi kahit paano nandito pa tayo at may hanap buhay,” noted Ken who aside from supporting his wife and son also sends tuition money back home for some relatives in Iloilo. “Ako din kasi sumusuporta sa amin sa Iloilo sa lola ko at sa pag-aaral ng mga pinsan ko. Tapos nag-aaral narin anak namin ni Maya (his wife).”
While the average playing career of a PBA player is five years, Bono has exceeded that as he will begin his eighth season (he also suited up for the Bangkok Cobras in the Asean Basketball League for one tournament)… provided he is able to latch on to another roster.
“At least nag-expand yung number of PBA teams (with the arrival of KIA and Blackwater),” Bono reasoned. “May chance to play.”
Of late, he has been trying out for Norman Black’s Meralco Bolts. He plans to pick the mind of the former Best Import and Grand Slam-winning coach on not only improving is game in order to get more meaningful playing time. “Sana maka-pirma sa Meralco,” closed out Bono. “Pero sana din bigyan din ako ng chance na makapaglaro. Gusto ko lang maglaro.”