Someone asked me how my blog and newspaper column came to be titled "Bleachers Brew". It's like this, it's an amalgam of sorts of two things: The bleachers area in the stadium/arena where I used to sit when I would watch baseball, football, and basketball games and Miles Davis' great jazz album Bitches Brew. That's how it got culled together. I originally planned on calling it "The View from the Big Chair" that is a nod to Tears For Fear's second album, Songs from the Big Chair. So there.

Sunday, August 5, 2018

It’s a marvelous life for Robby Celiz

It’s a marvelous life for Robby Celiz
by rick olivares

The Bataan Risers’ Robby Celiz is used to marveling the world around him. During a bowling and billiards team fellowship event last Thursday, August 2, the six-foot-three forward with a sniper rifle for an arm, stood behind his teammates who all kidded around during an impromptu bowling tournament.

“Ganyan talaga ako,” he murmured of his taking in everything including the good fortune he believes to be with the Bataan squad that is currently playing in the Maharlika Pilipinas Basketball League.

Celiz hails from Cadiz, Negros Occidental. It’s a mostly agrarian and fishing city some 40 miles north of Bacolod. There are the nearby Cadiz Viejo, a white sand beach, a popular tourist spot.

It was only as he got older when he began to appreciate the world around him. After all, what do you know when you’re a kid.

“Ang habol ko lang ay makapagaral ng college,” Robby admitted of his modest dreams. Celiz found himself playing for Rizal Technological University in Mandaluyong. “Akala ko, hanggang dito na lang ang basketball career ko tapos kukuha na ako ng trabaho na pang-corporate.”

Fate intervened in the form of Eric Altamirano who recruited him for his National University squad. And arguably he was a part of one of the best UAAP teams not to win a championship (where he suited up alongside two-time league most Valuable Player Ray Parks, Mythical Five member Jean Mbe, Dennice Villamor, Jeff Javillionar, and Robin Roño to name a few). “Nagulat ako nung na-recruit ako ni Coach E. Nag-iba yung buhay ko. From NAASCU to UAAP. Sabi ng mga kapamilya at kaibigan ko from Negros Occidental na bigla na nila ako napapanood sa TV,” he laughs.

And then he was drafted 17th overall in 2013 by Talk ‘N Text. “Grabe, dream come true,” he said of that moment in time. Yet, Celiz found it difficult to get minutes with a team that at that time was the class of the pro league. They had Jason Castro who was at that time, newly conferred as the best point guard in Asia. Jimmy Alapag was still blowing great guns. They also had do-it-all player Ryan Reyes, and well, Celiz’ Risers’ teammate, Pamboy Raymundo.

Medyo mahirap kumuha ng minuto sa team na yun,” admitted Celiz. “Pero yung natutunan ko – hindi ko makukuha kahit saan. Naka ilang championship na sila at yung preparation at approach sa laro, kahit yung samahan at professionalism – ang dami mo mapupulot.”

“At dahil kinuha ako ng Bataan Risers (after a stint with BlackWater and with Alab Pilipinas where he was a Asean Basketball Championship), gusto ko dalhin at i-share yung natutunan ko sa kanila.”

Celiz is well aware that he is playing for a supportive organization led by head coach Jojo Lastimosa who is one of the 40 Greatest PBA Players of all-time, and a staff of former pros and winners like Vic Pablo and Ervin Sotto. He even has a former national team player for a teammate in Gary David as well as two current Gilas Cadets in JJ Alejandro and Vince Tolentino.

“Nung nanalo kami sa Alab, ang sarap ng feeling,” he gushed. “Ganun pala yun to win (a major championship)!”

With the Risers, he believes he has been given a platform to showcase his talents. In Bataan’s last win, a 95-85 triumph over the Imus Bandera, Celiz scored 15 points while hauling down seven rebounds and dishing three assists. “Hindi madali yung buhay professional. Ilang teams lang nasa PBA. Pero dahil dito sa MPBL at sa Bataan, may chance na makalaro. Happy ako na nakakatulong ako sa team ko manalo.”

Robby realizes that not many people are given the opportunities he has been given. He understands it is a difficult and highly-competitive profession, but at this point, it’s all gravy (aside from the need to earn a living). “Dream ko lang nun makakuha ng scholarship para makapag-college ako. Biro mo naglaro ako sa UAAP, sa PBA, sa ABL, at ngayon sa Risers sa MPBL. Not bad di ba?”

Now to help write a happy chapter for the Risers (who currently tote a 4-1 record in the MPBL Datu’s Cup) with a championship.

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