Everytime I see Araneta Coliseum, I am always reminded of the times when Papa, Vanni and I would watch the Toyota-Crispa championship games on our 14"-Sony color TV at home. The reception on screen was a bit cloudy and there would be some static when the wind blew on our rooftop antenna, but we would clap and cheer for our favorite team - Vanni for Toyota, Papa and I for Crispa. A few years later, we would be watching the UAAP games at the Araneta Coliseum with Vanni and Papa cheering for La Salle, and me cheering for Ateneo.
Nowadays, I would only get to watch a basketball game when B plays NBA Live on the XBox. So, I got really excited when an officemate invited us to watch her husband's game. Actually, it was a bit embarassing since I didn't know who her husband was - the only players I remember are Samboy Lim, Allan Caidic, Alvin Patrimonio and Jojo Lastimosa who all stopped playing at least a decade ago! I had to wait until I got home so I could ask B.
It turns out that my officemate's husband played on the Alaska team and we we had tickets to their 4th semi-finals game against San Miguel. B reminded me to cheer for Alaska.
The game was at 4:30 PM but we arrived at the Araneta Coliseum at 5:30 PM, when the game was halfway through the 2nd quarter. We had nice seats - we were seated a few rows behind the game officials. I was still trying to figure out who the Alaska players were when the buzzer announced the end of the 2nd quarter.
I was a bit disappointed that the coliseum was only half-full. I thought that people would watch the game live because it was already a semi-finals match. It didn't help that the few times I watched other basketball games, the coliseum was fully-packed with people. Nevertheless, I heard myself cheering for the Alaska players. At first, we just clapped every time they sank a shot. But as the game progressed, we started screaming every time they stole the ball, when the ball was stolen from them, and even when the San Miguel players missed a shot. We even cheered even if we didn't fully understand what was happening! It was a good thing that another officemate was kind enough to answer all our questions.
Halfway through the 3rd quarter, I could already match the names of the players with their faces even without looking at the back of their jerseys. I started cheering for them individually. Of course, when I noticed Ferriols for the first time in the middle of the court, I just had to scream, "Go cutie-pie!" not knowing that his girlfriend was seated 2 rows in front of us.
By the 4th Quarter, we were all screaming and clapping continuously, specially after Alaska stole the lead from San Miguel.
It was a good game that left our hearts pounding until the end. We were ecstatic when Alaska won the game! I was amazed at the range of emotions I felt (and the amount of adrenalin my body pumped into my blood!) for a team that I just "met".
After the game, we were so hungry, that we were almost in a hurry to go to Bellini's at the Marikina Shoe Expo.
Bellini's is a cozy restaurant with painted walls, Italian home-cooked dishes, home-made sweet wine, a cheery Italian owner and Italian-speaking waiters. Our waiter patiently explained the items on the menu to us. When we ordered the vino dolce, he explained that it didn't go well with the food that we ordered and that it was more suited for dessert.
Food was served in a few minutes and I loved my fetuccini al vongole. The clams were fresh and the sauce was lightly flavored to emphasize the taste of the clams. It was perfect.
The Bellini pizza that we shared wasn't bad - I loved the thin crust. I would have preferred a pizza with less toppings, though.
After our pizza and pasta, we decided to have orange cakes so we can properly enjoy their home-made vino dolce. The orange cakes were so good! It had the texture of butter cake, the moistness of a good rhum cake, and the orange shavings on top added a chewy texture. It wasn't too sweet but it wasn't acidic either. We easily finished the generous servings on our plates.
The vino dolce was very interesting. It wasn't as sweet as the other dessert wines I've tasted but it effectively masked its alcohol content. By the end of the evening, we were giggling like school girls.
On my way home, I realized that watching a PBA game and having dinner at Bellini's were pleasures that should not only be remembered but experienced over and over.
[Note: Araneta Coliseum doesn't allow spectators to bring in cameras so I left my bulky DSLR and smuggled in my little point-and-shoot.]