Throwback Threads: For One Night, The Welcoat Dragons Return to the PBA

It was Retro Night for the Rain or Shine Elasto Painters as they gave a nod to the early days of the franchise.

The official schedule for the second game of the April 3 PBA Philippine Cup double-header at the Smart Araneta Coliseum read Converge FiberXers vs. Rain or Shine Elasto Painters. But when both teams entered the court for their pre-game warm-ups, the team wearing the dark uniforms bore a logo not seen in the pro league in nearly 17 years.

In a nod to their early PBA days, the Elasto Painters wore throwback Welcoat Dragons uniforms in their 110-90 win over the FiberXers. According to team manager Jireh Ibañez, the move was done to coincide with the relaunch of the Welcoat paint brand.

Iniisip ko na rin iyan,” said Ibanez, who was drafted by Welcoat in its maiden season and is the only remaining person on the current Rain or Shine team who actually wore the Welcoat Dragons jersey. “We were toying with the idea. Prinesent namin sa mga bosses. Sakto, we are relaunching Welcoat paint, so sabi nila boss, ‘Game.’ We got the go-signal.”

Coach Yeng Guiao said he only recently informed by Ibañez of the jersey change.

“Basta nag-usap lang kami ni Jireh. Tapos dumating iyong mga ganitong uniform. Gusto lang i-reminisce ang early days ng franchise.

“It feels good to wear iyong ganitong jersey and uniform. Maraming nagco-comment na gusto nila ang Dragons. Gusto nila ang history ng franchise.

Historic performance

The night was made extra special by center Beau Belga, the team’s second-longest tenured player, who became the first Rain or Shine local player to post a triple double after finishing with 25 points, 12 rebounds and 10 assists.

“I was not really aware of the triple double, kasi may mga times na muntik-muntikan, pero hindi ko pinipilit,” Belga said. “So kanina sinasabihan nila ako na one assist na lang. Sabi ko, ‘I’ll try.’ Kung hindi, okay din naman.”

Guiao, who is in his second tour of duty as head coach of the franchise, said of his veteran center’s achievement: “Ganun talaga pag tumatanda ka. Tumatalino ka. I think he’s rounded out his game really well. May opensa siya, may rebound.”

Beau Belga became the first local player from Rain or Shine to put up a triple double. (PBA Media Bureau)
A history of greatness and character

Welcoat traces its origins back to the defunct Philippine Basketball League, which they joined in 1996 as the Welcoat Paint Masters. That team won six PBL titles and boasted of future PBA stars such as James Yap, Don Allado, Renren Ritualo and Rommel Adducul.

In 2006, the company made the big leap to the PBA as the Welcoat Dragons, and while their initial campaign was a disappointment – they went 7-29 in their first season – the tide slowly turned in 2008 when they switched to their current franchise name the Rain or Shine Elasto Painters and drafted Gabe Norwood, who has been with the franchise ever since.

“We heard rumblings that we were gonna have the uniforms,” Norwood said. “That’s the reason why we’ve been wearing red instead of the blue on the dark days. It was cool to have a new look out there, a familiar new look, and for a guy like Beau (Belga) to have a career night, his first triple double.”

Although he’s been with the team for 16 seasons, until Wednesday night Norwood had never worn a Welcoat jersey.

“I think Rob Wainwright was still wearing (no.) 5 at the time, so shout out to Rob.”

Guiao said he came back to the team after a stint with the NLEX Road Warriors because he believed in the core values of the company.

“It protected its good name all throughout. Inalaagan nila iyong pangalan nila, na they will play by the rules and they will play fair, and they will be ethical.

“There are ups and downs, pero iyong character ng team at iyong values ng team hindi nag-iiba.

Added Belga: “Siyempre, pinapa-ano lang sa amin ng mga boss namin kung paano nagsimula iyong team namin as a franchise dito sa PBA. Iyong nga, Welcoat Dragons. At kumbaga, para sa amin, gusto namin manalo wearing this jersey. So talagang pinilit namin tonight to get the win.”

Is there a chance fans will see these throwback jerseys again? Guiao certainly hopes so.

“Sinuwerte eh. Baka maulit pa. Hindi natin alam kasi iyong mga bosing namin ang magde-decide.”

Ibañez said it’s very possible.

“Depende sa call nila boss. In theory pinayagan ako ng PBA na ilang games. So may ilang games pa kami na dark. Basta payagan kami, suotin namin.”

Banner image from PBA Media Bureau.

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