Filipinos have long been known to be gracious hosts – and that hasn’t changed at all in FIBA World Cup 2023.
Italy, a quarterfinalist in the world meet, has been firsthand witness to that, as their Filipino attaché has held their hands through the ins and outs of Philippine culture. And more particularly for the Azzurri’s coach, attaché Anton Altamirano helped set up a meeting he will never forget.
Last Thursday, Italy coach Gianmarco Pozzecco and his staff got a chance to visit and meet one of his favorite athletes in Manny Pacquiao. Altamirano, himself a fixture in Philippine sports as a collegiate coach and the son of the legendary Eric Altamirano, went out of his way to introduce the two to each other.
“Naisip ko lang kasi na lagi niyang name-mention, why not try ko mag-contact ng mga tao, especially since may connection din naman tayo sa MPBL,” said Altamirano, referring to the Maharlika Pilipinas Basketball League founded by Pacquiao.
From his very first days in Manila, Pozzecco has been relaying to media his hope to meet the former eight-division world champion. Apparently, that still held true behind closed doors, as Pacquiao was a common and constant topic for the Italians.
And so, Altamirano, through MPBL officials Joe Ramos and Seth Jamora, helped finalize the logistics to bring the Azzurri to ‘Pacman’s’ residence in Makati.
On the way there, Altamirano answered all of Pozzecco’s questions about Pacquiao, and it was also Altamirano who mentioned Pacquiao’s love for chess. And as luck would have it, Pozzecco played as well.
“Mahilig din siya mag-chess e. One time nga, ‘di pa kami makababa ng bus kasi tinatapos pa niya yung chess niya sa phone. Kaya nung sinabi kong paborito rin ni Pacquiao yung chess, nanlaki yung mata niya e,” said Altamirano.
The Filipino attaché’s hospitality only continued from there, as he stays on top of the Azzurri’s schedule, transport, laundry, meals, and other special needs. On-court, he also gives the Italians an assist: as a ball boy. “Very fulfilling yung ginagawa namin. Once-in-a-lifetime ‘tong opportunity na ‘to so very grateful kami sa binigay na responsibility sa’min,” he said.
For sure, Italy will forever cherish the memory of meeting Pacquiao, the Philippines’ “Pambansang Kamao.” But from the very start, they were always in good hands with Filipino attaché Anton Altamirano.