One of the PBA’s all-time greats in Vergel Meneses was at last given the 2019 President’s Award during the virtual PBA Press Corps Awards, Sunday at the TV5 Media Center.
“Ako’y lubos na nagpapasalamat sa iginawad sa akin. Nakakataba ng puso na mapabilang sa mga hanay ng mga nagawaran ngayon,” said the only ‘Aerial Voyager’ via Zoom.
The cage legend, almost two decades since his retirement, is now looking to carve a name in public service as the esteemed mayor of Bulakan, Bulacan, doing his best to steer a town amidst the pandemic.
Meneses himself wasn’t spared as he tested positive for COVID-19 late last year but he has since recovered, overcoming an obstacle so tough like what he did during his heydays where he won three PBA titles and the 1995 MVP.
A two-time Mythical First Team member and three-time Best Player of the Conference, Meneses is the second recipient of the award first handed out to the entire PBA Board led by chairman Ricky Vargas in 2018.
Meneses first caught the public’s attention when as an 18-year-old forward from Jose Rizal College, he bested established amateur stars such as Jojo Lastimosa, Alvin Patrimonio, Bong Alvarez, and Nelson Asaytono to rule the 1987 PABL Freedom Cup slam dunk contest.
When he turned pro in 1992, he was tabbed by Presto as the no. 1 pick in the draft and then had a brief stint with Sta. Lucia, which brought the CFC franchise.
But it was with Swift that Meneses established himself as a superstar, becoming its franchise player who led the team to three championships, including back-to-back (Philippine Cup and Commissioner’s Cup) fashion in the 1995 season when he emerged MVP.
The two-time slam dunk champion and four-time All-Star MVP later also suited up for Barangay Ginebra, FedEx, Red Bull, and finally, Talk ‘N Text. His no. 18 jersey was retired by Air21 Express in 2006 as he finished with a total of 9,453 career points in 590 games, including averages of 16.0 points, 3.2 rebounds, and 3.6 assists.
During his pro career, Meneses was also a vital cog for the 1998 Centennial Team of coach Tim Cone, which won the Jones Cup and bagged the bronze medal in the Bangkok Asian Games.
Four years after retiring, Meneses tried his hand in coaching, taking the job as the mentor of Jose Rizal University. He led his alma mater to five Final Four appearances in the NCAA and had an 84-76 win-loss record in almost a decade before resigning from his post to run as mayor in the last national elections.