Filipinos have long been known for being gracious hosts, and that hasn’t changed at all during the FIBA World Cup 2023.
Italy, a quarterfinalist in the world meet, has been a firsthand witness to this as their Filipino attaché has guided them through the intricacies of Philippine culture. More notably, for the Azzurri’s coach, attaché Anton Altamirano played a pivotal role in arranging a meeting he will never forget.
Last Thursday, Italy coach Gianmarco Pozzecco and his staff had the opportunity to visit and meet one of his favorite athletes, Manny Pacquiao. Altamirano, himself a prominent figure 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.
Since his arrival in Manila, Pozzecco had been expressing his hope to meet the former eight-division world champion. Apparently, this desire remained true behind closed doors, as Pacquiao was a common and constant topic of discussion among the Italians.
And so, Altamirano, with the assistance of 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. As luck would have it, Pozzecco played chess 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, who was previously part of Zamboanga-Family’s Brand Sardines’ staff and current head coach of Wilcon 3×3.
Altamirano’s hospitality didn’t end there; he continued to oversee the Azzurri’s schedule, transportation, laundry, meals, and other special needs. On the court, he even assisted the Italians 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.
Undoubtedly, Italy will forever cherish the memory of meeting Pacquiao, the Philippines’ ‘Pambansang Kamao’. However, right from the beginning, they were always in good hands with Filipino attaché Anton Altamirano.