Embracing the Filipino Dream

By On May 26, 2020

Years later one can officially say that Burbank High’s 1996 graduating class was a special one, at least in terms of the success of its top athletes.

Freddy Sanchez went on to play in Major League Baseball, was on three all-star teams and was the 2006 National League batting champ.

Matt Baker was one of the stars of the basketball team that won the league title in 1995 and was on several league championship tennis teams. He went on to Harvard University and is now an attorney with the prestigious firm Sheppard Mullin Richter Hampton.

And there is Don Allado. Like Baker, Allado played a key role in Burbank winning the 1995 Foothill League title in basketball. A 6-foot-6 center, he made a life-changing decision just days after graduating from Burbank.

Don Allado celebrates after a championship victory. Photo courtesy Don Allado.

More than two decades later, he doesn’t have any regrets.

A native of the Philippines, Allado returned to his homeland and ended up playing 16 seasons of pro basketball in the Phillipine Basketball Association. Along the way he was a three-time all-star and was a part of three league championship teams.

He is now retired from playing, but is still involved in the sports and a number of other things.

“A week later after we stopped school, I went right to Manila for practice because the season started in August,” Allado said of his graduation from Burbank.

Allado, who became a power forward, played for De La Salle University, where he led his team to a collegiate title. He would score 4,630 points and pull down 3,426 rebounds in his pro career.

“I didn’t even really have time to say goodbye to everybody,” recalled Allado, who will turn 43 next month. “I had to pack up and go on a journey. Let’s face it. I’m not going to be an NBA player. I’m going to choose to go to a place where I can develop. The opportunity presented itself to come here. When I weighed it out there were too many opportunities out here as opposed to staying in the states.”

Allado, who attended Edison Elementary and Luther Burbank Middle School before becoming a Bulldog, has more than 30,000 followers on Twitter and more than 15,000 on Instagram.

Don Allado during his days at Burbank High. Photo courtesy Don Allado.

“It was a great ride. It was a great journey,” Allado said of his career.  “Out here in Philippine basketball you play year round. Literally you play like 11 months out of the year. Sometimes you go a full year and rely on your day off.

“I feel like every athlete knows internally when it is time and they’ve reached that point and I came to that point and felt I reached it and demons weren’t calling. They weren’t knocking on my door.  I felt like I was a peace and ready to move on to the next chapter of my life.

Allado, who retired in 2016, became more than just a pro basketball who enjoyed a long career. He became an icon.

“I have had fans come up to me and tell me I named my son after you. At first it was like a shock. I was like why did you do that,” Allado said.

His name will also always be part of PBA history as he even has a league rule named after him.

Allado was drafted by into the pro ranks while still playing in college. He chose to remain in college for one more season, which created a hearing in which he was allowed to be the final player in league history to be able to play in college even though he had been drafted eighth overall in the 1999 draft.

He now finds himself busy as he has become the assistant men’s basketball coach at Adamson University.

“We have to rely on getting an average recruit and then developing them,” Allado said.  “We focus on fundamentals. It is the key ingredient, not on slam dunks. We feel fundamentals are the key component that is going to get you to the next level. That appeals a lot to the players. Before you can do a sprint you have to learn how to walk. We teach them proper footwork and how to counter and we put them in situations of how to react.”

Don Allado lifts the Philippine Basketball Association championship trophy. Photo courtesy Don Allado

Allado, who was once a teammate of former NBA first-round draft picks DeMarr Johnson and Dickey Simpkins, said one thing he loves about basketball in the Philippines is the atmosphere.

“Playing ball here in the Philippines is nothing like in the States. Our atmosphere for college basketball will blow out any college atmosphere in the States. It is like imagine soccer in Brazil. These are crazy fans out here,” Allado said. “We have these drums beating and the student section is going nuts. When I came out here 20,000 came out and watched us play. I was like I don’t need the States, I am home. It is deafening. It is somewhat similar an NBA Finals atmosphere, especially in the time when we didn’t have social media.  You had to really go to the game to get that experience. The crowd is all about that. They are wild and rugged and curse you out and love at the same time. I’ve never experienced anything like it.”

When he isn’t doing something basketball related, Allado has also become a successful businessman and even started a career in local politics in his hometown of San Juan, just outside of Manila.

But recently the Philippines has also been shut down by Covid-19.

The upcoming college season, which was slated to begin in late August, has been cancelled.

“You can’t have kids going to school. A lot of people are scared out here. Some people due to their finances won’t be able to sustain themselves more than three months,” Allado said. “A lot of people have lost their jobs. I feel so bad for those people who are in those situations. When you don’t have any hope it’s the worst feeling you can be in. So I pray that we find a vaccine. We need a vaccine.”

Don Allado pulls up for a jump shot. Photo courtesy Marlon A. Bernabe.

Allado, who owns several shoe repair stores, said he has had to close his shops as well.

“The last couple of days I’ve been trying to get permits to re-open again,” said Allado, who noted that he hasn’t seen his mother in more than two months despite living just a short distance apart. “We’re going to open select shops soon. We’re going to open little by little.”

Allado said he tries to come back to the area at least once a year, as his father and several other family members still live locally.

His coach at Burbank, Jeff Davis, has fond memories of him.

“He had really great post moves and worked very hard to improve his game. One thing I remember is that he would really get hyped up for games; especially the Burbank-Burroughs games,” Davis recalled. ”Almost to the point to where he needed to be calmed down before tip off. But each time he’d gather himself, go out and play a great game.”

Allado is now planning on making a 2022 run at a seat on San Juan’s 12-person city council. San Juan has approximately 120,000 residents.

San Juan Mayor Francis Zamora was Allado’s college teammate at De La Salle, and Allado regards Zamora as his best friend.

Don Allado has given people the Philippines many memories and he hopes to continue to bring prosperity for years to come.

“Over here everybody is nice, cordial. They come up to you with a big smile, heh idol,” Allado said. “It is humbling. They recognize me. It is fun when you see people say hi to you.”