I vividly remember when Mico Halili shouted “and the curse of Korea is about to be broken here inside the Mall of Asia Arena!” in the 2013 FIBA Asia Championship Finals when the Philippine team finally cured the curse of South Korea. Chills went down my spine as the sea of frenzied crowd in white t-shirts shout their hearts out for the win. That scene plays in my head every time I remember the word “basketball.” Almost every Gilas fanatic took pride when the national basketball team Gilas Pilipinas broke in what was coined as the “South Korean curse.” One thing though, growing up, I don’t remember anyone cheering for our Filipino warriors competing in another realm of sport. I have been a huge basketball fan for as long as I remember. I used to get crazy watching the adults compete their asses up in a nearby half-court at my place. And with that, I can say that in a typical Filipino neighborhood, you can find basketball-crazed people shooting in hoops and drooling over television screens that display PBA matches.
Scrolling through Facebook, a friend tagged me in Isaac Reyes’ satirical research abstract at the time when the 18th Asian Games in Jakarta-Palembang was still ongoing. And then the thought came to me: Majority of the stories I saw in the span of the league was about the mighty Gilas Pilipinas. This hype isn’t wrong in a sense that we must “physically walk onto street courts during the game and deflate the ball whilst it is in play,” as what Isaac Reyes has manifested; it’s just that we put too much attention on basketball when in fact, we can divert ourselves in other sports that could draw our hidden potentials.
We Filipinos never go the easy way around. We like the challenge—clutch moments and briskly games. Maybe that’s why we’re indulged in a sport that requires seven-foot-tall giants for more chances of winning. But it’s time we look at the sports that we have a competitive-edge in. Embrace the average 5’4 male height the Filipinos were blessed with. The thirst for the sport is costing us cold hard medals from different international leagues. Say in Rio Summer Olympics 2016, we only took home one lone silver medal. We’re proud, yes, but at the same time, our neighbors had no trouble competing with other nations and hoarding medals. Thailand had two golds, two silvers, and two bronze that placed them at the 35th rank, and this is because their government has steady supporting hands in training their athletes. Not only that, the Thais are now positioning themselves as a dream destination for sports tourism—world-class sporting facilities, wide-ranging expertise, and prominent hosting for regional and international sporting events and tournaments.
It’s time we look at the sports that we have a competitive-edge in
In 122 years, the Los Angeles Summer Olympics was still the most successful stint we had in the international league since the first Summer Olympics. Our basketball team has to rely on private donors and naturalized players (Fil-Ams) in order to clinch the bacon. Look at the 9 medals the Philippines holds in the Summer Olympics, all of them are from sports that we actually excel in—boxing, athletics, swimming, and weightlifting.
We love basketball because it’s a fast, easily playable, fans can mingle up-and-close with players, it’s physical, it is a culture that can unite us from the grassroots level to upwards and lastly, it’s been in the Philippine school system since 1910.
All over the country, we have had a lot of athletes that could one day step into the highest stage, athletes that have the caliber to be Olympic Gold medalists if given the right training and equipment. This is not about defunding basketball. I never said we should inflate basketballs or change the channels whenever PBA or NBA is on TV. However, there’s a time when we should let things light up to keep moving forward. It’s time to accept the evolution from the hoopster DNA in us. For the meantime, let’s drop the ball and walk out of that court.