Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Para sa Gilas

When Gilas fought against Korea in the FIBA Asia Cup last year, it was the night before my 5am flight to Bacolod. Staying up late to watch the game wasn’t even in question. Of course, nanood ako. Sumigaw pa nga ako eh. Nagtatalon. Napaluha nang konti when we won and secured our spot in the world cup. Our boys are going to Spain. Our boys are going to Spain. Our boys are going to Spain. Those words kept pounding in my head. Di ako makapaniwala. Di pa mag sink in yung gravity ng mga salitang yun. OA ba?

Ganito kasi yun.

When I started watching the PBA, the only thing I was sure about basketball is that I hate Jaworski. He was already a coach then. Playing coach but barely playing. I saw him curse his players on TV. Grade 1 ako noon so anyone who says bad words was a bad person to me. My dad was an Alaska fan. Naturally, I became one, too. My dad patiently explained to me the rules every time I would ask him, “Why did they stop?” referring to the players whenever a referee blew the whistle. Later on, I became familiar with the rules. Even the hand signals of the referees memorized ko na.  When we were taught volleyball in grade 2, medyo naconfuse pa ko sa difference ng signals. Yung traveling kasi naging substitution. Yung mga ganun.

My first ever favorite basketball player was, of course, from Alaska. Pero hindi si Jojo Lastimosa. Hindi rin si Duremdes or Hawkins. Si Flying A, Johnny Abarrientos! Gwapo!! I wore jersey no. 14 my entire grade school days because of him. In grade 3, I started playing basketball during intrams. I can still remember my first game. I was called for double dribbling violation a couple of times. Hindi kasi masyado natatawag yun sa PBA so di ako familiar. Pag uwi ko, I asked my dad. Sabi nya, “Anak, pag nadribble mo na yung bola, tapos nahawakan mo ng dalawang kamay, di mo na pwede i-dribble ulit. Dapat pasa na. Or shoot.” I was never called out for that again.

Madaming madami pang kwento.

There was a time I got late for a quarter exam kasi di pa tapos yung Bulls vs. Jazz NBA finals. My dad was supposed to drive me to school pero pareho kaming glued on tv. From the bed, naupo kami sa corner tapos tumayo. Pero di talaga makaalis. I can’t remember what my exam was that day but I can still remember how we cheered when the Bulls won. So I guess tama yung priority namin ng tatay ko. I’ve seen Cuneta Astrodome’s better days because we used to watch PBA games there live. Kahit inter-village league, pinapanood namin ng tatay ko. That’s why I learned the terms, ‘hugot’, ‘overaged’, ‘bakaw’ very early in life. Yung cheer pa nung brgy. namin dati pag nakakalamang sa kalaban, ‘Di makakibo! Di makakibo!’. Ang saya lang talaga. On school days, lagi akong last trip sa school bus kasi nakikipaglaro pa ko ng basketball. Sa mga lalake. Nang naka-skirt. Ang consequence eh bano ako sa chinese garter.

In highschool, I was watching the UAAP already. Wala lang. Impartial. I just really enjoyed watching the game. But one time, in a do or die match, Jec Chia made a crucial three after Artadi’s error that brought an underdog to the Finals. Dun, dun ako naging Ateneo fan. Ateneo won the championship that year, while I eventually ended up with La Salle. I didn’t know what I’d do with a Management Economics degree, so I went to the green side. Minahal ko rin syempre. Mahal talaga. I would watch the games live or on TV, while cheering my heart out for La Salle. Tapos, sa gabi, I’d catch the replay and focus because I want to know how well or bad we really played. Malala.

My support for Gilas is not only because of Chot Reyes or Marc Pingris or Jimmy Alapag. Or even just the fact that we are Filipinos, so we have an obligation to support them. I support Gilas for everything that basketball means to me starting from that day I became an Abarrientos fan. Sabi ko nga sa boyfriend ko, yung iyak ko for Gilas ay for every basketball player I have loved before. Naks! Gilas is the personification of every basketball fan’s dream. Hindi ko rin alam. Pero ramdam ko talaga. Yung saya, yung pag-asa, yung pagmamahal. At syempre, yung sakit.

I couldn’t even count the number of times my dad said, “Naku, nung panahon nina Jawo sa FIBA, wala yan”. And I would always listen in amazement. I couldn’t imagine then how we could have possibly been that great once upon a time. That’s his story. I want my own. And I want it to be about these boys because they deserve it. THEY DO. So for the past 3 days, I stayed up late and woke up in the wee hours of the morning because I have to see it. I have to watch them. Not just see the final scores. I want to watch how our boys play. And boy did they play beautifully, every freakin’ time!

I wanted to wait until the first round is over before putting into writing how I feel. Because of hope. Because of expectations. Because of closure? But I will say this now: this will be my story. 2014 FIBA Basketball world cup will be the story I will repeat to my kids when they start raving about, well, sino ba star player ng San Beda Cubs this year? 

History will not be about moral victories, sure. History normally starts with quantifiable facts and we aren’t sure if we’ll even get one under our W in the 2014 FIBA Basketball World Cup. The line: our first win in the world cup since 1974 may have to wait another 4 years. But I do not care. My dad’s story is that of a triumphant ending. Mine will be of a beginning. Of men who fought against odds, against statistics. Men who surprised the world, the Philippines, themselves.

I’m not sure if we’ll win against Senegal tonight. I hope we will. With all my heart, I believe we can. But what I’m sure of is, every time those men stepped on the court the last 4 games, odds were thrown out the window; statistics suddenly were unreliable. They gave us a game. A GAME. Against the world’s best and brightest. As a basketball fan, that is all I could truly ask for. Masaya manalo, syempre! Sino’ng may ayaw? Pero yung basketball na minahal ko, yun yung nilaro ng Gilas sa FIBA. Kaya mahal ko rin sila.

On a different note, while writing this, I felt very blessed to have a dad who not once ever told me that basketball isn’t for girls. Or tried to ever tell me how I should behave as a girl. Umuuwi akong amoy araw nung elementary pero okay lang sa kanya. I’m still a princess. Just the kind who doesn’t smell like flowers and isn’t always squeaky clean. Hihi

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