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An open letter to the Philippine basketball fans

Friday, August 07, 2015

This is what Philippine basketball is all
DEAR Philippine basketball fans,

I know it's a hard feeling that the Philippines lost to China for the right to host the FIBA World Cup. But you know what, you guys actually made the difference in the bid.

While I don't know whether Twitter and Facebook will still be in by 2019, you still brought to social media what all of us want.

Even the whole world took notice of our bid for the FIBA World Cup, which we once hosted in 1978.

Maybe Coach Chot Reyes, Jimmy Alapag, Benjie and Kobe Paras, Manny Pangilinan, Lou Diamond Phillips, and Manny Pacquiao were there in Tokyo, but it was actually you fans who are the unsung heroes of this bid.

Trending the hashtag #Puso2019 on social media alone was a great contribution from you guys. You really made everyone feel that the Philippines deserves the hosting right.

And you know what, you guys also made me believe in Gilas more. You guys changed my perspective about small countries lacking the capabilities of hosting an international competition.

Yes, the economic capability still played a factor in the China pick, but I found out that capability is not just about the cash; it's also about the unwavering support.

Thanks to you, I became more than a basketball player, a sportswriter, and a sports fan; I became more optimistic. We can be a great host.

You guys proved that we can excel in hosting the FIBA World Cup and you really showed the Philippines' interest of hosting it.

The efforts may have fallen short, but I still salute you. Don't worry. The Philippines will host the AFF Suzuki Cup (This is a soccer event, I know), the FIBA 3x3 World Championship, and the SEA Games in the near future.

I hope you go out at the venues and show the world what we can offer. Who knows? We may take the 2023 hosting. Continue showing "husay at malasakit" for Philippine basketball and Philippine sports in general.

I hope you can trend #Puso2023 in the future.

Sincerely yours,

Ivan Saldajeno
Asst. Managing Director for Operations, Dugout Philippines


10 ELECTRIFYING reasons why the Philippines should host the FIBA World Cup

Thursday, August 06, 2015

IT HAS come down to this. The Philippines is a finalist for the hosting right to the 2019 FIBA World Cup. It has been almost 40 years since the Filipinos last hosted a World Cup of any kind. With that being said, I listed down ten reasons why the Philippines deserves the FIBA World Cup hosting right. Unlike my previous The 10 Electrifying lists, I did not rank the reasons in order this time. You may also notice that I dropped the article "the" in THE 10 ELECTRIFYING in the headline above. That's because there are more than ten reasons why, but I picked ten that make sense and struck me a lot. So here we go.

1. Rims are everywhere!
This should be a no-brainer. Like how the Americans fill empty lots with base plates and turn them to baseball pitches, the Filipinos love basketball so much that regardless of the terrain, they will just put up makeshift backboards and play there. At one point, in fact, some created basketball courts on the streets themselves that the municipal or even the barangay councils established some regulations to it.

2. Everyone talks about basketball off the court...

Another giveaway reason. For a sportswriter who also cover other sports like yours truly, basketball-related convos will always be there even if you're not on the hardwood. In fact, we got "scolded" by a fellow soccer scribe when we talked about NCAA basketball in a UFL coverage. However, a special corollary to this is something I like more.

3. ...even on Christian holidays!

The Philippines is known as the only predominantly Christian nation in Asia, but since the Americans, who introduced Protestantism, brought basketball to the country, the sport has become a "religion" as well. In fact, everyone in churches, mosques, or in other religious centers will sneak in basketball topics, even in preaching. But one classic example of this came on a Christian holiday. It was March 29, 2013, a Maundy Thursday. The Chicago Bulls dropped a bomb on the Miami Heat's 27-game winning streak and snapped it with a 101-97 win. All of a sudden, Philippine social media feeds were bombarded with Bulls-Heat posts, and I believe that game top-trended nationwide (I set my trending topic feed at worldwide). Talk about basketball "worship" in just one day!

4. Dedication to the game...

Of course, basketball being the de facto "national sport" (although sipa, internationally known as sepak takraw, is still the recognized national sport) means the Filipinos love the game too much--way more than sepak takraw, which surprisingly is only "lovable" in the South. To show a proof, some players turn to basketball for an "income", that is, they will dare each other to gamble their money in a basketball game--no matter how small you can bet. To further prove the last phrase, a known streetball statement says that the players "kill" each other on the court even for just "ice water", which usually costs only PHP3.

5. ...and to the ball too

One picture that I liked recently is a viral photo of some people taking the ball, which fell to the creek, back to the playing court. While basketballs (original or fake) are being sold everywhere, some don't mind buying new ones and exert efforts to save their old ones from flowing to the waters, breaking glasses--even going to the roof of their neighbor's house just to get them. It's as if a basketball is like gold to them.

6. Men become gentlemen, even for just at least four games.

Here's a funny corollary to the gambling factor in basketball. A barangay councilman dared his friend to a PHP170 thousand bet during the recent NBA Finals between Golden State and Cleveland. To make sure that one will not run away from the other should he lose, they signed a "memorandum of agreement" witnessed by no less than the barangay council itself. Talk about being gentlemen even for just two weeks! The official ended up with the ton of cash as the Warriors downed the Cavs in six games. P.S.: Hey, Mr. Ombudsman, can you check on this?

7. What was thought to be the most boring finals series became the most-watched ever
A "surprisingly" huge number of fans filled the Smart Araneta Coliseum to the
rafters in Game 3 of the UAAP finals.
When NU whipped Ateneo and FEU shocked La Salle in last year's UAAP semifinals, many thought that everyone will just turn his attention to the NCAA and ignore the finals. Some fans even asked the UAAP to stage a battle for third just to get some fan heat. The league did not respond to the clamor, and the fans of the Bulldogs and the Tams responded with the bang. All the three games of the NU-FEU finals series were well-attended. In fact, the last two games broke the Smart Araneta Coliseum record for the most number of paying patrons, even overtaking the Crispa-Toyota games. I'm proud to say that I witnessed many historical moments there, especially when the Bulldogs ended a 60-year drought. To cut it short: Filipinos don't matter if their teams are not in the finals; as long as a finals series will be played, expect the influx.

8. Even stars from other sports play basketball too!

Basketball is too much of a craze in the Philippines that some of the stars from the other sports try their hands in a game of hoops as well. Petron's Gretchen Ho and UP's Kathy Bersola once played basketball before becoming volleyball stars. On the other hand, soccer sensations James and Phil Younghusband of Loyola were once dared in a game of pop-a-shot by Bob Guerrero. The most flamboyant example of this, however, is no less than boxing superstar Manny Pacquiao. To show his love for basketball, the former eight-division world champion plays basketball during day-offs in training. What's more, he coached and even played for the Mahindra Enforcers in their debut PBA season (as the Kia Carnival). Expect him to stay in his spot for next season. Aside from that, he also founded new basketball clubs like the D-League's MP Hotel Warriors and the incoming Mindanao Aguilas in the ABL. He also recently expressed full support for the NCAA's Letran Knights.

9. Even the league officials sneak in after the game to play ball!

One cool thing about being part of the media is that I also get a chance to play some basketball after the day's fixtures are done. I actually played basketball this past week against the NCAA ManCom and the guys at ABSCBN. By the time I'm finishing this, I was done playing against the ABSCBN team starred by no less than PBA legend Olsen Racela. I lost in all of the games (Sir Paul Supan of JRU is one heckuva sniper, and Team ABS is too much for us, although I got an offensive rebound against Anton Roxas with a sneak-in box out move :D), but it was fun. Even the bouncers also play basketball after the games too.

10. Height doesn't matter!
Ginebra guard L.A. Tenorio (left) posted this photo of him, Jimmy
Alapag, and Hamed Haddadi on his Instagram.
The Filipinos are among the shortest people in the world in terms of average height, but they are also the craziest basketball-wise. Grantland's Rafe Bartholomew subtitled his well-known Pacific Rims (not to be confused with the robot-themed movie) "The Philippines' unlikely love affair with basketball", probably describing how the relatively-short Filipinos get hooked to a game where height matters. Gilas Pilipinas, however, showed the antithesis of it. It's all about the heart. Gilas compromised its lack of ceiling with a brilliant basketball play that amazed the whole world. Despite finishing the 2014 FIBA World Cup with a 1-4 record, most of Gilas' losses were close ones, and some international hoop junkies even thought the team would have been 4-1. No wonder the theme for the Philippines' hosting right bid is "Puso 2019". For me, however, this is the most important reason. It's not about the height; it's about the passion.

(Credits to the owners of the photos used)


The Week That Was Season 5: Week 2 (July 5-July 11)

Thursday, July 09, 2015

ONLY two games took place this past NCAA week, but those games turned out to be beautifully played that they made us miss the NCAA more due to stormy weather. Here are the results of those games just in case you missed them.

CSB 73 EAC 66
Rejj Sibayan
Jonathan Grey and Travis Jonson got the big game they needed to lift CSB to a 73-66 win over EAC.

Grey and Jonson led the way with 19 and 18 points respectively as the Blazers notched their first win in Season 91 after suffering back-to-back defeats.

CSB smothered EAC in the first quarter, limiting its opponent to only seven points in the first ten minutes.

The Generals appeared to gain some momentum as they sizzled in the last six minutes of the second quarter to cut the Blazers' lead to nine, 36-27, at halftime.

CSB sizzled again on defense in the third period, only allowing 12 EAC points in the quarter and opening a 55-39 cushion heading to the fourth.

The Generals then went on a 16-5 run to start the fourth and cut the Blazers' edge to five, 60-55, with three minutes left.

But a four-point play from Jonson snapped the rally and stretched the lead to nine, 64-55, with 2:33 remaining.

EAC tried one final push, but a dunk and a triple from Grey pulled CSB out of the woods.

Christ Mejos tallied 17 markers for the Generals, who lost for the second straight time this season.

Perpetual Help 82 Mapua 79

Perpetual Help scored the game's last six points to complete a comeback against Mapua and take an 82-79 victory in their key NCAA match-up at the FilOil Flying V Arena on Tuesday night.

In the battle between four potential MVP candidates, it was the team of reigning top player Scottie Thompson and red-hot rookie Bright Akhuetie that walked away successful as Gab Dagangon scored crucial layups in the end for the Altas to steal the win from the Cardinals, who led most of the game.

Trailing, 64-71, with six minutes left, Thompson's charities sparked the game-deciding 18-8 run capped by consecutive walk-in-the-park layups by Dagangon that handed Perpetual Help its third straight win in as many games.

Akhuetie, despite being not at his 100 percent after recovering from an illness, tallied 24 points, while Dagangon added 16. Thompson flirted with a triple-double after making nine markers, 12 rebounds, and ten assists.

Nimes also had a near triple-double after going for 16 points, nine boards, and eight dimes.


The Week That Was Season 5: Week 1 (June 27-July 4)

Friday, July 03, 2015

TWTW is back for a fifth season! Your weekly dose of college sports highlight returns to give you the latest in the league plays. Here are the top NCAA stories for the week.

3. "Magulong" Basketball
We open the fifth installment of the TWTW series with Letran's surprise 2-0 start. Nobody probably saw it coming considering the Knights' lineup, but lo and behold, here they are at the top of the league table after Week 1. The reason: Coach Aldin Ayo's "magulong basketball" formula. "Gusto namin ng magulo. Ayaw namin ng nakakaset. Ayaw namin ng conventional na basketball," Ayo described his style of play. Don't worry, he's saying his team will focus more on pressure defense. Well, a 57.5 opponents' points per game average after two matches means the "magulong basketball" game is working.

2. Arth Attack

Another team with a 2-0 record after Week 1 is San Beda, and the one handling the show is not even SEA Games gold medalist Baser Amer. Fellow graduating King Lion Arth Dela Cruz has taken over the Red Lions' campaign this year. He tallied double-doubles (27-17 and 22-13) in each of his first two games, but what glared the most for Dela Cruz was that he averaged five assists a ballgame, something you rarely see for a forward. Dela Cruz is now embracing his role as a point forward for the team. With Amer expected to be 100% again next week, how about more dimes for the Bedans?

1. Bright shines like a diamond
We had laughs at the NCAA media room after Bright Akhuetie's nerve-wracking performance against CSB on Friday as we think of headlining our story "Akhuetie shines bright like a diamond in Perpetual Help's win over CSB", pertaining to the Rihanna hit. But the 6-6 Nigerian center-forward did not just shine. He was shining, shimmering, and splendid (I pertained to a Disney movie hit for this one). Akhuetie fired 44 points, the most in the last six years, 19 rebounds, and two blocks in the Altas' win that put them at 2-0 like the Knights and the Red Lions. For Bright, however, he may have just pulled off the most spectacular single-player game in NCAA history. And I am happy to say that I covered it.

Special thanks to Rejj Sibayan for the photos.


In celebration of anniversary, Gatorade urges fans to "Be Like Mike"

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

TWENTY-THREE years ago, Gatorade launched a game-changing campaign in honor of a celebrated athlete whose name has come to be associated with greatness in sports.

The catchy and upbeat Be Like Mike campaign became a global hit when it first came out in 1992, cementing Michael Jordan’s niche as a sports legend. 

Today, Gatorade celebrates this enduring and historic partnership of sports excellence and legacy. In commemoration of this milestone, Gatorade recently released a digitally remastered version of the iconic television commercial, which also coincides with the top sports drink’s 50th anniversary.

As part of the celebration, Gatorade also launched a digital campaign inviting netizens to send photos or videos showing how they can #BeLikeMike. The most creative posts will win special Be Like Mike premium items.

According to Tony Atayde, Pepsico Philippines marketing manager for hydration, the long-standing partnership with Jordan reiterates Gatorade’s niche as the top-of-mind sports drink for the world’s finest athletes.

“As the most researched sports drink in the world, with more than 50 years of scientific and athletic testing to back it up, Gatorade has demonstrated its effectiveness in fueling sports excellence,” Atayde added. “Just as Gatorade was there with Jordan through all his victories, the brand is here for today’s new breed of athletes who want to make their own mark in sports history.”

To view the remastered Be Like Mike video, check out Gatorade Philippines’ YouTube channel.

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