At last. At long last. Today, September 4, 2014 — a date that will be remembered by the next generations — after four straight losses, after chants of #puso have been sorely tested with a yearning for something more than a moral victory, after calls for #utak popped up beside #puso and #GilasPilipinas, after repeated heartbreaks in close games against Croatia, Argentina and Puerto Rico, the Philippines finally captured its first win in the FIBA basketball World Cup after 40 years.
Utak at Puso
At the start of the game, my husband posted a photo of our kid holding a poster that reads “Go Gilas, puso!” The post came with this caption: “Dear Gilas, his heart has been broken so many times. Yet his cheer never wavered. Isa lang, pwede? #utak at #puso.” Just one win. It doesn’t matter if it’s has absolutely no bearing on our campaign because the Philippines had been eliminated in the earlier loss to Puerto Rico.
Puso — the standard cheer when Gilas Pilipinas started its qualifying campaign in the FIBA Asia 2013. This catchy slogan captures the emotion-filled relationship of Filipinos with basketball, as well as our effort to recapture the glory days when the Philippines stood side by side with the world’s basketball best. We shouted “puso!” in the first four games, the games that mattered in the Philippines’ quest to remain in the World Cup. We’ve since realized that heartache after heartbreak is too much for the heart. Yes, the Filipino will fight on, but it’s hard to keep on fighting, and cheering, while holding on to consolations of moral victory and almost-wins.
We’ve seen, time and again, Gilas fight it out in the first three quarters — leading in double figures at times — only to disintegrate in the fourth quarter. The loss may be painful to the players, but it’s equally heart-wrenching for the Filipino community. Yet the belief remained. One win. Just one win. The twitter-trending win came against the much taller and physically bigger Senegal. 81-79 in OT. In the words of FIBA, “Congrats to the #GilasPilipinas for their first #Spain2014 win!”
The Filipinos can Do It
We’ve heard it all before. Filipinos would do well to choose another sport, football perhaps, because it can never excel in basketball because of obvious disadvantage in the height gene pool. True to form, the Philippine team is the smallest among the teams in the 2014 FIBA World Cup in Spain.
Yes, we’ve resorted to naturalize NBA player Andray Blatche but remember this — the ONLY win by GIlas Pilipinas in this campaign came with an all-Filipino lineup in the dying minutes of the overtime. We can hardly contain our tears watching Alapag, Fajardo and the Pinoy crew hold their ground, with Blatche on the bench with 5 fouls. Then the really amazing thing happened: the Filipinos stood firm and won. It showed Filipinos, more than the whole world, that we can win in basketball on the world stage.
It showed that the Philippines as a nation can rally — as one — behind its own when facing the world. It showed that we can win gallantly and fairly. It showed that the win by the dragon boat teams and the bravery of the Filipino peacekeepers are excellence to be expected. It showed us a glimpse of the future.
That’s why we say congrats Gilas! And that’s why we say thank you, Gilas Pilipinas.