What started as a seemingly impossible mission ended in an explosion of national euphoria.
The Philippines has finally made it to the FIBA World Championships. It earned a spot in next year’s premier basketball tournament by finishing second in the FIBA Asia tournament in Manila.
The country waited for ages for a chance to play against the world’s best basketball teams, and last weekend the long wait was over.
And what a glorious weekend it was.
The shining moment came when Gilas Pilipinas stunned South Korea, one of the vaunted lords of the Asian ring. Victory was sweet for the Filipinos; it has been decades since we beat the South Koreans.
It was made sweeter by the fact that the win guaranteed the Philippines a ticket to the big show in Madrid next year.
Only the biggest optimists gave Gilas Pilipinas a chance to conquer Iran. Our boys lost but the loss was not tinged with shame. The Filipinos gave the Iranian behemoths a good, spirited run before height and heft prevailed.
The 17,000 throng that packed the Mall of Asia Arena thundered their loudest cheer for the home team.
Heart. That, fans of Gilas Pilipinas swear, is what the national team displayed that night.
“Push yourself again and again. Don’t give an inch until the final buzzer sounds.” That’s the Boston Celtics scoring machine Larry Bird talking.
And that’s what Gilas Pilipinas did. The team has awakened a new sense of national pride. Take it from the crowd at MOA who waved Philippine flags and wore shirts that proclaimed “Laban, Pilipinas”
On to Madrid!