Sunday, August 11, 2013

Viva Gilas Pilipinas

After long years of wait, many are still in disbelief. Shocked. It's a dream come true. Philippines against the world's best. Imagine Gabe Norwood guarding Kevin Durant or LA Tenorio matching up against Tony Parker. Spain 2014 baby! It's Gilas Pilipinas. 35 years in the making, Philippines has the chance to show the basketball world that we belong. We belong to basketball's best.

Who would have thought that these guys, who are nemesis back in the PBA, would be put together in one team? Only the Gilas' braintrust did. Too much criticisms. But Coach Vincent Reyes never backed down from the pressure. He was just holding a grenade. Very volatile. It's the pressure of taking the challenge of being the chief tactician in the sidelines. There are haters, bashers and non-believers. I can't blame those non-believers. For almost four decades, Philippines was lost in the basketball map. People became skeptic, pessimist and careless. Wala eh. Nakakasawa na daw umasa. Lagi namang olats. Ano nga naman daw bang laban natin sa mga higante?

Everything pointed to contrary of our dreams of making to the World Cup. But still, I chose to believe. There are still people who chose to continue to dream, people who are positive enough to wait for the dreams to materialize and dreamers to make it happen. And here we are. After starting the tournament with 2-0 against Saudi Arabia and Jordan, we suffered a come-from-behind loss to Chinese Taipei, who eventually defeated China for a semi-finals ticket. It was disastrous. Bashers and haters celebrated. Parang hindi sila Pilipino. Nakakagigil. But I still believed. Many did. The coaching staff and the players regrouped. Topping the next round with 3-0 slate. Ready for the next round, the knock out stage.

After winning against Kazakhstan, Philippines faced its old rival, the heart breaker of many Filipino Fans for so many years, South Korea. The win was a huge lift for the Filipino Pride. Not just because we had our redemption, but more importantly, pasok tayo sa World Cup! But just after the final buzzer ender, here are the thoughts not just by me but by millions of Filipinos: Did that just really happen? Did Gilas Pilipinas just beat the South Koreans? Are they really going to Spain to battle against the world’s best?

Back in in the 2002 Asian Games, it was very different for us. I also remember being in a daze but it was of the bad kind. After the game we lost to the South Koreans in Busan, it was mostly quiet. No one wanted to talk, no one wanted to listen. We kept quiet brewing with our own private pains, dealing with it the best way we know how.

Because of the pain, we became skeptical fans. We knew we sent out a strong team and we didn’t understand why they lost. As a result, the selection of our Philippine team has always turned out to be a bloody process.

Even with a five-point lead with only seconds to go, we still felt like South Korea could engineer a comeback, because that’s what they've done to us all these years. So when the game finally ended it felt like a huge weight was lifted off the crowd.

This win is important for Philippine basketball as it puts us back in the upper echelons again. It’s important because we get to watch our team compete against the best in the world in Spain next year.

But in the end, basketball isn't really winning or losing for us fans. Basketball is about moments. Moments of pain and sorrow that, in time and with some luck, turn into moments of victory and unbridled joy. Basketball isn't about numbers. It’s about stories and feelings, and the roller-coaster of emotions we get during the game.

The Gold Medal was far from over. Mas maganda kung mag-champion tayo. It's our home court anyway. Winning the gold is the second of the two goal of Gilas. 

Without its main big man, the Philippine national basketball team was outmatched in the paint and fell to Iran, 85-71, ending up with silver in the finals of the 2013 FIBA Asia Championship, Sunday at the MOA Arena.

Injured naturalized center Marcus Douthit did not play, allowing Iran's behemoth center Hamed Haddadi to dominate down low.

On the other end of the court, Gilas' feared shooters did not bring their A-game, and missed open jumpers throughout the contest.

“Yung goal namin na-achieve pa rin namin,” Castro said after the match. “Suwerte kami na nakalaban namin ang Iran sa Finals.”

The combo of Jayson Castro and Jimmy Alapag together with the rest of the nationals all tried in vain to keep pace with the Iranians, whose emphatic advantage in size and heft made the big difference in a game played before a mammoth crowd the Mall of Asia Arena.

The silver medal was the highest achievement by a Philippine basketball team in a major international tournament since a similar finish attained by an all-pro team coached by the legendary Robert Jaworski in the 1990 Asian Games in Beijing. But more importantly, it assured the country of a return trip to the 2014 Fiba-World Cup after last competing in the quadrennial meet in 1978. The second-place finish was also the highest for the Philippines since a team coached by Ron Jacobs and led by Allan Caidic, Hector Calma, Samboy Lim and naturalized players Dennis Still and Jeff Moore won the championship in Kuala Lumpur in 1985.

Even with the Fiba-World Cup berth already in the bag as early as Saturday when it beat South Korea, 86-79, in an emotionally-charged semifinal match, Gilas still gave Hamed Hadadi and the Iranians a tough, good fight to the thrill of the 19,989 crowd.

I am a proud Filipino. Sa lahat ng haters at bashers, we forgive you. It just made the victory much sweeter. Sa lahat ng instant Pilipino na nakipost nung nanalo ang Pilipinas against South Korea, asan kayo nung tinalo sila ng Chinese Taipei? Asan yung suporta niyo? Nasabi niyo ba noon na masarap at nakaka-proud maging Pilipino? Naramdaman niyo ba ang sakit ng pagkatalo? Malamang hindi kasi wala naman kayong pakialam nun. Ni hindi niyo nga kilala mga players from the very start. Nakilala niyo lang sila dahil sa commentators. Sa lahat ng totoong supporters ng Gilas Pilipinas, maraming salamat at hindi niyo ako iniwan. Salamat sa pagsama sa'kin sa pagsigaw sa bawat score, block at rebound. Sa pakikiisa sa pighati nung natalo tayo ng Chinese Taipei. Sa pagsabi sa mga sarili natin at sa iba na, "Kaya natin to". Sa tiwala at paniniwala sa players at coaching staff. Maraming salamat. Para kay Coach Chot Reyes, salamat sa pagbuo mo ng isang team na pinaniwalaan naming lahat. Salamat sa pagtanggap ng trabaho bilang Head Coach ng Gilas Pilipinas. Salamat at mas pinatibay mo pa ang paniniwala namin na kaya ng Pilipino.Para kay MVP, salamat sa pagsuporta mo sa programa ng Gilas at pagdala ng FIBA Asia dito sa Pilipinas. Sa Players ng Gilas Pilipinas, salamat sa sakripisyo. Salamat sa pagbibigay sa amin ng bagong pag-asa. Salamat sa paglaban niyo ng buong puso. Binigyan niyo kami ng inspirasyon at tinuruan niyo kaming mangarap ulit. Kita kita ulit sa Spain 2014.

I am a Filipino. Proud and Prideful. And once again, i am ready to shout to the whole world. Ako si Zyvil Charles Arcilla, taga-Makati at tubong Pampanga, naniniwala, sumusuporta, nangangarap at kasamang lalaban para sa Gilas Pilipinas. Laban Pilipinas!