Country above all: Tongco skips Palaro to help PH U-18 bag SEABA gold

Levi Verora
Ranbill Tongco had to make the difficult choice between competing in his final Palaro, or to represent the Philippine national team. In the end, he chose representing his flag

FOR LOVE OF NATION. Ranbill Tongco, seen in his San Beda uniform, skipped out on Palaro to represent the Philippines in Malaysia. Photo from Tongco's Facebook

LAGUNA, Philippines – Country above all.

When the 2014 Palarong Pambansa approached, CALABARZON’s Ranbill Tongco had to decide whether he will suit up for his final Palarong Pambansa or represent the Philippine national U-18 basketball team abroad.

The sting of CALABARZON’s 72-73 setback at the hands of National Capital Region in last year’s intense secondary boys hoops semifinals remains fresh in Tongco’s head, and he had a golden chance to deal revenge in the 2014 Palarong Pambansa, with his squad CALABARZON hosting the battle a year after.

But instead of thinking vengeance against their Palaro rivals, the speedy Region IV-A court general decided to forgo his final year in the national games and represent the Philippine Under-18 national basketball team.

“As much as I want to take revenge, we were asked to serve the country. I am willing to give and sacrifice everything for flag and country,” said Tongco, who made sure he would make the most of his departure.

Tongco sided by what he thought was the appropriate choice, and his selfless sacrifice paid off.

The multi-titled NCAA juniors star for the San Beda Red Cubs led the country to a South East Asian Basketball Association (SEABA) U-18 Championship gold in Sabah, Malaysia from May 5 to 7.

“We had a mission and that was to bring home the gold. We prepared hard for this and we are focused on Qatar,” shared Tongco.

Made up of the finest young stars in the country today including Palaro alumni from last year like Tongco’s teammate Andrei Caracut and Central Visayas slotman Dawn Ochea, the Philippines swept opposition, beating Indonesia (98-35), Malaysia (93-76), and Singapore (124-63) to capture the gold and book a slot at the FIBA Asia U-18 Championship in Doha, Qatar in August.

“It is an honor to represent the country and it is a once in a lifetime experience. I grabbed the opportunity for all the Filipinos.”

Tongco started in all three games as their premier point guard, and averaged 9.7 points, 2.3 rebounds, 2.7 assists, and 1.7 steals per game,

From Palaro to the worlds

Once a member of the U-16 squad team back in 2011, Tongco has another shot at Philippine basketball history.

“We want to make the worlds. Our coach told us if we play as one, we can make the worlds,” said Tongco.

The top three finishers in the FIBA Asia U-18 wars will have the rare opportunity to be included in the 2015 FIBA U-19 World Championship in Greece.

Tongco claims his Palarong Pambansa experience helped him develop his skills even before battling international competition.

“I played there for 3 or 4 years I think. Playing against different players from many areas gave me a lot of knowledge,” he said.

More importantly, Tongco is now a step closer to the world championship, and he vows to bleed for the country,

“We are focused on Qatar, and we will die for Greece.”

Para sa bayan, indeed. –

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