LAGUNA, Philippines – A young basketball player from Zamboanga found himself in two battlefields – one in his hometown, the other on the hardcourt.
Jane Bracher reports.
JANE BRACHER, REPORTING: After the siege of 2013, Zamboanga was synonymous to chaos and fear. Changing that perception is a challenge its people now face. But a team of young players is one step ahead, changing Zamboanga’s image one basketball game at a time.
Ahmad Didat Hanapi can still recall the sounds of gunfire.
Hungry and tired, his family was constantly on the move to avoid danger.
Zamboanga was caught in the conflict between the Moro National Liberation Front and government forces last Sept 2013.
AHMAD DIDAT HANAPI, ZAMBOANGA BASKETBALL PLAYER: Natatakot kami lahat sa bahay. Binomba nila yung malapit lang sa bahay namin. Parang lumilindol sa lakas ng bomba. Nung giyera wala ka makikitang tao, nakatago lahat. (All of us at home were afraid. They bombed a place near our house. It felt like there was an earthquake because of the bombs. During the conflict, we didn’t see any people. Everyone was hiding.)
The siege reinforced the view Zamboanga is a dangerous place.
BOBIDICK DELOS SANTOS, COACH, ATENEO DE ZAMBOANGA UNIVERSITY: You try to go there, people there are peace-loving people. Ito na nga nangyari lately, nangyari itong siege, mas naging worse. (But with what happened lately, the siege, it got worse.)
All set to play basketball for Adamson University with a full scholarship, 13 year old Ahmad is out to restore his home’s honor the only way he knows how.
AHMAD DIDAT HANAPI, ZAMBOANGA BASKETBALL PLAYER: Gusto namin tambakan yung kalaban kasi gustong gusto namin talaga mag-champion ngayon year. Kasi wala pang nag-champion na Zamboanga sa Palarong Pambansa. (We want to dominate our opponents because we really want to win the championship this year. There hasn’t been a champion from Zamboanga in Palarong Pambansa.)
The Region 9’s elementary boys basketball team made it to the playoffs and they intend to go all the way.
BOBIDICK DELOS SANTOS, COACH, ATENEO DE ZAMBOANGA UNIVERSITY: We’ll train hard here and we’ll show those people from other regions that Zamboanga has recovered from the siege.
Ahmad is fighting for himself, his family, his team, and his hometown.
But the only shooting he’s doing, is with a ball through a hoop.
BOBIDICK DELOS SANTOS, COACH, ATENEO DE ZAMBOANGA UNIVERSITY: Gusto namin patunayan na magcha-champion kami ngayon year. Pangarap namin lahat yun. (We want to prove that we can win the championship this year. That’s our dream.)
These young ballers are hoping that through Palarong Pambansa, Zamboanga will no longer be known as a city of chaos, but rather, a city of champions.
Jane Bracher, Rappler, Laguna.