Basketball games, my ideal Philippines

<p><img src="images/teng-lasalle.JPG" border="0" width="640" height="360" /></p>

Photo by Josh Albelda.

MANILA, Philippines – Saturday, July 16th marked the first encounter of longtime rivals ADMU and DLSU for the 74th season of the UAAP. For me, it marked my first UAAP live game in five years.

Having gone abroad for college, I had forgotten about the atmosphere of a game like this. There I was, seated courtside, a spot many would have killed to get. I was donned in purple. Purple. Purposefully not in green nor blue, not a cheerleader but an observer. A mere observer of a game so charged with emotional allegiances.

I can talk about the elegance on the court of star Ateneo rookie Kiefer Ravena. Or perhaps the valiant efforts of La Salle to catch up in the second half. I can talk about the shots, the rebounds, the stats. But I won’t.

I want to talk about the overwhelming sensation of being in the stadium, the sights and the sounds, because it got me thinking: right there, was a microcosm of an ideal Philippines.

Let me try to paint you a picture of the Araneta Coliseum that day.

Fans ranged from young children to your typical college students, loud and proud in their school colors. From eager high school kids to older spectators—alumni, reliving their glory days and seemingly shouting the loudest of all. Tall, short; male, female; black, white—the fan base was more diverse than a serving of halo-halo.

As varied as they were, they did however behave uniformly.

Like clockwork, they jumped out of their seats cheering madly for every basket their team made, and screaming, yelling, cursing loudly for every bad call a referee made. Exultation when the ball swished through the hoop. Cries of frustration for every miss. School cheers thunderous and together.

Cameramen were crouched on the floor, focused on the game, their cameras lined the court from every angle. Atop the bleachers, the booster squad of both teams banged their drums with force and conviction, the sounds reverberating through the whole dome.

And the players! Oh the players. They ran back and forth, back and forth, never stopping, always working. Sweating, panting, sprinting. The excitement of the people seemed to push them even further.

Photo by Josh Albelda.

Driving back from the game, I marveled at the energy, the contagious energy that pervaded the arena. I was both in awe of the fact that Filipinos could display such intensity, and at the same time, confused at why such enthusiasm was limited only to the basketball court—a college game nonetheless.

What if?

I started to wonder: what if the same vigorous and dynamic attitude characterized our society?

What if our politicians worked as tirelessly as the players on court, they too inspired and motivated by the voice of the people? What if we were as fervent and passionate about the nation as the spectators were about the game—as unforgiving of bad calls, bad decisions made, and as cognizant of the good moves?  What if the media examined our government with the same scrutiny they afford the players, from every angle, with as much interest?

What if a population as varied, young and old, was as concerned with the government as they were the game? What if we had as much pride and faith in our country as the fans do in their respective teams? What if our voices were as loud and as sure as the beat of the drums?

I enjoyed the game. There is something poignant about seeing groups of people come together for a common interest, to defend a joint belief—whether it be right or wrong, trivial or significant, similar or opposing.

To me, the ADMU-DLSU game symbolized what I think would be the ideal Philippines: an enthusiastic people, dedicated (government) players and responsible media. If only the same amount of passion was targeted toward the state of our nation.

I sincerely believe that I, void of pre-conceived fixations and judgment, saw somethingdifferent in the Eagles-Archers game precisely because I was not wearing blue or green.

I was wearing purple. –

Editor’s Note: This blog was first posted on July 20, 2011. Follow the reporter on Twitter: @natashya_g