MANILA, Philippines – Even before the dust settled and reality bit back hard, critics, casual watchers and disgruntled fans came out firing at Gilas Pilipinas for failing to win at least one game at the 2016 FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament.
From the 12-man lineup to game-time decisions and rotations, there was no shortage of discussion aboutwhat went wrong, what went right, what could have been done differently, and what should be done next.
But guard Terrence Romeo, downcast from back-to-back losses that quashed Gilas’ Olympic dreams, sent out a message to skeptics that provided necessary perspective.
“Sa mga nagda-doubt sa amin, sana maging proud na lang kayo sa sacrifice na ginawa namin (To those who doubt us, I hope you would just be proud of our sacrifices),” he said after the Philippine national team lost to New Zealand Wednesday, July 6, and bowed out of the FIBA OQT.
“Kung hindi man, sige tuloy niyo lang yan. Habang buhay kayo maging ganyan (If not, okay then continue being like that. Forever stay that way).”
Romeo, like the rest of the team, found it hard to accept what had transpired at the Mall of Asia Arena, before thousands of hopeful Filipinos. Gilas looked more like a team with plenty of problems without answers rather than a squad ready to meet the moment and win.
The Globalport offensive ace finished with just 5 points against the Tall Blacks and was a picture of a wide range of unwelcome emotions from disbelief, shock, disappointment, hurt, to frustration.
“Sobrang tulala lang ako (I was just stunned),” he said. “Sobrang lungkot siyempre (I’m naturally very sad).”
Though disheartened, Romeo found it in him not only to smile and accommodate patient fans outside the arena, but he also managed to squint hard enough through the thick black fog of despair and see some rays of light.
“Nilagay ko na lang sa isip ko na yung mga pagkakamali ko, yung mga dapat kong natutunan, yun ang mas magpapagaling sa akin at mas magpapatibay ng loob ko,” he said, as he also thanked the Gilas coaching staff and Tab Baldwin for mentoring him.
“Maraming learnings, maraming dapat matutunan. Dapat hindi dito matapos. Kumbaga ito yung stepping stone namin para mas gumaling kami and para makuha namin yung mga pangarap namin some day."
(I put it in my head that all of my mistakes, and everything I learned, those are what will make me better and stronger. I learned a lot. It shouldn’t end here. This should only be a stepping stone for us to be better and to reach our dreams some day.)
Unlike the losses of recent past, Gilas Pilipinas was hard pressed to find a silver lining or a moral victory in this latest disappointing setback. Though it wasn’t for a lack of trying.
Team captain Gabe Norwood – who pushed himself to succeed at the unenviable obligation of facing the press and cameras, answering questions about a defeat he had yet to process and realize as reality, not a horrible nightmare – was able to unearth some much-needed positivity.
“It hurts,” he admitted. “Hopefully this continues to bring pride to our country, the game of basketball, and hopefully we continue to move forward with the Gilas program.”
So did head coach Tab Baldwin, who called this huge loss an “eye-opener” for what needs to be done to shape the future.
“It’s a positive that we get this competitive experience for Philippine basketball players, but it’s also an eye-opener for us to understand that we need a lot more of this if we expect to be successful in this level,” he said.
Every other Gilas player was visibly crestfallen, fighting to keep the tears in and forcibly dictating words and body language toward the direction of resolve rather than understandable sorrow.
“Hindi man namin na-reach yung goal namin, basta alam namin sa mga puso namin binigay namin yung best namin para sa bayan (We may not have reached our goal, but in our hearts we know we gave it our all for our country),” said Romeo through a sullen voice.
“Sana wag silang magsawa na suportahan kami at wag silang magsawa na mahalin yung basketball ng Pilipino (I hope the fans won’t stop supporting us and they won’t stop loving Philippine basketball).” – Rappler.com