Friday was a gathering of Filipino-American athletes who are doing well in sports not too popular among Filipinos for various reasons. One is the lack of competition and activity in the sport because of plain and simple economics. One can restate the reasons and go around arguing in circles and ending up in the proverbial “which-comes-first, the chicken or egg situation”. Of course there are a variety of reasons ranging from adaptability of the sport to Filipino culture to lack of venues to the absence of a critical mass of enthusiasts who will champion the sport and invest precious time and money in pursuing the sport.
All these philosophical and, some say, abstract reasons, were set aside on Friday when United States Ambassador to the Philippines, Harry Thomas, hosted a dinner for Eugene Philip Amano, the Fil-Am offensive lineman of the Tennessee Titans in the National Football League (NFL). The 6’3”, 305-pound son of Eugene Amano of Calamba, Laguna and Aida Ancheta of Manila, is one of three NFL Philippine-born players. The other two are Tim Tebow of the New York Jets who was born in Makati to Christian missionaries, Robert and Pamela Tebow, on August 14, 1987. A third is Subic-born Fred Jones who played for the Kansas City Chiefs.
Both of Amano’s parents are Filipinos. Eugene Amano Sr or the elder Amano served in the US Navy for 25 years, and brought Eugene Philip to the States in 1982, two months after the latter was born on March 1, 1982. Former New England Patriots Tedy Bruschi is said to have been half-Filipino, while the former NFL MVP in 1969, Roman Gabriel, is the son of a Filipino who migrated to the US
Another Fil-Am athlete whom Ambassador Thomas, an avid golfer and sports enthusiast, invited to his residence in North Forbes was racing driver, Michele Bumgarner. Michele, lanky at 5’8”, is the 23-year old daughter of Lee and Monina Bumgarner. Lee is a businessman from North Carolina while Monina hails from Zambales.
Amano finished high school in San Diego, California and accepted a scholarship from the Southeast Missouri State University. He’s now in his ninth season having been drafted in 2004.
Smartly dressed in barong Pilipino with intricate embroidery, Amano says that he had plans of playing basketball as an alternative career. Proud and conscious of his Filipino roots, Amano has been known to have contributed to a number of social causes, among them, alleviation of the plight of Philippine typhoon victims. He and his family organized the Amano Family Foundation in San Diego which assists the city’s youth and has held free football camps in National City in California. As proof of the city’s appreciation for Eugene Amano’s involvement in community development, the City’s council members declared June 1, 2010 as Eugene Amano Day.
Amano points with justifiable pride to his having been a guest in a luncheon hosted by then US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in Washington on June 8, 2012 for President Benigno Aquino III. Ambassador Thomas and Eugene’s parents stated that the football athlete sat at the head table with President Aquino and other outstanding Fil-Americans.
In the few days that Amano has been going around the country, he has gotten to know the land of his birth up close and has grown fond of Filipino food like kare-kare but isn’t too sure if “he’s adventurous enough to try balut again”.
Michele Bumgarner competes in the US for lack of activity in motorsports in the Philippines and the rest of Asia. Starting out in single seater racing in the National Karting Series in the Philippines at the age of 10 in 1999, Bumgarner has since competed in the Asian Formula Three Championship.
Bumgarner has won a number of awards, among them are: the 2005 BMW Scholarship Award by FVormula BMW Racing School in Bahrain; the 2004 overall champion of the Asian Karting Zone Championship for the Open Class; the Philippines’2003 Motorsports Driver of the Year and the 2003 Asian Intercontinental Junior Karting Championship.
Other guests in the dinner included members of Arenaball Philippines (ABP), organizer of the first Philippine tackle football league. ABP prides itself with bringing American football to the Philippines.
The ABP faithful states that arenaball or tackle football is the only team sport that involves legal, deliberate and controlled physical contacts such as takedowns, tackles, pushing and pulling. The ABP website states it takes more than physical strength to win the game because tackling and pushing are futile without proper strategy. In order to score faster and win, a team must combine faultless strategy and physical play.
Friday’s dinner was dominated by sports talk and a lot of good-natured ribbing between the Jesuit-educated Ambassador and this writer who went to De La Salle for elementary, high school, college and doctoral education. The repartee was delightful and so was everything else that evening.