With heads held high
Manny V. Pangilinan with Gilas Pilipinas.

With heads held high

MIKE ABOUT TOWN - Mike Toledo (The Philippine Star) - September 24, 2019 - 12:00am

The important thing in the Olympic Games is not to win, but to take part; the important thing in life is not triumph, but the struggle; the essential thing is not to have conquered but to have fought well.”

The immortal words of Baron Pierre de Coubertin, the French educator and historian acknowledged as the “Father of the modern-day Olympics,” which became known as the Olympic Creed, echo in my mind as I write this piece in the wake of the events in Foshan, China, where I was some weeks ago.

China was the recent site of events of monumental importance to the Philippines and to Filipinos. There was the recent official visit of President Rodrigo Roa Duterte, his fifth to the country, where he met with its three highest officials: Chinese President Xi Jinping and Chinese Premier Li Keqiang, separately, in Beijing; and Chinese Vice President Wang Qishan in Guangzhou province.

While in Guangzhou, President Duterte watched the opening game of the Gilas Pilipinas Philippine national basketball team against Italy in Group D of the Basketball World Cup 2019 of the International Basketball Federation. In an unequivocal show of support, the President, prior to the start of the game, went to the dugout and spoke to our national team.

He was joined by die-hard basketball fans in government: Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea and Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr., House Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano and Senators Christopher Lawrence “Bong” Go, Ronald “Bato” dela Rosa and Francis Tolentino. Earlier, President Duterte joined the Philippine delegation for lunch.

MVP taking the subway to watch the Gilas game in Foshan, China with Al Panlilio, Dr. Rafael Bejar, Ricky Vargas, the author, Abet Dungo and Gilas supporters.

The International Basketball Federation, more commonly known as FIBA (from its French name, the Federation Internationale de Basketball), is the world governing body for basketball, the only authority in basketball recognized by the International Olympic Committee (IOC).

Organized and founded by eight nations in 1932, it now has, under its wings, 213 national basketball federations from all over the world.

The Philippines is one of 44 federations in Asia and is represented in FIBA by the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas Inc. (SBP), the National Sports Association (NSA) for basketball in the country that was formed in 2007.

PLDT chairman, president and CEO Manuel V. Pangilinan (MVP) was the first president of the SBP, and became its chairman emeritus upon his retirement in 2016. He was succeeded as president by Alfredo S. Panlilio.

The current SBP chairman is Sen. Juan Edgardo Angara, the vice chairman is Antipolo Rep. Roberto “Robbie” Puno and the executive director is Renauld “Sonny” Barrios.

President Rodrigo Duterte with MVP in Foshan, China. With them in photo are Senators Francis Tolentino, Ronald dela Rosa and Bong Go.

The flagship event of FIBA is the Basketball World Cup, and this year it was held in China for the first time where games were played in eight cities across five provinces. This 18th edition of the world cup is the biggest by far with a record 32 participating teams.

Our Gilas Pilipinas basketball team saw action for the first round in Group D against Italy, Serbia and Angola; then unto the classification round 17-32 in Group N against Tunisia and Iran.

We all know by now the results of these games. Consider, though, that reaching this global basketball arena was no mean feat in itself. Before the Philippines rejoined the world cup in 2014 in Seville (I was also there to witness how we battled the top teams and almost beat them), the last time it saw action in this tournament was in 1978 when it hosted the then World Championships. Rejoining the FIBA World Cup in 2014 was a herculean feat made possible through the efforts of MVP, the nation’s sports patron.

Ironically, for a country that is so obsessed with basketball, a “hoop nation” if you will, we are at a height disadvantage compared to other basketball-playing countries in the world. This has not, however, deterred us from doing our best and giving our all in the global arena.

SBP chairman emeritus Manny V. Pangilinan with SBP officials Ricky Vargas, Al Panlilio and Sonny Barrios at a press conference in Manila shortly after arriving from China. Photo by Ted Aljibe/AFP

Our participation in the FIBA World Cup was a good opportunity for our national team to hone its craft and to perfect its game. There were a big number of players from our side who were seeing FIBA action for the first time.

Our resilience, dedication and perseverance will see us through. The Filipino can and the Filipino will.

More importantly, we do not give up the fight and we continue soldiering on, with heads held high.

This year’s world cup is a template for the Philippines hosting of the 19th World Cup in 2023, together with Japan and Indonesia. Already, the work for this great opportunity has begun.

It is a huge honor and privilege for the SBP, and a great pride for our people, to quote MVP. He thought it was almost impossible to bring the FIBA World Cup back to Asia in 2023, considering that it was hosted by China this year. But a rather innovative concept with a first ever three-country bid made the almost impossible happen.

President Duterte greets MVP in Foshan, China. With them are Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea, Senators Francis Tolentino, Ronald dela Rosa and Bong Go, the author, Cavite Rep. Strike Bautista Revilla and PLDT SVP and group controller and Smart CFO Chaye Cabal-Revilla.

MVP received the FIBA flag as a symbol of the turnover of hosting rights from the Basketball Association of the People’s Republic of China president Yao Ming during halftime ceremonies at the World Cup final game between Spain and Argentina in Beijing.

“We’re bringing home the FIBA flag with us,” MVP said. “Thank you so much to all of you for your support. You inspire us and give us the energy and spirit to keep trying. In particular, my thanks to President Duterte for his kind encouragement and presence to Gilas and our hosting.”

Laban! Puso! Pilipinas!

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