When Pinoys played Harlem

SPORTING CHANCE - Joaquin M. Henson - The Philippine Star

The court jesters of basketball known as the Harlem Globetrotters visited Manila to perform in 1953, 1964, 1982 and 2009. Their debut was a stop in the teams first round-the-world tour to celebrate the Trotters’ 25th anniversary.

Chuck Menville, in his book “Harlem Globetrotters: 50 Years of Fun and Games,” wrote about the trip: “The Philippines was the one place along their route where basketball was not only known, it was the No. 1 national sport. There were over 400 teams playing year round and each had its dedicated band of followers. Thus, when the Globies’ 10-day visit to Manila coincided with the world premier there of their new film ‘Go Man Go’ (the teams second full-feature movie starring Dane Clark and Sidney Poitier), the result was that Manila became Trotter Town for the duration. There were lines of ticket buyers at theater and arena box offices alike, all wanting to see the fabled Magicians of Basketball in action, be it on film or live.”

Menville recounted that something unusual transpired during Harlems visit, an it-could-only-happen-to-the-Trotters incident. “The team was eagerly looking forward to a rare day off when along came a millionaire Filipino plantation owner who made them an offer they couldnt refuse,” he wrote. “Their open date found them being flown, all expenses paid, to the millionaires island where he employed 90,000 workers on his eight sugar plantations. In the midst of the jungle, he had hacked out a clearing and constructed a beautiful mahogany playing floor with bleachers seating 12,000 employeesall just for this one game. Needless to say, the Globies gave them their moneys worth.”

New York Times writer George Vecsey identified the Filipino millionaire as J. Amado Araneta who reportedly offered the Trotters the sum of $5,000 with all expenses paid to play in Bacolod City. “Araneta sold 12,000 tickets at $4 to $10 each,” wrote Vecsey. “The gate was $30,000, the largest of the entire world trip. The Trotters made their $5,000, the expenses were paid off and Araneta gave all the profit to build a new church in the middle of his island jungle.”

Ateneo Sports Hall of Famer Ando Hernaez, now 84, recently reached out and mentioned he was on the all-Filipino team that engaged the Trotters in Bacolod in 1953. Hernaez corrected Menvilles account that the game was played “in the midst of the jungle.” He said, “not in the middle of a plantation but in Paglaum Stadium right in the heart of Bacolod Cityand confirmed a wooden court was laid out for the contest by Don Amado. The playing coach of the Filipino squad was 1948 Olympian Manolet Araneta, late father of the First Lady Lisa Marcos.

“Manolet was on the Philippine team in the 1948 London Olympics with the Fajardo brothers, Lauro Mumar and Ramoncito Campos,” said Hernaez. “Manolet’s uncle Don Amado sent him to Bacolod to coach the Bacolod Murcia team. In 1953, Don Amado brought the Globetrotters starring Goose Tatum and Marques Haynes to play against the Bacolod selection. At that time, there were not enough college players so Manolet recruited four high school players. I was lucky to be selected at the age of 15. I was a third year high school student at UNO-R. One of my teammates was Dodo de la Rama who later played for Ysmael Steel in the commercial league. An instant wooden court with seats for spectators in the open was constructed.”

Hernaez remembered it rained during the game so “the Trotters weren’t able to make fun of us.” He added, “I don’t recall the final score but it was lopsided in favor of the Trotters.” Would Tatum and Haynes have made it to the NBA? “I doubt because they never played serious basketball though they could attract a big crowd and people paid to see them,” replied Hernaez. More on Hernaez in tomorrow’s column.


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