Walang naipakitang gilas
TO THE QUICK - Jerry Tundag (The Freeman) - September 11, 2019 - 12:00am

After Gilas Pilipinas, the Philippine men’s national basketball team, lost all three of its group games in the FIBA world cup in China, I no longer bothered to monitor its progress in the subsequent classification games to determine rankings among the losers. Of what use are rankings if you cannot even win a single game.

Now, before you lecture me about patriotism, I did shout myself hoarse in all three losses to Italy, Serbia, and Angola. It is only now that I remember a great deal of the shouting had been in frustration. We had too many turnovers but made too few shots. For all the hype about being an Asian basketball powerhouse, we certainly were a huge disappointment. We were an abject failure.

Let us not kid ourselves about the boys having given their all. Of course they are supposed to give their all. This is the FIBA. This is not backyard basketball. But if by all, all you ever gave were turnovers and missed shots, then something has to be wrong somewhere. And it is not fair to blame Filipinos everywhere who expected their team to at least live up to its name.

But it is in the name where the problem precisely lies. We love to hype ourselves beyond our proven capabilities. We entrust unto nomenclature what other teams leave to passion and skill. Long before the team was formed, we already named it Gilas instead of just Philippines or Pilipinas, the way other countries call their national teams.

Other countries do not call their national teams the Eagles, or Warriors, or Cossacks, Handsomes, Slicks, Meteorites, or whatever. They are just simply Italy, Serbia, Angola, etc., etc. No Gilas Gilas. Now, I must admit I never bothered to find out what Gilas means. But I have a fairly good idea what it means contextually from the phrase “nagpakitang gilas.”

But judging from our team’s performance, it was clear they did not live up even to its own name. We cook up names for ourselves as if names live up for themselves. But the problem with names is that the more beautiful they are, the greater the expectations they invoke. And when those expectations are failed, the harder would be the fall.

The same fate befell the Philippine men’s national football team, which we named Azkals. Again, there was so much hype about the team, centered largely on the name. It was hip to talk about the Azkals and pretty soon the word was on everybody’s lips, until the Azkals started dropping game after game. Frankly, I don’t know if the team is still around. And don’t call me unpatriotic or unnationalistic. It was not I who kept losing games.

Actually, it is not difficult to stay with one’s national team through thick or thin, so long as you just call it by your country’s name. For how can anyone really not bleed for his country? I would die for my country anytime. But Gilas? What is that? A band? A Tagalog movie? A national team is not a rose you can call by any other name. It doesn’t even have to have a name. Just a flag on the jersey and you know what the team is.

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