Tuesday August 14, 2018

Sangil: Let’s play basketball

I AM rooting for the Golden State Warriors. I am placing a bet for one case of SML. I know in my calculations they can hurdle the Houston Rockets in the NBA western conference finals, despite James Harden and Chris Paul. And now that Steph Curry can play, baka gawin nilang kare kare at sasabog ang Rockets. Kevin Durant, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green in the lineup, how could they lose?

In the Eastern conference, well the Boston Celtics drubbed my team, the Philadelphia Sixers despite Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid. That rookie Jayson Tatum and Terry Rozier of the Celtics are superstars in the making, sans injuries. (I am wondering if Jayson is somehow related to the playmaker Tatum of Harlem Globe Trotters which made world trips in the fifties. They also displayed their wares at the Rizal Memorial Stadium if I am not mistaken).

Well enough of my yabang. I am one of the several millions of Filipinos whom you can tag as basketball crazy. Each time I have the opportunity I will be glued on my television set watching the games. Since I was young I was and still a basketball fanatic. Still in my shorts, me and other kids played in a recreational center built by the late Roberto Toledo, a half mestizo expat which has a uncovered basketball court located few meters away from a nearby rice field in our barrio Cangatba in Porac town.

Those years there were already national hoop leagues. Prominent were the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) and the University Athletic Association of the Philippines (UAAP). In these annual basketball conferences some of the popular surnames were Mariano, Papa, Ed Ocampo, Melencio, Badion, Florencio. (Sorry, I can’t remember all their first names).

And before them there was Caloy Loyzaga whose shirt number I still remember was 41, and the sports radio sportscaster Willie Hernandez baptized him as the “The Great Difference.” His two sons, Chico and Joey also became PBA players. He was called such because he was the tallest among all players together with Lauro Mumar, father of Larry Mumar. I witnessed many games with my father at the Rizal Memorial Coliseum in Taft Avenue in Pasay City.

In 1984, I was the playing coach of the Pampanga Press Club and actively competed with exhibition games against several teams of some government agencies, including the teams of the Philippine Air Force led then by General Romeo David and the Pampanga Constabulary Command headed then by Colonels Rey Berroya and Nestor Sanares.

The PPC team first five were Perry Pangan, aka Rudy Distrito, Lincoln Baluyut aka Hector Calma, Sonny Lopez, Andy Lim and my son Gabriel. The reserves on the bench were Ody Fabian, Bert Basa, Ram Mercado, Lino Sanchez Jr. and Rolly Lingat.

One memorable game was an exhibition match we played vs. an assembled basketball team of the public affairs office of the US 13th Air Force at the latter’s gym. My cumpareng Ram Mercado who even at the start of the game noticed among the behemoth players was an attractive lady from public affairs office. Sonny and Ody who were supposed to be playing centers wanted to play guards. And Rolly for the first time begged me to be fielded, and I did.

Rolly, Ody, Sonny and even Perry weren’t able to concentrate on the game but kept chasing the lady with an ago-go boobs that bounces every time she dribbled the ball on her way to make a lay-up. Our press club team tallied its highest penalty fouls in that particular game. Of course, we lost that one.