Saturday, October 24, 2009

Miss Mo!

Where there's a Filipino community, there has to be a basketball tournament. There really has to be, huwag ka na magtanong. It's in the blood.

Here in Libya, the sportsfest of the Filipino community happens every winter. And there's no shortage of participants here. With a large population of Pinoys needing to unleash their inner Patrimonios and Samboys for the world, or at least the people here in Tripoli, to see, the games are a must. What are they supposed to do, play football with the Libyans and expats here?

For those non-Filipinos reading this, the Philippines is a basketball crazy country. Imagine how crazy the British or the Brazilians are with football. Replace those nationalities with Filipino and replace football with basketball, then double the craziness. You'll have a close idea of the Filipinos' love for the sport. Why don't we play football? Because the Yankees aren't football lovers so they never brought it to our society during their occupation of the Philippine Islands. And when they left, Pinoys were already too enamored with basketball to find new love on the soccer fields.

This year's staging of the basketball tournament will be the first one I see during my posting here. The Embassy officials were invited to participate in the opening ceremony of the tournament. And being a big basketball fan, how could I say no?

Sure, it's not the PBA or PBL. It's not even the UAAP or the NCAA. It's not even... Well, it's a Filipino basketball tournament, it'll be a hoot and a half, no matter what. I remember watching the barangay ligas. It was always fun watching your neighbors and friends on the hardcourt. And every boy had to have joined an inter-barangay.

Every summer, groups of boys would solicit money from everyone for their uniforms. They would also look for "managers" to sponsor their teams. This lead to teams having names like "Aling Nene's Carinderia Bulls" (complete with a Chicago Bulls-like uniforms) or "Domeng's Sari-sari Store Lakers" (guess what their jerseys looked like). It was a great time to have paligas during election seasons, as candidates would shell out money to fund tournaments, from the uniforms and venues to the PBA referees. And tournaments would be called something like "Mayor so and so Invitational Tournament." Ligas had all the drama of a Pinoy soap opera. Family feuds, political rivalries, and paangasan ng mga barkadahans always manage to get mixed in on the games. And like Philippine elections, some tournaments end up with no clear winners, as wala naman talagang natatalo, lagi lang may nadadaya. And even though a team loses by 40 points, kasalanan pa rin ng referee 'yun.

So Cay and I woke up early in the morning to go to the gymnasium where the ceremonies are being held. The program started with a parade of the participating teams, which numbered around twenty. They were teams from the different companies that employ Filipinos here in Libya.

Participating teams got to show off their new uniforms, banners, and of course, their muses. In a humorous twist, Cay was asked to be one of the judges who would decide which team will win the Best Uniform Award. Now that's a very Filipino award! Like kids in kindergarten getting awards such as most cheerful, most obedient, or most friendly.

Well, she filled up her judge's scorecard and submitted it for tabulation. Imagine my shock when one of the blandest uniforms I've ever seen in my life won the award. I asked her if she gave a high score to the eventual winner, she assured me she did not. I really hope she didn't. I mean, how can a team dressed like the Alaska Aces or the Ginebra Gin Kings not win the award. They're not exactly Willie Miller or Mark Caguioa, but you gotta give them points for trying to be stylish.

The parade also got to showcase the muses of the teams. What's a Pinoy basketball team without a muse? Heck, even every section in public schools had to elect a muse and an escort, like it was as important as the class president. As an aside, Filipino students, though, already have a formula for electing class officers: 1.) President = the smartest (or the biggest suck up), 2.) Vice President = the next smartest, 3.) Secretary = the one with the best penmanship, 3.) Treasurer = the richest, 4.) Auditor = the best in math, 5.) P.R.O. = the most fluent in English, 6.) Sgt.-at-Arms = the toughest-looking (or the scariest), 7.) Muse = the prettiest or hottest, and 8.) Escort = the handsomest.

Cay was also made a judge for the Best Muse Award. The muses were made to walk in front of the judges a la ramp models to be scored. I'm glad I'm never asked to judge this thing as I'll be very conflicted. My super-ego will tell me to give high scores to women who look the most sosyal and classy while my id will tell me to root hard (no pun intended) for the one who looks the most like a bold star. I remember how in the PBA, Alaska always had the talent of picking the classiest looking muses. But you also still had to pay attention to Ginebra's muse who is also a calendar girl of theirs (Oh, how Anjanette Abayari, Joyce Jimenez and Amanda Page could make a teenager stare long and hard).

After all the formalities in the opening ceremonies, which included stuff like the oath of sportsmanship and a dance number by kids who were obviously forced by their parents to perform (Pinoy parents would see theirs kids dance once their entire life, and no matter how bad the dance was, they'll say "Magaling kang sumayaw 'di ba? Mag-perform ka, ha.), my boss finally declared the games open.

The first game saw Ginebra go up against the Portland Trailblazers. No, not really. But it was a game that saw the defending champions go down in defeat in an overtime game that saw them squander a big lead. Naks, I can't believe I said that like I was talking about the NBA or PBA.

The tournament even had a commentator, whose English sounded like the love child of Jimmy Santos' grammar skills and Elizabeth Ramsey's Bisaya accent, trying his best to imitate the late great Smokin' Joe Cantada. They say he's called on to do the job every year. I'm not surprised. And I'd rather listen to the guy than Chino Trinidad any day.

The other games I watched were blowouts. For the first time, I saw a team fail to score a single point in two quarters. Welcome to "Tambakan Alley."

Since this was a big Filipino get-together, there was bound to be Filipino food everywhere. Cay was looking forward to checking out the stalls to see what Pinoy tsibogs she can buy.

There were the usual Pinoy kakanins like puto, bibingka, and leche flan. And there was a carinderia that served kanin at ulam meals.

I went for the barbecue stand immediately, then followed it up with halo-hal0.

To our surprise, we were able to find a stall that sells Purefoods Hotdogs. Nothing in the Middle East, Africa, and Europe can match its taste.

To end our day, Cay went shopping for Filipino vegetables while I shopped for interesting stuff from home. When I found Boy Bawang and Nagaraya interesting, I realized I've been away from home too long. At least Pinoy basketball is something that can be exported easily, and without taxes.


  1. Ang saya-saya no? LOL at the commentator! :) Cay must have had fun with the judging.

    I remember in Cambodia, there was never a basketball tournament without a brawl. :)

  2. Cay said she had a new found respect for beauty contest judges.

    Magkakaroon ng away 'yan. Hintay lang muna kami.