Lolo Kiko, Thank You for the inspiration. You’re the real MVP. "Most Valuable Pope"

2015 has just begun. And for the last five days, the Filipino nation has been blessed with the visit of the Bishop of Rome himself, Pope Francis. With his departure back to Rome today, he will leave behind memorable moments and quotes that inspired a nation with one of the largest Catholic populations in the world. But it is not just Catholics who got inspired, even other forms of Christianity and non-Catholics living in our nation were in awe of his presence.


I lived through three Popes in my lifetime. I was just 8 months old when then Pope now Saint John Paul II visited the Philippines for the second time (first time was in 1981, a good 13 years before I was born in this world) as part of the World Youth Day festivities in Manila. When I was about to turn 11, he passed away and was succeeded by now Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI. 8 years later, he stepped down and passed on the reigns to Pope Francis

From the time he became the Pope he has gone away from tradition at the same time transcended borders that we people made for ourselves. He loved the children wherever he goes. He reached out to people in sickness. He helped resolved conflicts around the world. He has his words on current issues that every one of us face on a daily basis from poverty to corruption, from LGBT issues to scandals that have rocked the Catholic church over the past couple of years, from technology to climate change. He touched not only Catholics, but also non-Catholics, agnostics and atheists. Even though it’s only been less than two years into his tenure as the leader of the Catholic Church. He has indeed changed a lot of people’s lives, and continues to do so every single day.

When it was announced months ago that he was coming to the Philippines as a part of his trip in Asia, I could not help myself not to miss this opportunity. After all, you don’t often see these events come in your lifetime. I admit, I was not that much serious about planning what to do in that event. I didn’t have much for my own to make a better plan.

Then came his arrival on a cool Thursday night in Manila, as the SriLankan Airlines jet that took Pope Francis and his entourage from Colombo to our nation. Filipinos knew that something special is about to happen over the next five days. And true enough, everything took off from the time he stepped out on the plane and do his work on our home soil. I wanted to be there at his arrival, to do two things in one. One is to continue my hobby of plane spotting with my good friend as the jet that took the Pope was an airline that doesn’t have flights in and out of the country, and seeing the Pope live and in living color. Unfortunately, prior commitments prevented me to do so.

I knew I could not go into every event during his visit to our nation. I live far from his motorcade routes and the places he’s going around Manila. It would be a shame on my end if I did not go to at least one event to see him live in person. I really wanted to live the moment and share my stories for the next generation when the time comes.

So on a cool and rainy Sunday morning, together with my mother we went to one of the events of the Papal Visit, which was held in my Alma Mater of the University of Santo Tomas, which bears significance as it was given the titles “Pontifical” and “The Catholic University of the Philippines”. From a drop-off point, we walked around two kilometers to the university. At first, we’d just settle outside of the university and on to the motorcade route to see the Pope. However, due to my insistence we tried our luck getting inside the university to bear witness to the event.

They closed the gates 30 minutes earlier than expected since people were pushing to get in before the gate closes for good. Fortunately for me and my mother, around 15 minutes after the gates we’re supposedly be closed for good until the event ends. Out of my huge fighting spirit to get inside, contrary to a warning from one of my uncles living around the area of not taking a chance of getting inside. We managed to get inside the campus grounds. 

For two hours, we waited for his arrival on campus, I was able to catch up with my once history prof who got in earlier, as well as one of my college batch mates who joined me and my mother at a chance to get in. Then he arrived, he passed by the Arch of the Centuries which has been as old as the university itself, and the very place where as freshmen we are ushered in and as graduating students go out and into what lies in life after college.

Like the millions of people who attended the events of the Papal Visit, I tried my very best to get closer to the Pope. It is no surprise that in our generation, tablets, smartphones and cameras were rampant everywhere during the course of the Papal Visit in Manila. I admit, I had my smartphone ready trying to get a close shot of him for it will be a good memento for not only myself but for my entire family. Unfortunately, that was not to be as I the closest as I was to him was a good 20-30 meters away. I was unable to take a good close shot of the Pope for my own. However, despite the setback, I was able to see him with my very own eyes live and in living color. That was all good and fulfilling for me, as well as for my mother.

Throughout the event, we listened through the select youth that were given a chance to speak to the Pope as well as his message for the youth which was delivered in his native Spanish as it was an impromptu message, far from the original message that was written in English.

Here a few quotes from the event that have left a mark for myself. I’m sure, I’m not alone with these inspirational quotes.

“What you think, you must feel and put into effect. Your information comes down to your heart and you put it into practice. Harmoniously. What you think, you feel and you do. Feel what you think and feel what you do. Do what you think and what you feel. The three languages…Can you repeat this? To think. To feel. To do. And all in harmony…”

So when the next pope comes to Manila, please let there be more girls.” 

“This is the first thing I want to say: let us learn how to weep as she has shown us today and let us not forget this lesson. The great question of why so many children suffer, she did this in tears. The response that we can make today is: let us really learn how to weep.”

“Today, with so many means of communications, we are overloaded with information. Is that bad? Not necessarily. It is good and it can help. But there is a real danger of living in a way of accumulating information… We run the risk of becoming museums of young people that have everything but without knowing what to do with them. We don’t need youth museums but we do need holy young people.”

After the event, me and my mother went home and witnessed the papal mass in Luneta with the rest of my family on television. I thanked her for accompanying me to the event in UST, if it wasn’t for her, I would have missed the opportunity to see the Pope in person. For majority of the events of the Papal Visit, I had to settle on watching the television for it. Even so, each event left an impact on myself. From his arrival until his departure back to the Vatican. From his visit to Malacanang to the mass at Manila Cathedral. From the meeting of families at the Mall of Asia Arena to the meeting with the youth in UST. From the emotional mass on a stormy and tragedy-hit Leyte to the rainy Papal Mass in Luneta in which more than 6 million people bear witness to. From wearing a transparent rain jacket in

Here are a few quotes that have left a mark from the other events of the papal visit.

“So many of you have lost everything. I don’t know what to say to you. But the Lord does know what to say to you. Some of you have lost part of your families. All I can do is keep silent…But please know, Jesus never lets you down. Please know that the love and tenderness of Mother Mary never lets you down.” – at the Papal Mass in Tacloban Airport, Leyte 


“We forget to remain, at heart, children of God. That is sin: to forget at heart that we are children of God. For children, as the Lord tells us, have their own wisdom, which is not the wisdom of the world. That is why the message of the Santo Niño is so important. He speaks powerfully to all of us. He reminds us of our deepest identity, of what we are called to be as God’s family.” – at the Papal Mass in the Luneta Grounds

“To dream how will your daughter or son be. It is not possible to have a family without such dreams… When you lose this capacity to dream, then you lose the capacity to love and this energy to love is lost.” – at the Meeting with Families in Mall of Asia Arena, Pasay City

The Papal Visit to the Philippines renewed the hope and faith of the Filipino nation to live a life that is full of love and prayer. Pope Francis as he has said many times before asked for prayers for him. Let us never forget the lessons of this visit.

Sure, there have been unpleasant experiences and reactions during the course of his visit. Yet, the radiant optimism that this event brought on will forever be on the lives of the people who bear witness to these five days in our nation.

These fateful five days will live on for the rest of my lifetime. I will tell stories of these days for generations to come. This experience will also be an inspiration for myself in my future endeavors in life. We won’t know if he’ll be able to come visit our nation again, but as he said.

 “Let us allow ourselves to be surprised by God… …God reveals himself through surprises.”

I am forever thankful and grateful for this once in a lifetime experience. 

Salamat
Thank You 
Gracias
Grazie

Lolo Kiko
Pope Francis
Papa Francisco
Papa Francesco

Your radiant smile will forever live on with us all. You truly are the real MVP! Our “Most Valuable Pope

13,705 km. Red Nation versus the world.

Today is the right time to put the inspiration onto clockwork and lay it all down. I am going to break the wall on this one.

So first of all, what’s with the 13,705 kilometers? Well, it is the distance from my hometown of Quezon City, Philippines to Houston, Texas. Houston is home to my favorite NBA team for a long time in the Houston Rockets. For all the years I have been a member of Red Nation (for starters it is how Rockets fans are called collectively), I have seen the ups and downs of the franchise. In some times, great moments and sweet victories. Most of the times bitter heartbreaks and tough defeats. Yet despite all of that, even though I am far from Houston, I passionately support this team wherever I go in my life.
 
In a country where the game of basketball is a way of life for many of its citizens, it is no surprise that the NBA has a very huge following here in my home country. However, the Rockets does not have a huge following among Filipino NBA fans. I remember vividly last year, when the announcement came the NBA will be playing a preseason game and the teams playing in it were announced (Rockets and the Indiana Pacers), most Filipino NBA fans wanted another set of teams instead, teams with a huge following. China, who has been hosting NBA preseason games for years since Rockets legend Yao Ming entered the league has been getting the teams with huge fan followings.
 
It is no surprise though, that people root for teams that have either a decorated franchise history or a transcending player/group of players who is/are making a huge difference not only for their team but for the league as well
 
Over 30 NBA games are shown on a weekly basis with the different networks that carry NBA programming. Some of the Red Nation family (especially those from the US) were surprised when I told them about it. The Rockets get a good share of games shown on TV here (Unfortunately for me, I can’t watch them all since I’m missing a network that carries the a good chunk of Rockets games. Still, I get to see on TV at least 50% of the Rockets games in the regular season and most of their playoff games). We also got the NBA Café Manila and recently the NBA Store opened their largest branch outside of the United States (It was always a struggle for me to find Rockets gear since most sports stores sell gear from teams with huge followings in the country, now it will be easy for me to find and avail them). In addition, NBA League Pass was made easily available in the country through mobile phone carrier Globe Telecom with their offering to Postpaid and Prepaid subscribers to make it available.
 
I was at the preseason game when it happened last October 10, 2013 as it was a chance to see my team live and in living color. I remember vividlyDwight Howard got the hostile treatment from the fans in attendance since his former team the LA Lakers have a huge following here. While ex-Rocket now Lakers guard Jeremy Lin got the warm treatment from the crowd, for the obvious fact that we Filipinos hope that someone will make the NBA like Lin who is Asian has done. Filipinos were happy when NBA veteran Andray Blatche was naturalized and donned the PILIPINAS jersey at the 2014 FIBA Basketball World Cup in Spain. But of course, the dream that still hangs in the minds of Filipino basketball fans is to see a home grown Filipino player to play in the NBA.

This season, the dynamics have changed for the Rockets. They have taken over from the Miami Heat who lost LeBron James to free agency when he decided to return home with the Cleveland Cavaliers this season as the most despised team in the NBA today. It may not be at the same level as the Heat have encountered in the last four years, but the hate is real on all sides from both the media and the fans. 

Think about it, both of their superstars have been heavily criticized by the general NBA concensus. James Harden who has been called out as a star who can’t play defense. Yes, YouTube has that script covered with a viral video about his documented defensive lapses. Dwight Howard who has gotten the ire of fans especially of those from Los Angeles and Orlando has been called out for not being too serious in-game. At the start of the season, fans picked up immediately when Lakers superstar Kobe Bryant called him out for being “soft” as the Rockets were cruising to victory in LA

But not only the superstars has gotten the ire of fans and the media, guys like Patrick Beverley who has been called “dirty”, who can forget especially those from Oklahoma City, when he caused Thunder star point guard Russell Westbrook to miss the rest of the playoffs that disrupted the Thunder’s title hopes in 2013. Trevor Ariza, after he was acquired by the squad was called by most NBA fans a “downgrade” after the Rockets let previous starting forward Chandler Parsons walk off north to the Dallas Mavericks. And finally, recent acquisition Josh Smith who was waived by the Detroit Pistons has been ridiculed for his poor shot selection.

The criticism doesn’t only extend to the players, it also extends to the coach and the front office. Head Coach Kevin McHale who has yet to lead the team out of the second round has been criticized for his poor player rotation options especially in key situation, which personally I find it fair enough. Finally the General Manager in Daryl Morey who has been the “god” in the NBA when it comes to using analytics to determine the player personnel to join the squad. It has been ridiculed from traditional player recruitment where they look more into the background and pedigree of a player before pursuing an offer for their services.

With all the criticism and hate this team has endured throughout the off season and into the current season. I could have left and supported a team with a large following. I could have made more friends who share the same passion with the team as I do. I could share moments good or bad with a lot of people. I could have avoided all the earth shattering criticism and hate pointed out on the team. I could have said “I’m not from Houston, I’ll root for someone else.” and join the train to a beloved team today (say Warriors, Thunder, Mavericks, Raptors, Bulls, you name it).

But in the end, I will stay on with this team and I will seize the moment. This is the first time I will ever experience my team this ridiculed and criticized by many fans on a massive scale. So I will enjoy it while it lasts. Right now, the team has been playing great basketball, they have kept in touch with the best teams in a highly stacked Western Conference. This team faced the injury bug early into the brand new season and have shown resilience by winning games. Sure there have been a few terrible losses, but it’s part of the grind of a 82 game season.

James Harden has been playing like an MVP so far this season as he leads the league in scoring, and has significantly improved on his defensive game thanks in part to his stint at the FIBA World Cup with Team USA. Dwight Howard has been playing well and staving off the injury bug wisely. Trevor Ariza, Patrick Beverley and Corey Brewer have been doing it on the defensive end as well as hitting their three point shots. Donatas Motiejunas has been a revelation all season long as he gave up shooting threes for an improved and high percentage post game. If the team can get contributions from Jason Terry, Josh Smith, Kostas Papanikolaou, Isaiah Canaan, Nick Johnson and Joey Dorsey. This could be one of the teams to beat come playoff time.

We don’t know yet how our team will fare at the end of the season, we could see them get home court advantage in the playoffs or not, we could see another disappointing first round exit or go all the way to carrying the Larry O’ Brien title to Houston. As anything can happen in our beloved NBA

We don’t know how long will this moment in the franchise history of the Rockets will last. But right now, I’m savoring the moment. 

I hope the rest of the people who are a part of the Red Nation family stay with this team throughout every game, every win and loss that may come the rest of the way. Who knows? The time may come now.

Because it’s simple, it’s real. From 13,705 kilometers away, I’m a soldier of Red Nation and we’re going against the world.

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2014: A Year To Remember, Hello 2015.

2014 was a year to remember for me. A lot of great things happened throughout the course of the year. Since I’m a bit short on words for this yearly recap. All I did for this year was a collage of some special moments that happened last year.

Photo ©Karl Carandang
 
Looking at this collage, there were plenty of great moments that happened during 2014. The day, I finally finished my college education after a four year journey filled with success and failures. The baccalaureate mass, that came prior to graduation where they announced the honor roll which I made it and our exit through the Arch of the Centuries. That two day stretch where I won my final competitions bringing honor to the university along the way. The practicum at Marsman where I got involved in the preparation and execution of the trips during the course of the semester. The Quezon City Food Festival and fireworks display with the Claret Alumni Homecoming on the side where I got to meet our AFP Chief of Staff who was also an alumnus of the school. To family reunions on both sides of my family from Christmas to my father’s 50th birthday. To reunions with my friends from both high school and college whether it’s birthday parties or simple catch-up moments with them. I also lived the life of a passionate sports fan following my teams along the way from following the Houston Rockets transition into one of the most polarizing NBA teams today to the inspirational run by Gilas Pilipinas in the FIBA World Cup.
 
Despite these fun moments in 2014, there were some few hiccups and sad moments along the way. From witnessing that painful first round exit the Rockets suffered at the hands of the Portland Trail Blazers to the disastrous Asian Games stint of Gilas Pilipinas which led to the ousting of coach Chot Reyes. To the death of my grandmother from my mother’s side. To being rejected in the sole job interview I took (Yes, I took more vacation time than job-seeking and I do not regret it).
 
In ending, I am thankful for the year has passed. Now that the year 2015 has arrived with some important events coming like the visit of Pope Francis in the country, a few weeks from now. I’m looking forward to a great year ahead. I hope I can finally land a job soon and help my family out and save up for my own. I hope that you will still be a part of the year at hand.

Good bye 2014, thanks for the memories. Hello 2015!

Quezon City at 75: The Validation of My Hometown

Last October 11, The City of Stars came alive as Quezon City began celebrating its 75th Diamond Jubilee. Throughout the day, events were done across the six districts of the nation’s largest city. From street parties in each district to the fireworks at midnight that lit up the city bright. However the center of attention was the very firstQuezon City Food Festival held along the recently christened food hub of the city, Maginhawa Street.
 
As early as the festival opened at 9 in the morning, Quezon City residents as well as people from outside the city flocked along the two kilometer stretch to sample what the area’s booming food industry has to offer. The stretch which started at the intersection with Masaya Street and ended at the intersection with Makadios Street was closed to motorists with the exception of vehicles who have been issued car passes to drive along the street.
 
Every restaurant nestled along the street gave food aficionados a lot to offer. From offerings given by café’s, casual dining spots, steakhouses, dessert & tea places catering to different cuisines from around the world such as Filipino, Italian, American, Japanese, among others. The whole stretch caters to anyone coming along on any budget. It is indeed a food lover’s dream to come and sample what this street has to offer.
 
In addition to the restaurants, tents were set up for other businesses who hope to leave their imprints on to the people who went along the festival during the course of the day. Also, an evening concert and street party was held at the midpoint of the entire festival grounds. It was indeed a festive atmosphere throughout the whole of Maginhawa Street from morning until midnight. And to cap the day off, a 15 minute fireworks display that went off near simultaneous as other areas of the city with street parties lit up the skies and brought awe to the people who stayed the night out and celebrate what this city has to offer to the world.
 
Though there were a few hiccups that happened during the festival as some food tenants ran out of food or items to sell as the night went along as well as the lack of portable toilets along the whole stretch. The very first Quezon City Food Festival was generally a success. Indeed it left memorable moments for everyone who came in and celebrated what this city has to offer. We are certain that this will not be the very last time this festival will come along in our lifetimes. Hopefully, there will be improvements made for next year’s event.

 

With other activities lined up for the rest of the year such as today’s celebration at the Quezon Memorial Circle, the Quezon City Book Fair and the Quezon City Half-Marathon Night Run. Indeed last night, Quezon City proved itself of being one of the most progressive citiesin the country.
 
On personal note, this event validated of how proud I am to call Quezon City my hometown. The Maginhawa area has been a part of my life for 11 years of my existence with my school days in elementary and in high school. At the time I was having my education in the area; it was known to have more internet shops than restaurants. I never thought that this area transformed into a celebrated food hub in a short span of time. This place will forever have a spot in my heart and mind for I made a lot of good memories here. I will always have a smile on my face coming back to take either my family or friends and enjoy a good meal together. So for anyone who wants to come I will be happy to show you around.

After the Asian Games, will you give up on Gilas?

It has been a eventful 14 months in the history of Philippine basketball. From winning silver at 2013 FIBA Asia Championship on home soil. To those thrilling tune-up games leading up to the 2014 FIBA Basketball World Cup in Spain. To the eventful return of Philippine basketball on the world map with a gallant performance at the 2014 FIBA Basketball World Cup. Despite the fact, Gilas Pilipinas won only 1 of 5 games and did not making it to the next round of the tournament finishing 21st in the 24 team tournament. The world was put on notice with what they have accomplished. All the way to Incheon for the Asian Games. Where unfortunately, the team suffered a disastrous finish settling for only 7th place in the tournament.

The tournament was a disaster for the national team. After winning their opening match against India, they suffered a tough loss against Iran where the team kept in close distance with the Iranians. Then into the next stage of the competition, they suffered a shock loss to Qatar. Followed up by another tough loss against the host nation and eventual gold winners Korea. Then a victory that felt like a defeat against Kazakhstan ending the medal hopes of the team. Losing to China and ending the tournament with a win over Mongolia for the 7th place finish.

With a twist of fate, the team that brought a nation together, has completely tore it apart. As the critics emerged blasting the team on every aspect. Majority of the brunt was put on Gilas head coach Chot Reyes. Reyes, who on a press interview blasted naturalized player Marcus Douthit after the loss to Qatar which led Filipino basketball fans to blast him on his own miscues during the course of the tournament. Primarily on the team’s failure to execute in end game situations that has been present even in their stint at the FIBA Basketball World Cup thus leading to the infamous moniker that is “Choke” Reyes. In addition, to his choices on rotating players during the course of the game. Calls for him to vacate his coaching job for the nationals spread like wildfire. Critics wanted to give other great coaches like Tim Cone or Yeng Guiao the opportunity to call the shots for the nationals.

The downfall of the team in the Asiad, unfortunately overshadowed Jimmy Alapag’s farewell run donning a “PILIPINAS” jersey. This after he came out for one last shot with the national team after earlier calling himself to retire after the tournament in Spain. As well as the good name that this team have put on the basketball world map during those eventful days in Sevilla.

This graph pretty much explains how “most” people felt after each tournament that Gilas had played since last year.

Photos used were from multiple blog sites.
 
For obvious reasons, I did not choose to use a person from Gilas Pilipinas for this graph. It would undo everything that I wrote in my previous blog entry.
 
As a fan of this team. I am saddened as any Gilas fan there is in the world about the outcome of the last tournament. After all the hard work and inspiration that this team gave to the nation. The team indeed suffered a major setback in those tough days in Incheon. That forced own basket vs Kazakhstan pretty much summed up all the struggles this team encountered.
 
I may have the right to exercise tough criticism on the team itself. However, I choose not to do so. I mean on a personal note, it is unfair to criticize someone for not being able to execute what the people wanted. 
 
As far as Coach Chot Reyes is concerned, I’m not blaming him. I mean what’s the point?!? You give praise when he coaches well enough to win games for the team, but stab him in the back when he commits something unforgivable in coaching that the team losses. 
 
This ain’t the first time that anyone on this team has been criticized, remember Gary David at last year’s FIBA Asia tournament? Some fans called him out not worthy of being a part the national team after his struggles during the tournament. Fortunately for Gary, his fellow players and most people backed him up and was instrumental in that quarter-final win vs Kazakhstan last year.
 
His critics have valid points which are worthy of consideration. I can honestly say, he is the most polarizing head coach that Philippine basketball has ever seen. Some people love him, some people hate him. But I have to say he is still one of the best coaches this country has ever seen in this generation. Take out what happened in Incheon, he coached the team back into the world stage of basketball.
 
I’m not asking anyone to stop sharing their sentiments good or bad. For one fact, that this nation is truly obsessed with the game of basketball. That is something I truly admire about our passion for the sport.
 
Speaking of the Philippines in the Asian Games, the country brought home 15 medals from Incheon. The lone GOLD medal came from cycling athlete Daniel Caluag. 3 silver medals (2 in wushu, 1 in boxing) and 11 bronze medals (5 in taekwondo, 3 in boxing, 1 each in wushu, archery and karate)
 
There is the outspoken minority of Filipinos who think that we should focus on sports where we can actually have a better shot of success or winning a medal in international tournaments. We should not forget about them too. After all these kind of tournaments aren’t always about basketball. It was unfortunate that only a few got to learn about these medal finishes by our athletes. Indeed, it should be a stepping stone to improve the general standing of Philippine sports. I do hope that our sports program gets better in the near future.
 
In ending, as for Gilas Pilipinas in the near future. For sure, it will debut a new look team once the next tournament comes next year which is the FIBA Asia Tournament that is a qualifying tournament for the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. The winner of the tournament automatically qualifies for the Olympics. While the second and third place teams will have to go through a Olympic qualifying tournament for three wild card spots at the Olympics.

Whether Gilas management decides to keep Chot Reyes or choose another coach. So be it as long as it’s for the best interest of the program.

 
Is it time to give up on this team? I personally think otherwise. As a fan, I will continue to support the national team 100%
 
If there is anything that I have learned as a fan of teams like the Houston Rockets and the UST Growling Tigers. That is to never give up on a team no matter what happens. Stick through everything good or bad. 
 
I have yet to taste genuine joy as a basketball fan whenever a NBA Finals or UAAP Finals is being played out as both of these teams have not won the championship in their respective leagues ever since the day I started rooting for these teams.

Some of my friends have tasted that genuine joy whenever their team/school won the title.

 
Yet I come back every year with renewed hope that one day they will reach the promise land and as a fan I get to taste the joy of going all the way to the promised land.
 
There will be time for the wounds to heal. It will be another 11 months until Gilas Pilipinas returns to battle in the Asian stage. As a fan, will you give up? or hang on through good and bad times?

Gilas Pilipinas 2014: The team that brought Philippine basketball back on the world map.

Prior to writing this one, I have seen a lot of writers and bloggers that have already written their take on this matter. Even so, I will still write this one. The passion is burning high on my body, on my mind and in my heart. So let’s get to it.

 
For the last six days, Filipinos within our soil and around the world witnessed one of the defining moments in the history of Philippine basketball. The story of a nation’s unlikely love affair where in the eyes of anyone outside a Filipino is a genetic mismatch when it comes to the international stage.

For the last six days, Filipinos set aside their differences to unite as one nation in support of a team carrying “PILIPINAS” in their royal blue, white and red jersey. The nation went through a lot over these six days over Sevilla, Spain. From the glimpses of brilliance that shocked the world of basketball to the unimaginable heartbreak when we fell short after a great fight against the countries this team battled. When it all ended with a sweet and hard-earned victory over Senegal. There was pride, hope and optimism running through every Filipino who bare witness to this moment. Whether they were in Sevilla throughout their run, on home soil, or around the world where a Filipino is watching this moment.

Truly this was a team that despite falling short of victories on the win column will be remembered as the team that brought Philippine basketball to where it truly belonged, on the basketball world map.

Let’s run down a few of the memorable tournaments of this run by Gilas Pilipinas at the 2014 FIBA Basketball World Cup in Spain.

When Gary David or Japeth Aguilar, despite playing limited minutes giving a boost on the scoreboard whenever they score a basket. 

LA Tenorio competing tooth and nail with Puerto Rican NBA veteran J.J. Barea in a showdown of court generals.

Ranidel De Ocampo, Paul Lee and Jeff Chan dropping three point bombs on the scoreboard.

The grit of a Marc Pingris and Jayson Castro who played through the injuries to give everything they have and show the world what “PUSO” means to the Filipino nation.

Gabe Norwood’s work on the defensive end and two Kodak moments when he delivered two highlight reel dunks over Argentina. One of which was over NBA and international veteran Luis Scola.

The overall efficiency that June Mar Fajardo brought throughout the tournament and a inside presence this team lacked in previous tournaments that spanned over generations of basketball.

The play of Andray Blatche, our naturalized NBA player who lit up the scoreboard with three pointers and drives to the basket. He also played through injury showing that he may not be a born Filipino, but his heart and passion showed the grit of a Filipino.

The Captain Jimmy Alapag who played in his final international tournament carrying the PILIPINAS blue, white and red. Dropping three point bombs that were beyond NBA range. The steady play on running the offense and sending us home with our heads up high by nailing clutch free throws in the team’s final game over Senegal.

Of course the coaching staff, led by Coach Chot Reyes together with assistant coaches Norman Black, Jong Uichico, Josh Reyes and consultant Tab Baldwin. It was with their sacrifice of calling the shots for the team that bare fruit. They went through a lot especially in a nation where both players and the coaches are under the microscope at all times.

For everyone following the PBA every conference, they set their differences aside for each other. Imagine this, Alaska fans cheering once again for LA Tenorio. San Mig Coffee fans cheering every Jeff Chan and Paul Lee three point bombs or Gabe Norwood tearing the rim down and stop. San Miguel Beer fans (just like me) cheering a Jimmy Alapag long bomb or Ranidel de Ocampo bucket. Rain or Shine fans cheering on the grit of Marc Pingris.

This team gave the world of basketball something to remember. Who would have thought that this team would compete in close games to some of the world’s best countries when it comes to basketball? Prior to the tournament, people expected Gilas Pilipinas to lose by huge double digit margins. This team proved to the world otherwise. 

They only lost by three points in a game that went into overtime, in the very first game of the whole tournament against 16th ranked and 2013 Eurobasket 4th placer Croatia

They lost twelve points to 5th ranked and one of four tournament wild cards in Greece

They only lost by four points to 3rd ranked and one-time Olympic champions Argentina.

The biggest heartbreak came when we competed well against 17th ranked and 2013 FIBA Americas runner-up Puerto Rico only to fall short by four points. Sealing our fate of not advancing into the next stage of the competition.

The final game against Senegal is when the door was finally broken as they won in overtime by two points ending their run on a positive note and to the delight of every Filipino as they win a game for the first time at the FIBA Basketball World since 1974. Imagine that, 40 years since the last time a team carrying “PILIPINAS” won on the world stage of basketball.

What also made it special is that this team gained new found respect and along the way. From international sports writers and analysts like ESPN’s Mark JonesMike Prada of SB Nation, and NBA writer Couper Moorhead. To  who is in a way a Spanish equivalent of Grantland writer, Pacific Rims author and Pinoy Hoops host Rafe Bartholomew, who followed this team starting from their tune-ups in Guadalajara, Spain against teams like Angola, Egypt and the Dominican Republic and drove 600 miles to Sevilla to follow the team into every single game of this tournament. 

The team also gained the respect also from opposing players and coaches, Argentine coach Julio Lamas was quoted that their game against the Philippines was “the most difficult game he coached” in his coaching career. Puerto Rican point guard J.J. Barea giving props to Gilas guard LA Tenorio. Greek coach Fotios Katsikaris acknowledging the tip he got from his Philippine-based friends about how good the team is.

Also on a personal note for me, there was also a guy who goes by the name of Jason Williams who like me is a huge Houston Rockets fan. From the first game of the team in the tournament, he fell in love with the team. He said to me after the Philippines lost to Puerto Rico that it was like seeing the Rockets misfortunes the past season all over again. But when the win over Senegal came. He gave me a nice shout-out.

Photo ©Karl Carandang
Well, there will always be scrutiny about how this team played out. Filipinos whose love for basketball is unlike the world has ever seen (take Lithuania as our equal when it comes to passion) will have something to scrutinize. As they say, it’s always easy to scrutinize whenever you’re sitting at home eating good food, drinking a good cup, and being with your family watching the game. 
 
People pointing on coach Chot Reyes and his choice of rotation of players, on why he didn’t play certain players in crunch moments. People pointing on Andray Blatche’s play in which some critics reminded them of his notoriety during his playing days in the NBA with the Washington Wizards and the Brooklyn Nets. People pointing on Jayson Castro’s late game decisions. And a host of other scrutiny a person can think of.
 
And also the thought of racism among some Filipinos over opposing players. One notable victim was Croatian player Dario Šarić who was born with a cleft lip, bore the brunt of racist comments by Filipinos on the FIBA Facebook page showing his photo. Again, just like everyone who carried the “PILIPINAS” royal blue, white and red. He was carrying the “CROATIA” red and white and the hopes of another nation.
 
Nobody wearing their respective colors, whether it be PILIPINAS, USA, España, Lietuva, Brasil, México, Srbija, Dominicana, Slovenija, Hellas, Türkiye, France, Puerto Rico, Senegal, Angola, Croatia, Argentina, Finland, Australia, Ukraine, New Zealand, I.R. Iran, Korea or Egypt (Yes, I have to mention what is on the jersey of every nation that played in this tournament) deserves to be disrespected like that.
 
But enough with my rant, let’s keep this as optimistic as possible. The run of our national team may have come to an end. However, we’ll come out of this with renewed optimism. Optimism and hope that this run won’t be the last one we’ll see in our lifetime. For Team Gilas Pilipinas, this ain’t the end but only the beginning of something special
 
I believe, we believe. Let’s move forward, on to the next tournament, in the 2014 Asian Games in Incheon, South Korea and the next FIBA Asia Championship in China come 2015. Hopefully we can play on the Olympic stage on the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. And I am supporting our bid to host the 2019 FIBA Basketball World Cup which will grow from 24 teams this year to 32 teams.
 
Let me say this with pride once again. 
 
“Ako si Karl Carandang, pinanganak at lumaki sa Quezon City, buong pusong sumusporta sa Team Gilas Pilipinas.”
 
In English:
“My name is Karl Carandang, born and raised in Quezon City, wholeheartedly supporting Team Gilas Pilipinas.”
 
THANK YOU GILAS PILIPINAS. For giving us a reason to come together as one nation. Looking for more journeys with our team in the future. Thank you for a great run at the 2014 FIBA Basketball World Cup.
 
LABAN PILIPINAS! PUSO!

Albertus Magnus Building, memories and legends were made.

Yesterday, I returned to UST once again. It’s been more than a week since my last visit. But, there was a good reason to come back. It was more than just a plain visit, but it was to coach the Quiz Bee team which I was a part of the past two years and won multiple competitions along the way. It felt great to be on the other side of the fence. Of coaching and motivating the team, and not competing to put up a good fight. After spending the afternoon there, I went home tired yet thankful of the opportunity that was given to me today. Little did I know that something was brewing along my beloved college.

Today, I got the news on social media from one of my mentors, that CTHM will start holding classes on the new Buenaventura Garcia Paredes, O.P. Building (otherwise known as the Thomasian Alumni Center) on Thursday. It will be leaving the Albertus Magnus Building which has been it’s home since it’s inception in 2006. The new building will primarily host the Office of Alumni Relations. It will also house every college/faculty-level alumni organizations. But what will the building bring to CTHM? It will give the college new classrooms and facilities that will cater to the needs of the college and it is fully air-conditioned. One side note of the upcoming move, the CTHM offices will still remain at the Albertus Magnus Building. I haven’t personally gone into the new building in my last visit. But I’m hopeful I will be able to come inside, the next time I come back.

On a personal note, there is always that sign of envy that I never got to experience having a class inside the new building as I just graduated. But it was indeed a measure of right timing. We may never experience the vibe of the new building as students. Perhaps on a jokeful thought, the move could cut-off the college from “civilization” of the UST campus. As majority of the buildings of other colleges are closely attached to one another. Despite the envy of it all, at least we were able to come out last March with flying colors and that’s the most important thing of it all. At the end of the day, it’s for the good of the college moving forward.

Then again, a lot of mine as well as others memories of their college life were made inside the Albertus Magnus Building. From every class to spending a moment at the cafeteria or the fenced area. From the ultra cool language lab to the consultation room and faculty room where I once trained whenever I compete. From events/exhibits done inside the building to having my OJT at the travel bureau inside the building and plenty other experiences in this building that molded me into who I am today.

The nostalgia of the Albertus Magnus will always be there for me. Whenever I or anyone else who belongs in CTHM step their foot inside the building, we will have that feeling of how it was inside it. Every success and failure that was made here. From the beginning until the end of our collegiate journeys.

It will be an exciting time for the college with the move into the spanking new building. As the current generation of students will now make their own legends and memories inside it. As an alumnus, I’m optimistic with all the changes that are coming along. I hope for the best.

Alas, I will always remember the Albertus Magnus Building as a second home for the four years of my Thomasian journey.

Godspeed, Albertus Magnus 
K-Smoove

P.S. If I get called to coach the team again, where would I go?

K-Smoove's Thought Ladder. A blogger who stands for what he believes in.

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