Sunday, September 28, 2014

Gilas Pilipinas: They are All Filipinos

“I’m gonna ask Marcus, if he doesn’t wanna play, we’ll go all-Filipino. If he wants to go home, he can go home.” - Chot Reyes, Gilas Pilipinas head coach

This is not about the "blame game." Rather, it is about the side -- but nonetheless very important -- issue highlighted by the reported incident post our Gilas Pilipinas's loss to Qatar in the men's basketball event of the 2014 Asian Games. This is really more on the semantics about our Pinoy sense of identity.

Coach Chot Reyes's threat that "we'll go all-Filipino" (which he subsequently made good of versus Korea) is a misnomer and discriminatory, as even center Marcus Douthit has become Filipino by virtue of naturalization. Perhaps Reyes should have said, in reference to all his athletes, that "we'll go all-homegrown Filipinos." But, that is also misleading, as Jimmy Alapag, Gabe Norwood and Jared Dillinger all grew up and first played ball in the States. Or maybe "all full-blooded Filipinos"? Well, Norwood and Dillinger’s respective fathers are both Americans. And Marc Pingris has a Frenchman for a father. Likewise, consider Jeff Chan and Paul Dalistan Lee’s Chinese ancestry.

The accurate and safe statement would have been this simple: "If you don't want to play, Marcus, we'll play without you."

Now Douthit, who began wearing the Team Philippines color in 2010, has contributed greatly to our resurrection to a respectable level in international basketball. And, in spite of the recent report on his attitude in the match versus Qatar, I believe that he has always played as a true and proud Filipino athlete the moment he was granted our citizenship in 2011 -- already a year since he began representing our nation. He has proven his immense worth to our national team in spite of occasional dips in his athletic performance, which befall all athletes, elite or otherwise.

In the spirit of internationalism, the profession and acquisition of national citizenship have gone beyond the realm of legalities, even more than the issue of blood. Ultimately, consistent with the Gilas Pilipinas battle cry, it is a matter of puso (heart) -- and soul. 

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