Posted by: theboyfromsmallville | June 12, 2007

Mabuhay (An Independence Day postscript)

The team huddled into a circle in the center of a corner dugout at a gymnasium situated in a far-flung rural Thailand town, 100 meters west of Bangkok.

One by one they put their hands together, 12 men bound by a single mission: To restore national pride by leading the Philippines straight into the Olympics.

Their hands bound and raised into the air, one of them shouted: Pilipinas!

And the reply came in a collective deep roar of unity: Astig!

thanks to Jose
This is one of the reasons why covering the sports beat is such a joy.

Just when you’ve numbed yourself to the effects of buzzer-beating baskets that bring out the goose pimples in other people; when you’ve grown tired of the clichés spun out by coaches that lead to monumental victories; when you’ve dusted off the residue the mist in your eyes leaves each time the national anthem is played in the international arena; and when watching Manny Pacquiao no longer brings out that thrill of watching a countryman bring pride to a nation with a self-inflicted badly-battered image, something like this comes along.

Something like 12 supposedly overfed, sinfully pampered superstars conditioned to play before big crowds strutting their wares in a practically empty gymnasium, diving after loose balls and taking elbows and knees right where it hurts the most just to usher the country back into the world basketball stage.

Something like Filipinos raised in other countries, uncomfortable in their handle of the local language screaming with passion “Pilipinas, astig!”

The hairs on your body bristle again. There is that warm glow in your heart and a pride-induced mist in your eyes once more.

I remember once, covering the Southeast Asian Games in Cebu, how Gretchen Malalad would glare at an opponent, her model-looks transforming into that of a hungry tiger eyeing a cornered prey, and punch her chest hard right where the Philippine flag was stitched on her uniform.

“Just to show my opponent what I’m doing this for,” Gretchen said when I spoke to her after the match, where she won for the country a gold medal in the karate competitions.

In that same event, Marna Pabillore also won the gold medal and then she took a Philippine flag attached to a pole thrice her height and run around the gymnasium, waving it.

Needless to say, a roar erupted in the coliseum. So loud, it shook the rafters.

That means it doesn’t take much to rouse the patriotism in all of us. We just need symbols of hope. We just need to believe that one day, all of us will wake up and ask ourselves not what our country can do for us—so urged JFK during his inaugural address—but what we can do for our country.

Maybe one day we can wake up and realize that just the sight of the Philippine flag will be enough to whip up a nationalistic fervor that will lead to citizens doing everything to make this country great.

For flag and country!

Yes, because I am naïve like that

Then again, it doesn’t take much to do something for the country. One need not die for it.

Stay and work here to stop the brain drain. Drive in a disciplined manner. Stay in line. Don’t litter. Shoot a politician. And then kick to see if he’s still breathing and then shoot him again if he is.

How hard can that be?

Maybe all we need is a rallying point.

Maybe all we need is a symbol that we can all relate to and fight for.

Maybe all we need are heroes who can whip up our long-dormant patriotism and help us hold our chins up high and say, we will never make you forget the day you decided to mess with the Philippines.

One cold independence evening, I found those heroes. And as reluctant as they are to have their images bronzed a hundred years down the road, they decided to get the ball rolling.

By dressing up in Independence Day-themed clothes last Tuesday.

Here they are:


Pilipinas, astig! 

yiheee... with the freedom fighter 

 with the proud one

 Team Philippines

hide my proud pinoy pisngi 

In the long history of the world, only a few generations have been granted the role of defending freedom in its hour of maximum danger. I do not shrink from this responsibility; I welcome it. I do not believe that any of us would exchange  places with any other people or any other generation. The energy, the faith, the devotion which we bring to this endeavor will light our country and all who serve it, and the glow from that fire can truly light the world. (John F. Kennedy, 1961)

People say that it can’t work, black, white, here we make it work everyday. We still have our disagreements, of course, but before we reach for hate, always, always, we remember the Titans.  (Sheryl Yoast, 2000)



  1. […] here!  It deserves a standing ovation.  Walang halong bias!  Dapat sa mga blog posts na ganyan […]

  2. ahahahaha ang laki ng tiyan ko sa first photo parang buntis! nyaaaaaaah.

    hahaha ayos lang. basta, Pilipinas, astig! :-D

  3. Shoot a politician. And then kick to see if he’s still breathing and then shoot him again if he is.

    – marami kang galit, hahaha. alavet!

  4. Cy: Kinda like the old joke. You have a gun with just two bullets and you are stuck in a foxhole with a politician and a hungry lion. What do you do? Shoot the politician. Twice. Eh kung one bullet lang? Shoot yourself. Hehehehe. I love politicians, don’t I?

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