Moving on from Gilas Pilipinas

Gilas Pilipinas beats Senegal 81-79 in overtime to get their well-deserved victory. (Photo from

Head bowed down. Palms either cold or sweaty. A sinking feeling permeates from where your heart should be.

Can’t sleep. Stare at the ceiling. Count sheep. Nothing’s working. Losing in love and losing in basketball sometimes feel like the same thing.

If only we did this. If only we had more time. Nothing else to do now but be sad and write lines that rhyme.

In the past few days Gilas took us for a rollercoaster ride. We all went from super confident after India to less confident against Iran. We were disappointed after Qatar, confused after Korea, hopeful after Kazakhstan beat Qatar, which brings us to here and now.

Losing sucks. It always does but especially so when you didn’t even remotely entertain the possibility of losing a game.

I’m sad. For Gilas. Sad for you and for me.

Sad because Jimmy played his last few games wearing the Pilipinas jersey. Sad because Ping wasn’t even able to play in what could be the last important international game he’ll have in his career. Sad because the game that brought us together felt like it was tearing us further apart.

Photo from
Photo from

Now we’ve met the end and what a bitter end it was. But as with any ending, we try to look at it in a positive light. The best of times were still worth more than these absolutely horrible times, right?

That’s how we deal with impending break-ups. Try to remember the good times, try to downplay the bad. Accept that you tried your best but it just didn’t work out.

Part of moving on is planning what you can do better.

First, the PBA should plot a new calendar. The adjusting on a conference-to-conference basis simply does not work anymore. Plot the calendar for the next 10 years to give the next Philippine team the longest opportunity for preparation as possible. If we need to go back to the two-conference set-up, then that’s what we should do.

Next, the PBA’s at-least-one-per-team rule for Gilas worked well. Requiring all the PBA teams to make at least two players available, no questions asked, should work even better.

It’ll also be great if all the players called for the pool make themselves available. I know Greg Slaughter and Marcio Lassiter had perfectly good reasons why they turned down the invitations but we should get over the enigma of not wanting to step on the toes of the original players.

Paul Millsap asked no questions when he got the Team U.S.A. invite. Rudy Gay was the last one to join the pool, yet he was included in the team. When international basketball is involved, we should learn to check out our egos at the door. Even if the original 12 won the silver in the FIBA Asia Championship, it doesn’t mean that they will remain to be the best bet in the FIBA World Cup or even in the Asian Games.

The goal is to win as many games as possible. The goal is never to repay the players who were there from the start.

Photo from
Photo from

We also need to stop this intrinsically Filipino attitude of trying to get away with breaking the rules, this attitude of ‘bahala na.’ We knew the Olympic Council of Asia had that three-year residency rule yet we forced Andray Blatche into the lineup. We didn’t have a good reason for it ‘pero bahala na.’

As a result, instead of practicing with Marcus Douthit, we spent a lot of time fighting a battle we could not win. Hindi tayo kawawa dahil wala si Blatche. Other teams, at least in basketball, were also prevented from using their naturalized players. We should have concentrated on what we had and not what we could have had.

We also need to realize that making a name for ourselves in international competition, especially in the FIBA World Cup, does not come without implications.

We will be getting the best effort from any opponent from the Southeast Asian region to the world stage. We exclaimed that we were good enough to compete with the world’s best and we have to wake up everyday knowing we have to put in the work to keep this statement true.

Lastly, we need to realize that Gilas is bigger than just a basketball team. Gilas has turned into a shared belief that once we work together for something, it would work out well.

Our basketball program has long been hampered by selfishness, of putting individual over team. We were suspended by FIBA because we simply could not put basketball ahead of our own selfish needs.

For a moment, Gilas made us look past ourselves. They made us see beyond our own circles.

I’m not asking you not to feel bad about losing in the Asian Games, I’m simply asking you not to let go of what we’ve built together. Hold strong to the things we’ve learned. Stay strong amidst the temptations of division and doubt.

I know moving on from Gilas will be tough because we can never ever pretend it didn’t happen. We’ll always have that good run to share between us. We’ll always remember those great times together.

Could you cheer against Jimmy Alapag because you’re a supporter of Ginebra or San Miguel Beer or San Mig Super Coffee and not Talk ‘N Text?

Could you boo Marc Pingris for playing hard, knowing that just weeks ago, he was using the same effort and the same emotion for you?

Could you feel bad when June Mar Fajardo destroys your favorite team’s defense, knowing that his improvement will be a key for the Philippines’ future in basketball?

Could you go back to being just friends with someone you’ve connected with in a much deeper level?

We’re in for an awkward start to the PBA season because the Gilas players we’ve come to put on a pedestal will once again be with their own teams when we know full well that they do not belong to that team. They’re forever ours.