EVERY game in the 27th Fiba Asia Championship starts with the players’ usual warmup routines, their introductions and then the playing of their country’s respective national anthems.
All of the countries’ anthems are instrumentals—a veritable minus-one. Only when you watch Gilas Pilipinas games that the lyrics of the “Lupang Hinirang” are heard from about 17,000 fans each night at Mall of Asia Arena.
With each passing game—and with the Gilas national five advancing—the final line of the “Lupang Hinirang” that goes, “ang mamatay nang dahil sayo (to die for you),” is sung with increasing volume as more and more Filipino fans join in the singing.
Julian Felipe certainly did not compose the “Lupang Hinirang” back in 1898 with the view of having it played in a sporting stage, much less in a basketball arena like this Asian championship.
But every Filipino present at the Pasay venue who sang the national anthem before game time on Saturday night against South Korea must have expected something great to happen in the end.
After an 86-79 victory over the efficient Koreans that guaranteed the return of Filipinos to the World Championship for the first time in 35 years, the “Lupang Hinirang” will probably be remembered now in history classes as not just a song sung during wars of old.
Marc Pingris, who has played through a hamstring pull, said it best during the postgame interview after the win.
“Magpapakamatay kami para sa bansa namin (we are willing to die for our country),” he said.
That statement was enough for Filipinos who were part of that great win Saturday night to get goose bumps.