Call of country transcends generations
Those who have lived long and fruitful lives have their own sports memories and have a natural tendency to compare teams and heroes of their time with present ones. If the subject is Philippine basketball, then there’s a huge possibility that the older basketball fan would long for heroes and glories of the past.
It has really been a while since the Philippines has won a major Asian basketball title.
So you can understand why there has been a longing for a return to the glory years of when Filipino teams were dominant and lorded it over countries that had yet to learn how to transform their individual athletic shortcomings into cohesive basketball units.
You would therefore expect the old guards of Philippine basketball to dismiss the efforts of the present generation as falling short of their storied careers in the international domain. However, this wasn’t the case when the Samahang Basketball ng Pilipinas organized a sendoff for the current Gilas squad before its crucial competition window against Kazakhstan and Iran.
Heroes of past Philippine teams came to a lunch hosted by the SBP at the Meralco Multi-purpose Hall last November 28. They included Rafael Hechanova (1952 Helsinki Olympian), Tony Genato (Bronze medalist, 1954 World Championships, 1952 Helsinki and 1956 Melbourne Olympics), Edgardo Roque (1960 Rome and 1964 Tokyo qualifying tournament), Arturo Valenzona (1964 Tokyo tournament), Jimmy Mariano (1968 Olympics, 1973 ABC and 1974 World Championship), Marte Samson (1972 Olympics), Manny Paner (1972 Olympics) and Robert Jaworski (1968 Olympics, 1973 ABC and 1974 World Championship. The late great stalwarts Caloy Loyzaga and Kurt Bachman were represented by their sons Chito and Dickie.
The veterans came after present national coach Yeng Guiao had a meeting with writer Noel Albano and consultant Ignacio Dee who will publish a history of Philippine participation in international basketball. The writers wanted Guiao to write the foreword of the upcoming book entitled “Years of Glory.”
While reading the work, Guiao found a rich and colorful account and sensed it would be fitting to connect the past with the present Gilas team to reinforce the squad’s commitment to the national cause.
Jaworski told the players that the national team was a calling to “give so much more” than an athlete normally gives. It was clear the Big J knew where he was coming from having played on many national squads and even coaching the first all-pro squad to a silver medal finish in the 1990 Beijing Asiad.
The spirit of the meeting was summed up by SBP President Al Panlilio who said: “Today we bridge the generations of basketball players who have answered the call of country. Though the challenges and contexts have changed across time, the response to serve the flag remains the same even if the tasks seem daunting. The objective today is not to measure the success of one team or one generation over the other, but to share the stories and strands of commitment, patriotism and pride.”