The Long Road to the Philippine Arena
Posted on October 9, 2017
I played in the International Unity Games of the Iglesia Ni Cristo in 2015 at the Philippine Arena as a member of the Buklod Basketball Team.
The eliminations started in 2011with teams from the different ecclesiastical districts of Metro Manila participating. I was a member of the Metro Manila East team. I was a new University President then and had fresh legs like I was still a young man. But then I found out that I was even then the oldest basketball player. I was 53 years old then, but I was part of the most important team rotation of our coach, Coach Arlene Rodriguez.
The eliminations went on for another year in 2012 where we faced selections from different ecclesiastical districts. We played in different venues such as the San Andres Gym, Marikina Sports Center, and New Era University Gym. Basketball is the most loved sport of the Filipinos, and I must say that the competition was quite at a high level.
And then our selection was formed. This time I became a member of the Southern Luzon selection. This team was formidable, with several active and former PBA players in the roster, and a lot of former varsity players. In our team were Ken Bono, currently an active PBA player for the Meralco Volts, Irvin Sotto formerly of Talk N’Text and the father of the future of Phillippine basketball, Kai Sotto, Mel David, and Junel Mendiola, a former PBA player himself and member of the national team. With us was one of stalwarts of the champion team of Shell in the PBA during the stint of Coach Arlene and a teammate of Benjie Paras and Ronnie Magsanoc, Jojo Martin.
We started practicing in 2013 every Sunday because we thought the Unity Games would be held in 2014 in time for the 100th year anniversary of the Iglesia Ni Cristo but the Games were reset to the culmination activities of the anniversary in 2015.
We kept on practicing. I kept on taking practice shots from the 3-point area.
It was hard work. I started asking myself what am I doing this for?
I think this quote from Michael Jordan speaks for me.
The final leg of the games was held on July 25 to July 26, 2017 in different venues. We held our elimination games in the Malolos Sports Complex, going against Team Mindanao in the morning. These guys were tough and played hard but we simply had better talent and height but I was the shortest player in the team. We won, and after one hour played again against the more formidable Northern Luzon team comprised mostly of former New Era University varsity players. We won and with it the right to play in the Philippine Arena.
We faced a very good Team USA who won their elimination games against Team Europe, Team Canada, and Team Australia. I could not remember the final score anymore, but all the hard work I did paid off: I scored the first three points for our team via a 3-point shot.
We were the champions. I was 57 years old at the time. I was the oldest in the team.