Air Tsinelas and Magic Softdrinks

In any situation, in all occasions, the Filipinos’ love for basketball never stops.

Cover Image: A new hoop rises amidst the destruction caused by Typhoon Haiyan. (

They can say what they want about the Pinoy not being made to play Basketball. No one is listening. Our legs are too short and our wingspan is not wide enough. So what? If love for the game were a stat, we would break records.

Who else on this planet would keep playing streetball in waist-deep floods? (Never mind the fact that on the whole planet, only our streets would get flooded up to the waist). Let’s see James Harden euro step wearing “tsinelas”. Nope, that unique talent is reserved for the Pinoy hoop hero. Does anyone think Steph Curry can execute his cross over on rugged soil?

We have backboards attached to branches where you need to adjust your shot according to how high and how hard the wind blows the goal. There are courts built on rivers’ edges where trying to save the ball from going out of bounds would mean holding your breath and plunging into muddy water. We play on streets where the ball rolls over dog poop, and we just wipe that off on our shorts so as not to delay the game.

At the Battle of Iwo Jima, American Marines raised a flag to remind everyone what they were fighting for. After the strongest storm in recorded history cut a swath of destruction through their province, the people of Leyte raised a basketball goal to remind themselves – and us – that life goes on.

Do not tell us we that were not meant to play this game. We pour softdrinks on our courts in the belief that it increases traction and helps us run faster.

We elbow our best friends in the throat because losing a game would mean crawling under their legs.


Filipino children living atop of tombstones play basketball inside an apartment type public cemetery in Navotas, northern Manila...epa01535630 Filipino children living atop of tombstones play basketball inside an apartment type public cemetery in Navotas, northern Manila, Philippines on 30 October 2008. Poor residents, or those evicted from their homes, have flocked to these areas in search of a safe place to reside. Many came as caretakers who maintained the tombs eventually cohabitating with the dead. Filipinos remember their departed loved ones by by visiting and cleaning their graves on the 'Day of the Dead' on November 1 and 2, to honour their memory . EPA/DENNIS M. SABANGAN

The Philippines has basketball courts even in the strangest places. (

Whether we play for a professional league, a school league or a barangay league, it doesn’t matter. We are in a league of our own. So, yes it hurt that our infamous traffic and inferior infrastructure deprived us of our chance to host the world’s biggest international basketball event. Deep inside, we all know it would have been the equivalent of 100 Popes blessing everyone in sight.

With our National Basketball Team, the Gilas 3.0 taking Silver in the 2015 FIBA Asia Championship, and their junior counterparts making history by ending China’s dynasty in the U16 tournament even more recently, our nationalism has been ignited by our favorite sport. Once again we went up against giants with the hope of regaining hoop supremacy in our region. Judging by the number of OFWs who filled the stadiums to cheer our boys on, regardless of age, we know that our love for basketball has not wavered.

Somewhere in the streets, some kid is dribbling a ball while dreaming of becoming the next Pinoy hoop hero. Proof of this is the success of Nike’s Rise program where 12 elite Barangay players were selected among thousands for a chance to play for a school team.

These basketball dreams will continue. Many more pairs of tsinelas will be destroyed on concrete courts and softdrink will go on being a secret traction potion. We are Filipinos. Certainly not built for basketball but definitely born for it.

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