Victory in defeat (Philippine Star)

TOKYO TV5 Sports head Chot Reyes said the other day the Philippines’ loss to China in the bidding battle for the hosting rights of the 2019 FIBA World Cup was a vindication of the Filipinos’ fighting spirit in rising from adversity. It was a victory in defeat.

“I was very proud of the effort we put in for the bid,” said Reyes who joined SBP president Manny V. Pangilinan, former Gilas skipper Jimmy Alapag and Fil-Am celebrity Lou Diamond Phillips in speaking for the Philippines during the audio-visual presentations preceding the FIBA Central Board’s 14-7 vote for China. “I felt we left no stone unturned. Teamwork at its finest. In life, sometimes, when you win, you really lose and sometimes, when you lose, you really win. Though we lost the bid, the country really won.”

Reyes said there were many positives that the Philippines gained throughout the bid process. “The rallying behind the team, trending No. 1 worldwide, beating out at least five First World countries just to get this far those were big wins,” he said. “But the biggest victory really is for the country and Philippine basketball. Our FIBA-Asia hosting (in 2013), our World Cup stint (in Spain last year) and this bid have entrenched ‘puso’ firmly in world basketball.”

Recalling the Philippines’ suspension by FIBA from 2005 to 2007, Reyes said it’s been a long journey out of the pits. The formation of the SBP, led by Pangilinan, brought Philippine basketball back on its feet in 2007. At that time, FIBA secretary-general Patrick Baumann told Pangilinan it would take until 2016 before the Philippines could be competitive once more on the global stage.

But Pangilinan surprised Baumann. The Philippines made it back to the World Cup in 2014, two years ahead of schedule. And if only Gilas beat Croatia instead of losing in overtime, the Philippines would’ve faced host Spain in the round of 16 in Spain. Alapag said he couldn’t believe the evolution. “I’ll never forget how we were in 2007, coming out of a two-year suspension,” he said. “Now, we find ourselves bidding to host the World Cup. It’s just incredible.”

“We’re so far from the depths of suspension we found ourselves in barely eight years ago.”

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Phillips flew in from Los Angeles with his wife Yvonne, a make-up artist, and their seven-year-old daughter Indigo to participate in the bid event. He agreed to pitch for the Philippines without a professional fee and had an empathic delivery in the audio-visual. Twice, Phillips came on stage during the presentation and closed it with a fist thump on his chest as the Filipino crowd chanted “puso, puso!”

Phillips, 53, was born in Subic. His father Gerald Upchurch was of Scottish, Irish and Cherokee native American descent. His mother Lucita Umayam Aranas is a Filipina from Candelaria, Zambales. Before Phillips turned a year old, his family went to the US. But he returned to Subic in 1970-74 when his father was reassigned to the naval base. In 2004, Phillips was back in Manila with his mother to receive a Lifetime Achievement Award from CineManila.

“When I was invited to join the Philippine presentation, I had absolutely no hesitation,” he said. “I told my mom about it and she was so excited for me. I’ve always been available to promote Filipino causes like the Filipino Veterans Equity Act of 2006 which I supported with Sen. Hillary Clinton. I love the Philippines and Filipinos. It’s where I was born and where my mother is from. I’m proud of my heritage and blessed to be what I am.”

Phillips said he’s aware of how basketball is loved by Filipinos. “My mom is a rabid basketball fan,” he said. “I can’t get her out of watching basketball on TV. I’m proud to represent the Philippines. It’s funny how some people think I’m Latino. But any chance I get to show I’m Filipino, I do whether it’s fighting for the Filipino veterans or introducing the Philippine ballet on stage.”

Phillips became a global sensation when he portrayed Richie Valens in the 1987 movie “La Bamba.” He has now appeared in over 100 movies and TV episodes. Phillips has also performed in theater with “The King and I” his latest credit in Sydney two years ago.

In the audio-visuals, FIBA restricted both China and the Philippines to 20 minutes. The bidders had three rehearsals, twice on the eve of the presentations and once in the morning of D-Day. FIBA timed the rehearsals to make sure there would be no extensions in the actual delivery. The Philippines trimmed its audio-visual from 23 minutes to 22 to 20 minutes and nine seconds.

Curiously, China took 29 minutes in the actual presentation and FIBA didn’t bother to bang the gavel to signal it was over the limit. The Philippines kept within the limit. FIBA also limited both countries to five representatives each in the closed-door, question-and-answer sessions after the audio-visuals. The Philippine panel was made up of Pangilinan, Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario, Tourism Secretary Ramon Jimenez, Sen. Sonny Angara and Octagon Asia Pacific president Sean Nicholls. China brought in seven delegates to the private session.

The Philippine presentation was outward-looking as it focused on sharing the passion and excitement of the game throughout the world via the power of social media. China’s thrust was inward-looking, pointing to its vast resources and population of 1.3 billion. FIBA chose the safe way and went with China. You really can’t blame FIBA. It was speculated that China’s bid was more than double what the Philippines put on the table and you can’t go wrong with an economic giant. Even if the Philippine theme of “Puso” resonated, the vote came down to which country had more dollars and cents.