MANILA, Philippines – The Philippines' own U16 national team battered Singapore, 108-42, to open its 2017 SEABA U16 Championship campaign on Sunday, May 14 at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
But Batang Gilas didn't just defeat Singaporeans. They also beat fellow Filipinos.
Singapore's participating U16 squad here featured 3 young Filipinos mixed in with locals: Reuben David Faustino Amado, David Macaraig Chuabio, and Jack Williams Santiago Lacsado.
While eyebrows will raise elsewhere, Batang Gilas coach Mike Oliver finds it encouraging that Filipinos are spreading the talent around.
"Masaya tayo kasi at least nare-recognize nila 'yung talent ng Filpinos — nagre-represent sila sa other countries," he said after his team's first win. "Happy tayo for them. Especially din for the communities din na nandoon."
(We're happy because at least Filipino talent is getting recognized – they are represented in other countries. We're happy for them. Especially for the communities there.)
The 3 Pinoys accounted for 8 points and 5 rebounds for Singapore in the 66-point beatdown.
The 15-year-old Amado was born in Dasmariñas, Cavite, where both his parents come from as well. He moved to Singapore at 6 years old and is already a citizen of the country, but like many young Filipinos grew up learning basketball on street courts.
"My father introduced the sport to me and when I was in the Philippines, I always play in the outside courts, I always play there," said Amado, who speaks with a Singaporean accent.
Amado, who currently studies at North Vista Secondary School, was Singapore's starting guard and went on to finish with 4 points, two rebounds, 3 assists, and a steal in over 23 minutes.
"Filipinos are very intense. Their defense is very hard," he said of playing Batang Gilas, noting it was an honor to see action on Philippine soil. "It's hard to execute the ball past the half-court line. They are very tall, very big, they play with high intensity."
Meanwhile, forward Chuabio and guard Lacsado were born in Singapore and Taguig, Philippines, respectively.
It's not uncommon for Filipinos to play in other Southeast Asian nations with many pro players taken in as imports in the ASEAN Basketball League. The Philippines has been the top basketball country in the region for decades.
Even if Singapore's U16 coach Hwee Liak Wong does not distinguish between Filipino or Singaporean among his players ("For me, we are all Singaporeans," he said), Oliver pays notice to the subtle attributes that are unique to Pinoy ballers.
"Makikita mo naman 'yung confidence sa laro nila, ‘di ba. Alam mo naman na 'yung mga Pinoy kahit saan mapunta, 'Never Say Die' 'yung attitude nila," he said.
(You'll really see the confidence in their plays. You always know how Filipinos are wherever they go, they have that 'Never Say Die' attitude.)
Batang Gilas next faces Indonesia on Monday, May 15 at 12 noon. – Rappler.com