The Philippines prides itself on its three Bs: Basketball, Boxing, and Beauty Pageants. These three might as well be our country’s identifier considering their massive following and influence. Remember when Pacman was just starting to make waves? Not just in the country but also in various international arenas – breaking records after records?How the streets of EDSA would go silent, nearly resembling a ghost town whenever he fights?
How about the country’s favorite sport, basketball? When we nearly qualified for the London Olympics in 2012 but failed, thanks to the Jordanian players led by Tab Baldwin. Or what about the most controversial Miss Universe pageant in 2015, when Pia Wurtzbach came out victorious in bringing the crown back home, 42 years since Margie Moran?
Needless to say, if there would be a list of things that could unite a nation, for the Philippines, these three will undoubtedly be included. They might even be on top of the list. With the added influence of social media, the popularity of these three went off the roof.
A mix of culture and survival instincts
Today, when we hear someone talk about boxing, one familiar face and name usually pops into mind. When we speak with foreigners, that face and name are almost always mentioned. He became so prominent in the world – he might as well be the face of the sport. With its over a century of history and evolution, Boxing in the Philippines has produced young aspiring men who eventually became part of history.
Pancho Villa, the first Filipino boxer to beat Westerners in the World’s ring, pivoted the country to take on a sport from the ones who introduced it. His rise in the sport and record of beating white champions made such noise in western countries. For one, it must’ve felt good for a colonized to knock out the colonizer.
With the success of Pancho Villa, a new generation of fighters started making a name for themselves. The Filipino Flash, Gabriel Elorde, made his mark following the footsteps of Villa. He was also helmed in the International Boxing Hall of Fame, together with Villa and, most recently, Manny Pacquiao.
A nation filled with confidently beautiful women with a heart
Two queens standing. About 100 million Filipinos across the globe holding their breaths, quickly releasing them when the Philippines was not called. Dismayed and disappointed, a lot of us had already switched off the television. But were you one of those who stormed to back when you heard the news of the now infamous debacle by host Steve Harvey? We won. WE. WON.
Forty-two years after our last Miss Universe crown, Pia Wurztbach did not only win the highly-coveted title. She also won the hearts of millions of Filipinos and pageant fanatics all over the World. The win catapulted the Philippines as a powerhouse in pageants, not just in Miss Universe. But even before the Wurtzbachs, Morans, Diazs, and recently Gray’s of pageantry, the Philippines has already been roaring this culture in every barangay, or town, just like basketball.
Despite its dark history and controversy about glorifying women, pageantry in the Philippines, with its deep roots, eventually changed. Evolving from a mere exploitative spectacle to a platform to influence change, make a difference, and break the glass ceiling of a society that is still embracing gender dichotomy. Borrowing the words of Miss Universe Catriona Gray, maybe we can really see some situations with a silver lining.
Basketball is to Filipinos what football is to Brazilians. Back then, you would see basketball courts in almost every barangay or village, making it the national pastime. When the Americans brought basketball into the country in 1910, it grew unsurmountable popularity. It gave rise to aspiring athletes to become household names; from Jawo and the iconic Ginebra team to the heroic moments of Junemar Fajardo, basketball has accompanied us through so many important events in the country.
Since the time we reached the fifth spot in the Olympic games in 1936, still the best run of the country for basketball, and recording the first 100 plus points scored by any nation in the Olympiad, the sport continued to grow and attract more young players in and outside the country. Even though we are still finding the best mix to at least surpass that record, the determination and hunger of Filipinos to bring pride and glory to the country will keep us going.
Respect must be given to the sport that symbolizes a true Filipino character: Puso. This could probably be the reason why almost all Filipinos are drawn to this sport. The rush, the tension, and the feeling of braving full-court presses and obstacles to catch alley-oops or shoot some hoops are comparable to going through life struggles with a never-say-die attitude.
Para sa bayan
Whenever these three are happening, the nation unites for one cause, one reason: to witness a showcase of pride and glory – asserting our supremacy on things we hold close to our hearts and heritage. The influence of boxing, beauty pageants, and basketball reaches even the shores where hopelessness resides.
Our drive and interest in these things should not be regarded as barriers and outlines of our differences. They are representations of diversity – that unification and oneness are achievable despite dissimilarities. The names and moments that came out and will come
out of these three Bs will forever be etched in the hearts of Filipinos, wherever they may be.