Tag Archives: NBA Finals

Rafael Nadal’s roots in Iloilo

“Some people are your relatives but others are your ancestors, and you choose the ones you want to have as ancestors. You create yourself out of those values.” RALPH ELISON

By Alex P. Vidal

In La Paz public market in Iloilo City where we regularly buy our meals, NBA fans wait on tenterhooks if Erik Spoelstra’s genius can prevent Gregg Popovich from becoming an Albert Einstein in court.

La Paz district is a football hotbed, home of the finest booters in the region next to the municipalities of Barotac Nuevo and Sta. Barbara when it comes to quality of players.

La Paznons so love soccer that they demolished an age-old outdoor boxing arena to further enlarge their football field in the plaza (You should have opposed this unpopular move, former First Lady Ming Ramos; but we heard it was because of your “beautification” project why the iconic boxing ring was obliterated).

But when it is NBA finals time, football or FIFA World Cup takes a backseat. NBA championship is a down-the-wire headline-grabbing event. Never mind if super grandmaster Wesley So will soon push the pawns for the Americans in the FIDE chess.

Never mind if Manny Pacquiao will coach KIA in the PBA (we saw the world’s best boxer pound-for-pound and PBA Commissioner Chito Salud shake hands in a sports page recently. In September 2001 when we covered Gerry Penalosa’s WBC super flyweight fight against Masamori Tokuyama in Yokohama, Japan, Salud was impressed more with Penalosa than with Pacquiao, then fresh from winning the IBF super bantamweight crown against Africa’s Lehlo Ledwaba on a 6th round TKO in Las Vegas, Nevada. It’s understandable because his father, the late former WBC secretary general Rudy, was Penalosa’s manager at that time).


We are aware that several days after the NBA finals, Ilonggos will continue to make a post mortem analysis whether it is the Spurs or the Heat that will end up bringing home the 2014 NBA title.

It would be a crime against sports, meanwhile, if we ignore Rafael “Rafa” Nadal’s most recent record-breaking conquest in the French Open just because the more glamorous NBA finals and 2014 FIFA World Cup are lording over the sports pages and in the social media nowadays.

The NBA finals series between Miami Heat and San Antonio Spurs was tied at 1-1 when world no. 1 Nadal collected his unprecedented ninth French Open title by whipping world no. 2 Novak Djokovic of Serbia last June 8, or five days after his 28th birthday.

Nadal holds a special place in the hearts of the Ilonggos. Many local tennis fans can identify themselves with the talented Spaniard, who has won 14 Grand Slam singles titles, the 2008 Olympic gold medal in singles, a record 27 ATP World Tour Masters and a record 15 ATP World Tour 500 tournaments.


There are Nadals in Jaro district. Their siblings are mestizos and mestizas and it’s not hard to conclude that they have Spanish blood running in their veins. We heard the Nadals in San Enrique, Negros Occidental also traced their roots in Castellon de la Plana, Torrelavega, Valladolid and Pamplona, Spain. The tennis heartthrob was born in Manacor, Balearic Islands, Spain. We were colonized by Spain for more than 400 years, after all.

It is possible some of Rafa’s foreparents had roots in some Filipino families somewhere in the Philippines, if not in Jaro and San Enrique. Some of the friars, according to Jose Rizal’s novels, sired illegitimate children with Filipino women. We remember Maria Clara, among other victims of sexual abuses by these Spanish ruffians, in Noli Me Tangere.


Nadal can, in fact, be mistaken for a Filipino if he plays in the SEA Games or Asian Games. There’s a lot of handsome tennis, fencing and even soccer players who look like Rafa. Richard Gomez plays fencing in the SEA Games and his height and physique are similar to Rafa. His hairstyle, color of skin, and the way he dresses outside the clay court (where he is considered the “king”) are similar to some matinee-idol-looking Filipino athletes. No one will question his nationality on the spot if he will carry the RP flag in the World Olympic Games and other biennial events. Unlike decathlete David Bunevacz and brothers Phil and James Younghusband, who really look like children of white parents (although their late mother was a pure Pinay).

But the sad reality is Nadal is not a Filipino. Because we hanker for a sports icon so much admired for his skills and talent in clay court, we can always claim Rafa to be our own—but only in our dreams.

As we went to press, the 2014 FIFA World Cup blasted off in Brazil, triggering a worldwide sports mania that is felt even in the remotest African countries.

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Posted by on June 13, 2014 in Uncategorized


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FIFA, Azkals can’t snatch away Ilonggos’ madness with NBA

“When you can do the common things of life in an uncommon way, you will command the attention of the world.” George Washington Carver

By Alex P. Vidal

Ask any Ilonggo sports fan—young and old– in the street about the National Basketball Association (NBA) nowadays and he can tell us lengthily about LeBron James, Blake Griffin, Kobe Bryant, Marc Gasol, Derrick Rose, and Russell Westbrook – all NBA leading superstars in this generation.

Ilonggo sports enthusiasts are not only familiar with James Yap, Asi Taulava, Jun Mar Fajardo, Jason Castro, Jayve Casio, among other top PBA cagers today, but can also recite statistics about NBA’s Dwight Howard, Kevin Durant, LaMarcus Aldridge, Stephen Curry, and Paul Millsap,  to mention a few.

Basketball is arguably the No. 1 sport of the Ilonggos and Filipinos in general, including those living in other countries exposed to other outdoor and indoor sports. Next to politics, basketball is the country’s national passion. In between is Manny Pacquiao’s KO demonstrations.

Ask the same fan (unless, of course, he is a true-blue sportswriter) if he knows Zinedine Zidane, Thiago Silva, Lionel Messi, Ronaldo, Paulinho, Roberto Baggio, Fernando Hierro, and David Villa– all FIFA World Cup legends, and he will surely pause for a while before giving us a blank stare. FIFA World Cup is the world’s most popular sporting event next only to the World Summer Olympic Games, but Ilonggos or Filipino fans for that matter, remember FIFA World Cup only when media start to make a noise and flood the sports pages and internet with news about how rich countries in Europe and Africa treat the event as a global phenomenon. FIFA World Cup enters into an Ilonggo fan’s imagination as soon as he sees a football field in the newspapers and TV clips; as soon as front pages drumbeat the huge event that it is now “FIFA World Cup time!”


Ilonggo fans, of course, know James and Phil Younghusband as Akzals brother heartthrobs like they know their kindergarten classmates, but they can hardly recall with complete familiarization other prominent booters in the team that recently made waves in the AFC Challenge Cup in Maldives. Without the presence of the handsome Filipino-British football players, Ilonggos can remember only their very own Ian Araneta and Chieffy Caligdong, both of Barotac Nuevo, Iloilo. 

Several days from now, the 2014 FIFA World Cup will unfold in Brazil. The Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) event has triggered a global frenzy, and fans are already agog over the sophistication and hoopla that attended the preparation stages arranged by gigantic sponsors. Yet, Ilonggos are still enmeshed on the suspense and thriller whipped up by the NBA play-offs in both the Eastern and Western conferences among San Antonio Spurs, Oklahoma Thunder, Miami Heat, and Indiana Pacers. Many of them don’t give a hoot about the pre-tournament predictions that Brazil would steamroll Argentina in the finals. Too early to speculate for those oddsmakers.

In the early 70s, a Chinese karate instructor ushered us to Golden Theater, a downtown moviehouse in Iloilo City, to watch “Game of Death” starring Bruce Lee, known as “Hai Tien” in the film. Tien was a retired champion martial artist who was confronted by the Korean underworld gangs.

Our Chinese karate instructor wanted us to study the movements of Bruce Lee and how he defeated in the Pagoda tournament Filipino Eskrima master Dan Inosanto and Korean Hapkido master Ji Han Jae. As elementary pupils, we actually knew little things about the legendary Bruce Lee and the karate styles he was employing to outwit his rivals.

What caught our attention was the very tall bemoustached black man, who engaged Bruce Lee in a bloody and full-contact karate showdown that had the audience on the edge of their seats.  He was Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, who fought with a free and fluid style mirroring Lee’s Jeet Kune Do. Because Abdul-Jabbar’s character has great size and strength in addition to a fighting style as potent as Lee’s, he could only be defeated once Bruce Lee or Hai recognized that an unusually high sensitivity to light was his greatest weakness. Ergo, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar became the man of the hour.


Instead of focusing on Bruce Lee’s fights, everyone was now talking about Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (born Ferdinand Lewis Alcindor, Jr. ) and how he acquired the Muslim name after piloting the Milwaukee Bucks in his first NBA title in 1971 at age 24. If Jabbar were a candidate for a national office in the Philippines, he would be a sure winner given his tremendous popularity that skyrocketed further after the Game of Death film.

Even in the sixties and seventies, NBA was very popular among Filipino cage fans. During the martial law years when cable TV and internet were not yet around, Filipinos were already infatuated with the NBA even at the height of the PBA Crispa Redmanizer vs Toyota rivalry in the 70’s.

Only Manny Pacquiao’s fight can rival the best-of-seven series between two NBA teams. When the NBA finals unwrap several days from now in time for the opening of the FIFA World Cup in Brazil, we will know which event will get the immediate attention of Ilonggo fans.

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Posted by on May 30, 2014 in Uncategorized


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