In the heap of Philippines’ resurgence in the Southeast Asian sports arena, that most of our torchbearers are Filipinos of mixed breeds is undeniable.
THE ATHLETIC MIX
In 2011, the world’s famous sport, football, was mainstreamed in the country by the Philippine National Football Team, better known as Azkals. They brought home our first ever victory in FIFA World Cup qualification, beating Sri Lanka 4–0 in the second leg of the first preliminary round.
After a year, Team Azkals recorded its first win in the AFC Suzuki Challenge Cup and its third in the 2012 Philippine Peace Cup. Basically, this was our first title since the 1913 Far Eastern Championship Games. Recently, it bagged its second consecutive semifinal stint in the AFC Suzuki Cup after beating the young powerhouse football squad of Myanmar.
Another fascinating sport previously not familiar with the Filipinos is rugby. In 2007, the Philippine Rugby Team dubbed as the Philippine Volcanoes popularized the American game rugby when they carried out a strong rally against Thailand during the finals match in the 24th South East Asian Games. Their silver -medal performance greatly contributed to the expansion and development of the game in the Philippines.
In the succeeding years, they continued to demolish other Asian countries like Brunei (101 – 0) and Guam (20-8). This year, they competed in the Asian 5 Nations Division I tournament and went unbeaten in the round-robin series against Singapore, Chinese Taipei and Sri Lanka, therefore qualifying for the main division for the first time.
Undoubtedly, there is this ignorance when it comes to these not-so-traditional sports. However, with the efforts of some Filipino enthusiasts, they managed to come up with an all-Filipino team to represent the country in the Asian and world sports. “All-Filipino” but not “pure Filipino”.
Azkals is coached by Hans Michael Weiß, a German Football Manager referred to the Philippine Team in 2011. With his experience as the assistant manager of two Asian teams – Kyoto Purple Sanga (2001-2004) and Japan U-20 (2004 – 2006), and as the Technical Director of Rwanda (2007 – 2010), Weiß guided the Akzals to win AFC Challenge Cup and the Peace Cup.
The team’s icons, Phil and James Younghusband, were half-Filipino, half-British. 14 of their 23-player roster are also of “dual bloodline”. The Azkals are, in parts, Spanish, American, Icelandic, Iranian, Swiss, Italian, Belgian, and German.
The Volcanoes are not different. 19 out of their 24 players are “half-breeds”. With struggles in funding, these men actually volunteered to play for the Philippines. In a media interview with Jake Letts, one of the Volcanoes, he said that they don’t get paid in playing here.
“We choose to play here because it is fun, and we get to represent our heritage and our country. Basically, for us it’s not about the money, it’s to play for the Philippines and hopefully win (for the Philippines),” he said.
NSO reported that there are about 21, 000 Filipino spouses with foreign partners. As our fellowmen moved out of the country for a living, who would have thought that they would also open an opportunity for this place to have a new breed of super athletes who will carry the Filipino sports to a higher notch?
HOISTING THE FLAG ONCE MORE
Aside from the athletes in the team, there are also other internationally-acclaimed fighters inside and outside the archipelago.
Four-division world champion and the reigning WBO and WBC Diamond Super Bantamweight Champion, Nonito “The Filipino Flash” Donaire, Jr. is half Filipino-half American.
The Hawaiian Punch Bryan Villoria is also a Filipino-American. He currently holds his twin title as WBO and WBA Flyweight champion. He also won the WBC Light Flyweight and IBF Junior Flyweight titles this year.
Even the Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) is already a nest of half-Filipino stars such as Jimmy Alapag, Joe Devance, Mark Caguioa, Alex Cabagnot, Danny Seigle and many others.
For fans of mixed martial arts sports entertainment, who can forget UFC’s Brandon Vera and WWE’s Batista?
Vera, who has a Filipino mother, is now competing for Ultimate Fighting Champion’s light heavyweight. He became popular after bringing out a notable fight against UFC Heavyweight Champion Frank Mir.
Using his ring name Batista, David Michael Bautista Jr. is a six-time world champion. He won four World Heavyweight championships—the longest in WWE history. He was a headline in Wrestlemania 21 which became the fourth biggest pay-per-view event in pro wrestling history.
LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh: they may be the kings of today’s NBA era but they will not win a championship without a Filipino empowering them on the sideline.
NBA’s Miami Heat has with them a Fil-Am head coach named Erik Spoelstra. Spoelstra is the first Asian-American Head coach to win an NBA championship.
Once in a while, these foreign sports figures visit the country to give sports clinic and encourage young talents in the country.
In the recently concluded 2012 London Olympics, three out of the 11 athletes who represented the country are of foreign lineage.
In cycling, the Philippines was represented by Filipino-American Daniel Caluag who had reigned as the number one ranked BMX rider in the United States for four years. He also qualified for a spot in the Olympic Games by accumulating enough points on the international circuit.
Filipino-Japanese Tomohiko Hoshina was the sole representative of the country in judo.
There is no point in discriminating these cross-cultures especially if they mean no harm in playing for the country. If this is the trend of our sports today, can we blame them for having a foreign blood? Can we blame them for having more training and exposure in sports abroad than the pure Filipino athletes here?
The way it goes, they are the new flag bearers of the Philippine sports at present.
50% Filipino, 50% for the Filipinos.
John Ely B. Templonuevo