MANILA, Philippines -- The silver medal finish of Gilas Pilipinas in the FIBA-Asia Men’s Championship is just the first step towards regaining back the country’s rightful place both in the Asian and world basketball map.
Businessman and well-known sports patron Manny V. Pangilinan stressed the point during the Philippine Sportswriters Association (PSA) Annual Awards Night Saturday before a select audience of sportsmen, officials and sportswriters at the Centennial Hall of the Manila Hotel.
Coach Chot Reyes and the entire national team were presented with the Athlete of the Year trophy during the rites presented by Milo, with Air21 as major sponsor, for leading the Philippines back to the FIBA-World Cup 35 years after it last saw action in the quadrennial meet.
The country’s top sports officials led by Philippine Olympic Committee president Jose “Peping” Cojuangco and Philippine Sports Commission chairman Richie Garcia joined PSA president Lorenzo “Jun” Lomibao in presenting the Athlete of the Year trophy to Gilas Pilipinas and medals to players and members of the coaching staff.
Pangilinan, president of the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas (SBP), said the feat of the men’s basketball team hopefully would be the start of the road to excellence in a sport that is dearest to the heart of the Filipino people.
“Remember, excellence is not a destination which can be reached with just one step. Rather, excellence is achieved brick-by-brick, bit-by-bit, step-by-step,” said Pangilinan in his acceptance speech after being bestowed Executive of the Year honors by the country’s oldest media organization.
“What’s important is to show improvement gradually but consistently on that long and steep road to excellence.”
The chairman of the Philippine Long Distance and Telephone Company (PLDT) and Smart Communications also noted how the country had improved on its world ranking by the time he took over the reins of the country’s governing body for basketball, which was also named as the PSA National Sports Association of the Year during the formal rite held in partnership with Smart Sports, Philippine Sports Commission, Sen. Chiz Escudero, Philippine Basketball Association, SM Prime Holdings, Rain or Shine, Globalport, Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office, Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp., ICTSI-Philippine Golf Tour and Accel 3XVI.
“In 2007, when SBP was formed, we were No. 65 in FIBA world ranking. After August 2013, we rose to No. 34. Let’s keep improving, Gilas,” he extolled the national team bound for Spain this August.
But the SBP president was quick to add the achievement of Gilas Pilipinas would not be made possible without the support of the entire Filipino people, stressing the story of the high-profile national team is “one team together, one nation united.”
“We must, of course, pay tribute to our basketball fans who carried Gilas on its shoulders to the silver line finish, who returned us to the world stage after 40 long years of absence.”
On hand to inspire Gilas Pilipinas in its FIBA-World Cup campaign was the legendary Carlos “The Big Difference” Loyzaga, acknowledged as the greatest Filipino basketball player of all time, who was accorded the Lifetime Achievement Award together with former International Olympic Committee (IOC) representative to the country Frank Elizalde and one-time FIBA-Asia secretary general Mauricio “Moying” Martelino.