MANILA, Philippines – American sportswriter Rafe Bartholomew is back in Manila to bond with Pinoy basketball fans and friends.
During his guesting on dzMM's "Sakto" on Tuesday, Bartholomew talked about the years he spent in the Philippines while writing the "Pacific Rims" book that placed a spotlight on Filipinos' love affair with basketball.
“Noong una akong dumating sa Pilipinas, 23 years [old] lang ako... nagkaroon ako ng research grant galing sa US government para matuto tungkol sa basketball dito sa Pilipinas, kung anong ibig sabihin ng basketball sa buhay ng Pilipino,” Bartholomew, known as "Rafeboogs" to his Twitter friends, said in fluent Filipino.
After getting a US Fulbright grant in 2005, Bartholomew flew to the Philippines. He stayed here for 3 years, observing how Filipinos became obsessed with basketball.
He also talked about an old hotel in Caloocan that was razed to the ground. He said tenants living near the area built a basketball court where the hotel’s ball room used to stand.
“Sa Old Cabaret sa Caloocan, isang lugar na may nakaka-inspire na basketball court kasi nung maraming taon na ang nakalipas, nasunog yung hotel. Siyempre yung mga tao na nakatira doon kahit walang bubong nagawa rin ila ang basketball court sa taas. ‘Yung dating ball room, [doon] nagbabasketball sila,” narrated Bartholomew.
He also got to know some local basketball legends and even visited the house of a veteran PBA photographer who had stacks of photographs taken during the golden days of Philippine basketball.
“Si Tony Lu, legend talaga siya sa PBA. Mula nung panahon ni [Robert] Jaworski, lahat ng functions ‘yung mga salo-salo, birthday party, andoon si Tony. Kinukuha niya ang litrato ginagawan niya ang mga frames… Sa Caloocan meron siyang [kahon-kahon] ng mga pictures, I think yung kasaysayan ng PBA nasa loob ng kahong iyon,” remembers the American.
Bartholomew said that back then, his relatives couldn’t understand his reasons for staying thousands of miles away from New York, where he grew up.
“Sabi nila, ‘Bakit gusto mo doon sa Pilipinas? Malayo, wala kang pamilya doon, bakit gusto mong mag-isa?’ Pero ‘yung tatay ko nagbisita siya sa akin at pagkatapos nun nakita niya yung dahilan, naramdaman din niya yung passion para sa basktball dito. sabi niya 'Ah, I get it.' Gets na niya,” he said.
Pacific Rims was published in 2010.
The 31-year-old Bartholomew now lives in California and works as a senior editor and columnist at ESPN sports.
He recently did a documentary for National Geographic., "Pinoy Hoops," which again tackled the Philippines' fervor for basketball.
Bartholomew admitted missing the Philippines and found himself looking for excuses to visit the "basketball country."
“Kahit gusto ko sa States, may pagmamahal ako sa Pilipinas, sa basketball dito. Siyempre pag nasa States ako sa California, nami-miss ko talaga ang Pilipinas,” said Bartholomew.