MANILA -- More attention, more participation, more support.
These are the gains that the Gilas Pilipinas Women hope to achieve after their historic campaign in the FIBA Women's Asia Cup 2023, where they finished in sixth place -- their highest since being promoted to Division A.
A breakthrough win over Chinese Taipei in the group stage assured the Gilas Women that they will stay at the top level, and they gave New Zealand and South Korea a difficult time in their last two games before falling just short.
Coach Patrick Aquino believes their performances show that the "gaps are closing" between the Gilas Women and the rest of the continent, and hopes that they can sustain this for future competitions.
"I'm really proud of the girls. What they did, they embraced the future of what we're gonna have for Philippine basketball, for Philippine women's basketball. I hope this spark would burn like a big burn in the coming years," said Aquino.
Their strong showing in the FIBA Women's Asia Cup is the latest in a long line of achievements for the Gilas Women, which include back-to-back Southeast Asian Games gold medals in 2019 and 2022, and a silver in 2023.
They hope that this most recent feat will inspire not just the ever-growing women's basketball community in the Philippines but also the stakeholders of the sport to pour in more investment into the program.
"It's not just men's basketball in the Philippines, but women's basketball is coming right up. And I hope that the support will continue, and get bigger," Aquino said.
"Everyone wants to play for the Gilas team, and now that they're seeing us, competing, [and] we're right there with them. We're not just getting beat by like, 50 points, that kind of thing," said Gilas guard Jhazmin Joson. "So I feel like the girls back home, they would support us and they would come and join us, just to see what kind of competition there is out there."
Already, Aquino is drawing up plans on how they can inch closer to the global powerhouses of Asia. The Gilas Women had beaten Chinese Taipei, 92-81, for their first ever win in the group stage, but before that they had lost big to eventual bronze medalist Australia (105-34) and to silver medalist Japan (95-57).
"We have to continue training, recruitment. It's not just in the Philippines, but all over the world," said Aquino, who has tapped the Filipino diaspora in the United States for players including Duke University guard Vanessa de Jesus.
He said they have already gotten feelers from Filipinos in Australia who want to try out for the women's national basketball team, and he hopes this movement will grow bigger at home as well.
"[In the Philippines], when you say basketball, it's for men's only; when you say volleyball, it's women's. Now, it's more of a half-and-half for the girls. So it's more of making us try more. Everybody's following us. Hopefully we can do a bigger set-up for them and find more talents," said Aquino.