Staggering genius

This is my column today, September 14, 2014.

The euphoria may have started to die down already, but it will take a little more time before Filipinos, particularly basketball fanatics in this country, would forget how Gilas Pilipinas surprised us, and stunned the world at 2014 FIBA World Cup. 
The ironic thing was that the team failed to win the crucial matches and consequently failed to advance into the round of 16.  Anyone who was not tuned into the matches must have found the situation ridiculous.  Why were the Filipinos beating their chests and acting out like champions when the simple fact of the matter was they lost the games?  Perhaps at no other time did they find losers who were congratulating themselves and acting very proudly.
People always like to trundle that old admonition about how losing or winning is not the point of the game but how one plays it, but this was the very first time that it actually sounded and felt true.  I’ve always thought the admonition was a convenient justification for losers.  Sure, a Gilas victory over Croatia or Greece or Argentina or Puerto Rico would have really meant so much more (and come to think of it, might have caused many people to consequently suffer from a heart attack), but after watching how the Filipino players gave every last ounce of their energy and effort into each of the games – how they never gave up despite the seemingly insurmountable odds, one couldn’t help but applaud them just the same – even after the heartbreaking losses. 
People have been saying that Filipinos would never do well in basketball because we’re not exactly the tallest people in the world.  It’s a logical observation because basketball is a game that gives people with height a distinct advantage.  But as Gilas Pilipinas has proven, basketball is not just about height.  It’s also about speed and cunning.  And more importantly, it’s about the drive and the passion and the commitment to win.  In short, puso (heart).  Of course we also got creative by getting our own imports; but then again, so did the other teams anyway, including those that did not have our height disadvantage. 
Gilas Pilipinas gave the top basketball teams from Europe a really tough time and each of the four matches could have swung either way; perhaps our way with a little more luck and perhaps, a little more experience on the part of the Filipino boys.  What Gilas has effectively done was change the way we look at basketball as a sport.  But over and above that, the boys have proven that there is nothing impossible if we really set our hearts into achieving whatever it is that our hearts truly desire.  One wishes our leaders imbibed the lesson.
But the Gilas Pilipinas achievement in Spain was not the only performance of staggering genius from Filipinos in the last few weeks. 
Onstage the other weekend was Musikal! - the 45th anniversary presentation of the Cultural Center of the Philippines.  Musikal! was a very rate celebration of the original Filipino musical and featured excerpts from 21 (yes, 21!) Filipino musicals.  The selection was diverse and inspired.  There were the “heavy” musicals that many would probably consider opera.  There were the very popular musicals that celebrated the vaudeville and stageshow era of Philippine theatre.  And then the musical productions with political, historical, social, and yes, pop-culture references and origins.  Each of the musical productions was special and memorable in its own right.  For example, Magsimula Ka, which was first staged in the eighties is best remembered for having created awareness about the promise and potentials of Filipino musicals.  Katy! is a well-loved musical.  Rak of Aegis, Himala, Sa Wakas, and Caredivas were recent hit musicals of the Philippine Educational Theatre Association.  On the other hand, Zsasza Saturnah and Maxie were musicals that had a cult following, and not only because of their subject matter, but because they were such rollicking fun to watch.
What made Musikal! such a heart-stopping, jaw-dropping, awe-inspiring spectacle was the magnitude of the talent assembled onstage.  Most of the musicals featured members of their original cast so one can only imagine the number of performers onstage and the amount of talent showcased that night.  Lea Salonga, who was in the audience, and who was asked to come up the stage at curtain call, could only exclaim “Ang gagaling nyo!” (You were all great).  It was one of the very, very few times when one could actually feel the immense energy in the audience boiling over - bringing everyone to its feet for a long and sustained standing ovation and repeated shouts of “bravo!”
We are still trying to assert our supremacy in sports, but when it comes to the performing arts – boy, we sure have no equals.


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