More than a week has passed since Gilas Pilipinas lost to China in the 2015 FIBA Asia Championships and I am still salty about the defeat. Most people will point out that the height of the Chinese, poor outside shooting, missed opportunities from the charity stripe, pressure from fans, both Pinoys and Chinese, and the terrible officiating contributed to the loss. I, on the other hand, am left wondering why we keep dreaming of playing basketball in the Olympics, the grandest stage of them all, when the sport clearly favors tall people and height is something a lot of Filipinos are not blessed with. Wouldn’t we be enjoying more international success had the Gilas cagers started out as football players and ended up as members of the Azkals instead? Aren’t we better off had earlier generations discovered football before basketball? Isn’t it unreasonable for a country populated mostly by short people to be so in love with the game of basketball?
Although a basketball fan myself, I cannot explain the unlikely affair of Filipinos with basketball. Good thing I was finally able to get my hands on a copy of Pacific Rims, not to be confused with the movie about robots and monsters. Written by Rafe Bartholomew, the book shares the author’s experiences in the Philippines as he follows the Alaska Aces from 2005 to 2007 while uncovering the mystery behind the passion for basketball that Filipinos have.
Rich with insights, interviews and quotes from important figures in Philippine basketball, Pacific Rims has plenty of information on the history of the game in the country and how it transformed into the nation’s favorite pastime and beloved sport. It explains the role it plays in the lives of Filipinos from different walks of life as well as exploring its place in our society. The book also takes its readers behind the scenes of small-town leagues, better known as liga or paliga in Tagalog, and the Philippine Basketball Association, revealing some of the league’s secrets and shedding light on controversial issues like Fil-Ams, one-sided trades and ludicrous contracts. In addition, it takes a closer look at some of Alaska’s players and coaches during the team’s run to the championship in the 2007 PBA Fiesta Conference, giving readers a better understanding of what makes professional athletes tick and the pros and cons of being a pro baller.
Aside from the interesting information it contains, the book provides readers with entertainment in the form of the author's funny experiences in the Philippines and with the Alaska players. Reading stories about pro cagers farting, walking around naked and Bartholomew being mistaken for a popular PBA shooting guard should leave basketball aficionados laughing and shaking their heads.
To sum it up, Pacific Rims is a must read for any Filipino hoops fan. Not only does it explain why we love the game so much, but to some extent, it justifies our feelings and fuels our passion. In my eyes, Bartholomew is not only a basketball fanatic but a skilled wordsmith because the words he used in this book allowed him to speak to our culture and our soul with utmost sincerity. If you want to understand why you love basketball so much or are looking for a way to express your love for the game, other than making an acrobatic layup or creating a makeshift hoop, getting this book should do the trick.