Gilas Pilipinas’ journey to compete in the Rio Olympics ended with a heartbreaking loss to New Zealand, 89-80.
It only seemed like it was yesterday when we were all busy updating ourselves with how the practices were going, feeding ourselves with video clips we see online, watching Kuwentong Gilas, reading articles, etc. We were all very excited for the Qualifiers and we were all hopeful that they will make it to the semis.
Seeing both games firsthand was heartbreaking. I saw how devastated and disappointed they are of the outcomes. It was honestly those behind the camera moments that tears my heart. The first night was saddening, the players all went out of the Arena with bowed heads. I can feel their pain, but there was still an ounce of hope left. I remember Coach Compton stopping in front of the crowd saying, “May pag-asa pa tayo. Laban lang.” It was honestly very encouraging and it gave people hope.
The second night, we all went there with high hopes and full of positivity. From the moment the game started, New Zealand already made it clear that they will fight hard for the win. Gilas Pilipinas were already struggling. When they lowered the lead to two, everyone was screaming and cheering, but again, New Zealand had a different plan. When the buzzer rang and it was clear that the game was over, our players went to the middle of the court. Some of the people already left, but others, those who are truly supporting the team stayed and applauded the team despite the fall. Some were still shouting “Laban Pilipinas! PUSO!” And it made my heart melt. It was really what the players needed at the time.
Most of the fans waited outside to greet and see the players. All Gilas Pilipinas wanted was some time alone, but their fans just can’t seem to let them go. We all know how painful and hard it was for them to accept the loss, it was painful for us and it sure as hell hurt more for them.
I remember Jeff Chan, Marc Pingris, and Ranidel de Ocampo constantly apologizing to the people for falling short and it breaks my heart to see and hear them so sad about it. They all did their best, all we need is more practice and more international experience. I don’t know where the haters are coming from but I am still so proud of this team, no matter what.
Gabe Norwood didn’t get off the bus while his teammates did. He just sat there, head bowed down. I remember my friend and I calling him, he looked at us as we gestured that it was okay and “PUSO,” he just half-smiled and bowed his head as he wiped his tears away. It hurt. It broke our hearts.
To the Gilas Pilipinas, please know that you don’t have to apologize, your true supporters know that you all did your best. There will be other opportunities, but for now, all I can say is, I am still so proud of all of you. Laban lang ng laban! Pagsubok lang to, Pilipino tayo.