Monday, September 28, 2009

INFORMATION for Relief Operations

So many of our citizens are suffering and we CAN help. We SHOULD help in any way that we can, no matter how miniscule we think it is. You can donate extra food, clothes, medicines, slippers, blankets that you don't need at home. You can let others know of sites or centers that need relief / rescue. Most of all, PRAY!!

Here's a blog site that you can refer to for information:

Feel free to leave a comment in my blog or twitter (@chris_tiu) for more information you might want to share. Thanks!

God bless the Filipinos!


Thursday, September 24, 2009

The Smart Choice

It's been more than a month since i last posted and so much has happened in so short a time. So many issues. We know of the Japeth, Marc Barocca and Jobe Nkemakolam issues. 2 out of 3 are current teammates in Gilas (although Japeth is unofficial) and 1 was a former Blue Eagle teammate. All of a sudden, Smart Gilas is back in the spotlight. After mutually agreeing that the Smart Gilas team will compete in the upcoming international competitions after the Powerade team's stint in Tianjin, now they want to review the by-laws of the SBP and push for another PBA-backed team. Then, a ban of Japeth to play in the PBA is the works. I'd rather not talk about these issues right now, but rather my experiences being part of the Smart Gilas team for more than half a year now.

We just completed a 2-day trip to Singapore to play against the Singapore Slingers composed of several American and Australian imports coupled with domestic players. We came out victorious by 3 points, could have been more if not for the lapses of the Singaporean referees. But that's always the case if you're playing a home team abroad. Surprisingly, there were more Filipinos than Singaporeans in the crowd. Thanks to al the Pinoys who came to support us!

It was a very short and tiring trip, but very fruitful indeed. Cj Giles, JV Casio, Mac Baracael, Jason Ballesteros, Magi Sison, Mark Barocca, Japeth Aguilar, Fil-Australians Sebastian Salinas and Matt Schmechtig, and myself made up the 10-man lineup. And guess who was assigned to be my roommate, the hottest man on the news Mark Barocca! We had a long and emotional chat. I was being very attentive and open-minded. I could feel his sincerity, disappointment and frustration. He was very open and candid, which made me realize that he was indeed a victim. I gave him a rosary and a St. Josemaria Escriva prayer card from my mom. He thanked me and he took out a St. Jude prayer booklet which he read before going to bed.

Going back to our trip, we arrived in Singapore on Tuesday around 3 in the afternoon. We arrived at our hotel around 330pm starving!! Because apparently you have to pay extra to be served lunch on the budget airline that we took (Oh, and also an additional $20 to be transferred to a bulkhead seat regardless if you're 5'0 or 6'10 like CJ and Japeth). We grabbed a quick bite and went straight to practice from 5 to 7pm. Mind you, it wasn't even a light practice. After dinner at a Chinese tea house, we were given the option to look around the city for a while with a curfew at 12. I stayed in because my body was shutting down. The following morning, we had breakfast all together as always at 9am. Then, at 12nn we went to the gym to shoot around and get familiar with the rim and the balls. Then back to the hotel for lunch and to rest. We left for the game at 6pm. The game lasted from 8 to 10pm. Thankfully we won and because it was CJ Giles' 24th birthday, we were allowed to check out the nightlife in Singapore but with a curfew because we had to leave for the airport at 4am. On our way home to the hotel, we were all getting anxious because if we were a minute late for curfew, we knew we were going to be in deep deep trouble! We made it on time, whew!

That's Coach Rajko Toroman for you. Discipline cannot be compromised. The Singapore trip, just like any other out of town trip, is no vacation. Every day, every hour is like clock work. Everybody eats together for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Like in Jakarta, you would see players from the other Asian countries coming in the dining hall one or two at a time, eating on their own. That's a no no for Coach T. There's no such thing as a day-off. If game time is still in the afternoon, there's always a shoot around session in the morning. Time for rest means no one leaves his hotel room. And if we have time to check out the city, we always go as a group. Reminds me of my college/high school team where everything is so disciplined and 'professional'. It may sound too rigid for some, but ironically, we have lots of fun traveling abroad as a team despite all that. I always look forward to out of town trips.

And that's what i love about this group. We're all about the same age and full of energy. Practices are always intense. Coach T himself is very intense in every single practice, more so during games. Sometimes we fear for his blood pressure. He is never ever late and there's no excuse for being late. He runs the drills himself while the assistant coaches support him, not the other way around like in many professional teams. He is extremely particular with the details and making the right decisions in every play offensively and defensively. He is a perfectionist.

I truly admire Coach T's dedication to the team, reminding me of my former coaches Norman and Sandy. When he took us to Serbia (his hometown) for 2 weeks of exhibition matches last April, he stayed with us in the hotel during our entire stay there despite his residence being just 10 minutes away. Even during our weights sessions, he would sit there for the entire 2 hours while we work out with our strength and conditioning coach. Some other coaches would probably use that time to take care of their other 'rackets'.

We are aware that there has been some resistance from the local basketball community regarding hiring a foreign coach to be the captain of the ship for the national team. Being under him for several months now, i have come to really appreciate the new system and tactical changes that he has introduced. For that and all the other things that i have mentioned earlier, i am truly grateful to be part of this experience, to be under his wing. I sincerely hope that more local coaches can humble themselves and try to learn this new European philosophy that Coach T has adopted rather than being so close-minded thinking that we already know it all. Maybe you're good enough locally, but outside is an entirely different competition. We always want to learn from the US style, but then again we must accept that we are not genetically gifted like them. This is a great opportunity for Philippine basketball to regain its rightful position in the international spectrum.

This is why i believe that i made the smart choice. Actually, i was more of lucky because i finished my collegiate career right at the perfect time while this new program is being developed. God just has His ways. If i had joined the PBA draft, i might have been disillusioned and my passion for the game might not be the same as it is right now. What better feeling it is to be playing the sport you love, traveling around the world, playing intensely with a special bunch of guys, and most importantly, playing for ONE goal - that is the Philippine flag. A goal that is not unique for the Gilas team, but one that is shared by the 90 million Filipinos all over the world.


P.S. Who can ever blame Japeth for making that same decision "to play for country"??