Manila Vanilla

What it's like to be a U.S. Fulbright scholar, basketball player, journalist, and the whitest man in Metro Manila.

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Location: Quezon City, Metro Manila, Philippines

New Yorker by birth, shipped across the globe to the world of malls, shanty-towns, patronage, corruption, basketball and a curious burnt-toast smell that wafts around at dusk

Monday, December 05, 2005

Quick Hits

  • Halftime Snack -- This weekend I worked as a coach at Ateneo de Manila University basketball school, a basic skills camp for kids ages five through 15. It was standard stuff on the court -- chest passes, the three man weave, dribbling through cones.

    Off the court, however, was a different story. About halfway through the morning session, the head coach called a 15-minute break, during which the campers flocked around a snack stand to chow down on some of the heaviest foods known to man. Instead of orange slices and powdered Gatorade, there were cheese-covered hot-dogs, chicken and pork longanisa sausages, warm bananas wrapped in fried dough and a gelatin-filled drink made with tapioca and brown sugar.

    What time is it? Gametime, huh!

    It was a pretty traditional Filipino breakfast without the garlic rice and fried eggs. I've got nothing against eating a big, square breakfast -- although, in the interest of full disclosure, I'll admit that I usually stick to cereal, just for the fact that it's a way to keep one meal sacred from the omnipresent blight of pork and assorted organ meats in this country. But eating that food during a basketball practice is beyond insane. It's suicidal. I was ready to call in a crew of 17 mop-wielding, bandana-wearing women to clean up the Roman vomitorium the courts were about to become.

    I learned one thing that morning: Filipino children can hold their sausage. Unfortunately, they do it by becoming extremely lazy (tamad na masyado, 'di ba?). They avoided severe reflux by dogging it for the next hour and a half. A heavily sated 13-year-old might as well be heavily sedated. The sausage and cheese food coma was nearly unshakable. Crisp outlet passes became blubbery lobs and defensive slide drills looked more like a round of the Electric Slide at a retirement home. Next week, we'll just play Bingo after the mid-morning merienda.
  • Arch Rivals -- Shame on all those who don't remember this video game. Before NBA Street, even before NBA Jam, there was Arch Rivals. Unlike the more recent games, Arch Rivals wasn't wildly unrealistic in the sense that you could dunk from 25-feet out and shoot fireballs through the basket. Rather, it was wildly unrealistic in the sense that you could punch players on the opposite team in the face and break beer bottles over their head. Or, if we're talking about Philippine basketball, it was completely realistic.

    If you think this is rough, trying going to a karaoke bar in Quirino.

    Listening to the complaints of American and American-born Filipino basketball players in Manila, you'd think they played in a real-life version of Arch Rivals. Foreign players here are always warned about the physical nature of the Philippine game, but it's hard to take seriously when many of them are coming from NCAA Division 1 programs in the United States, where they routinely bounced around with well-muscled 6'10'', 260-pound enforcers (Aloysius Anagonye, anyone?). It's also hard for Americans to imagine what's waiting for them, given the U.S. interpretation of the rules.

    In one player's second game in the country, he was running down court on offense while his point guard brought the ball up the other side of the floor. His defender ran up to him and started working his midsection like a boxer working a speedbag. Now, the American said he keeps his stomach muscles tensed throughout games to avoid having the wind knocked out of him by sucker punches.

    Players lucky enough to play in the basketball-crazed provinces are often punished for underperforming with a hailstorm of 5-peso coins thrown by crowds. The dirtiest players have tricks that amaze the American imports for their creativity, like slipping their feet under jumping players so they land on them and sprain their ankles or stepping on guys' feet before they jump up for a rebound, so that when they try to leap their knees will buckle and possibly tear ligaments. I've seen guards retaliate against defenders who stole the ball from them by running them down and delivering full-speed, mid-court hip checks that send recipients flying to the sideline.

    The famous 1970s Toyota-Crispa rivalry in the PBA was punctuated by an all-out brawl between the two teams that landed all the players in jail for a night.

    It's only a matter of time before a player steals a page of Chong Li's book from Bloodsport and starts carrying a fine powder that can blind opponents for up to 20 minutes. Then, it's clobbering time! He just better be careful not to try that one on any diminutive Belgian mixed martial arts masters.
  • Unfortunate Acronyms -- Some jokes never get old. The freedom fighters of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front did nothing to deserve this. They're just some Mindanao O.G.s who want to live the dirty south thug life without the Philippine Army and government sweating them. If the country hadn't been so haphazardly annexed by God- and gold-loving Spaniards, those southern islands might be a part of ethnically and religiously similar Indonesia. I'm afraid saying this may land me on a terrorism watch list, but I feel for the Filipino Muslims stuck down in the ass-end of a nation full of Christian die-hards.

    But while they're probably unaware of this, the Moros made one very serious mistake. They named themselves after an acronym (MILF) that's already widely known in the United States as Mom I'd Like to Fuck.

    Not only is she sexy, but she also believes in something: self-rule for the Muslim south!

    So when I'm reading the newspaper and see a headline like this -- "Soldiers, MILF rebels rescue 2 kidnap victims" -- I can't help laughing. I hope when I'm kidnapped, some soldiers and a couple of plucky, smoking hot maternal types come to my rescue.

    God forbid the people in the California porn industry ever get wind of this funny coincidence; between the steamy jungle locale and the freedom-fighting nymphomaniac mothers, we might witness the invention of a whole new genre.

    The sad thing is that I read something in the paper about these guys nearly every day, and after a full month in the Philippines, I still chuckle to myself and make mental quips about Stifler's Mom from American Pie.


Anonymous Old NYC Bum said...

Just curious, young fella, but is there a connection between sausage and violence on the court? Or is it safe to assume that the Rabelaisian breakfast break does not carry over into the pro leagues? Why, I remember in the old days of roundball, back in the '50s & '60s, nobody ate much before a game (talking h.s. & college ball here); yeah, we'd pick at a meal, but not want to eat heavy for the obvious regurgitation reasons. The "nerves" you'd have before a game didn't help an appetite. Now the exception to this were the lads who were going to benchwarm, so they seemed to eat heartier, and would even ask for our faux-steak mysterymeat served up by the East European kitchen staff. But I digress. Is there any correlation between heavy eating and violence on the court? Obviously not. So the question begs itself, and only you can provide possible answers:
Why the rough play by the Philippine players? Is it lack of height? Skill? For a psychological edge--intimidation? Or to out & out injure & get rid of a good opponent? Is the rough play a sign of sportsmanship there? And the lack of it a sign of weakness?
All good street questions from your pal on the Bowery, the Old NYC bum on the block.

2:16 AM  
Anonymous CHONG LI said...

I have had many American mothers on my American tour after BLOODSPORT came out. Not once was my magic dust required for seduction. The secret was to hang out at the American malls, where the married women cruise for manly Asian males such as myself.
Chong Li

5:17 AM  
Blogger RafeBoogs said...

What an honor to have Bolo Yeung -- Chong Li himself -- commenting on my blog. I've always wanted to ask you, Mr. Yeung, how are you able to perform at such a high level at your extremely advanced age? You were 50 when you made Bloodsport! You're going on 70 now. This has always baffled me.

9:46 AM  
Anonymous Chong Li said...

I worked out for many years in northern California, alongside that state's current Governor, Arnold S.(I cannot spell his name,please forgive me). Both of us had access to training methods which turned us, through hard work, into superior physical specimens. I was older than Arnold
and am now, at 70, still childless.
Fame has its price, my blogfriend.
My shrunken privates have cost me my family life: Bolo Yeung will outlive me, but I will have failed to seed the earth, just as Arnold, too, has failed. Life is choice, life is tragic.

3:15 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Just FYI: The Moro separatist rebels in Mindanao with the curious acronym had been formed years, maybe even a decade, before American Pie was shown. But still I find the common denominator funny too.

3:52 PM  

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