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

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Where's Cassell?

Amazingly, hype man Sam Cassell was not hand to upstage this gathering of luminaries by chanting "Pacman! Pacman!" like he did after the Pacquiao/Diaz fight. Sam, you're slipping.

The pre-Ateneo-La Salle gathering in the Araneta Coliseum VIP room was impressive nonetheless, with Arenas and Senator Richard Gordon shaking hands in front of U.S. Ambassador Kristie Kenney and Manny Pacquiao. Another Arenas nomme de court is Black President, and this part of this Manila trip felt the most like an official state visit.

There's a lot to love in this image: Pacman's bewildered smile set against Madame Ambassador's neck-throbbing enthusiasm and Gordon's black on black outfit that could almost pass for a polo-unitard come immediately to mind. The country is truly screwed if a natural or man-made calamity ever occurs during an Ateneo-La Salle basketball game, because Gordon, an avid Blue Eagle follower, former Ateneo cheerleader and, oh yeah, head of the Philippine Red Cross, is not going to call in the calvary to pull anyone out of the mudslide until the game is through and he has finished pumping his fist to the Ateneo alma mater. "You're doing a heckuva job, Gordie."

Pacquiao had the largest entourage, but Ambassador Kenney's made the largest impression. A half-dozen paunchy, Caucasian gentleman dressed in Blackwater casual -- beige polo shirts, black Ray-Ban sunglasses, crew cuts, 'staches, stern faces -- followed closely behind her. They were a good deterrent to keep curious reporters like me away, for fear I might provoke a warning shot.


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