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

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Response to a reader

Yesterday, a reader left this comment on an old post of mine about the PBA's bewildering and unpredictably applied set of rules regarding Filipino citizenship and what makes a Fil-foreign player eligible to play in the league: 

Here's a real case scenario... up & coming 14yo basketball star, father Filipino Mestizo of dual citizenship, US/Filipino, mother, blond New Zealander. This 14yo was born in USA & moved to Manila when he was 1yo... given recognized Filipino citizenship as a baby & currently attends a private 'ex-pat' Manila High School. 

Now here's the catch... based on above he should be considered truly a Filipino for the league right? BUT by chance of genetics he looks caucasian... blue eyes, fair skin, brown hair, speaks only Taglish at best, even though father is fluent (his parents don't converse in Tagalog so he never learned it properly). 

Other Filipino kids laugh when he insists he is a Filipino citizen... yet this kid is predicted to be at least 6'4 when he stops growing... and he's good, some have their eyes on him for the future.... so will Pinoys 'accept' him as Pinoy with his blue eyes or will he be discriminated against because of his coloring & comes from a priveleged family? 

Something to think about.... interested to see what your readers think, should such a kid be considered Filipino or foreign?
So let's break it down. Legally, this kid has no worries about being allowed to play in the PBA. If he's a Filipino citizen, the son of a Filipino citizen and living in the Philippines, there's no legal way to keep him out of the league. I guess he has less than one half Filipino blood because his father is Tisoy (although I'm not sure if we mean mestizo-looking with two Filipino parents, one of whom could have mixed Caucasian heritage or could just be Spanish, or if we mean one of the father's parents is Filipino and the other foreign... wow, this gets complicated fast). It doesn't matter. If the player is already holding a passport, than it is a moot point. We learned this before the draft with Gabe Norwood. Because he was issued a passport and represented the country in international competition, the Department of Justice didn't bother jumping through all the usual hoops in his case. It merely stated that he was a Filipino passport holder and citizen, hence he was eligible for the PBA draft. Norwood is a good point of comparison for our hypothetical player, since Norwood is also one-fourth Filipino, and he's in the league. 

With Fil-Ams entering the league now, their paperwork and eligibility issues seem closely pegged to their abilities as players. Here's my understanding of it based on what I've heard (sometimes in conversations with the actual players, sometimes in conversations with other players/coaches/bball insiders who could just be making tsismis and sometimes from just reading the newspaper). Recent Fil-Am draft picks like Jared Dillinger, Ryan Reyes, Norwood, Joe Devance, Kelly Williams and others going back at least to J-Wash's draft, have tended to breeze through the process with few snags. In some cases, the players' eligibility may have seemed temporarily up in the air, but the problems were always resolved before the draft. Why? Because these guys are potential stars. Many of them bring NCAA Division 1 pedigrees into the league, and the teams want them. It's a little uncouth to say this, but money greases the system, and the team owners have money to burn. They make sure that these players, many of whom they've invested in through PBL and Liga teams, find their way to the big leagues. And overall, that's a good thing. The recent Fil-Am batches are all top players who are raising the level of play in the PBA, and their Filipino lineage is well-established. In some cases, the issue of whether the players' Filipino parent/s became naturalized citizens of other countries before the draftees were born is murky, but that's a bad rule to begin with. 

The players who have a more difficult time establishing eligibility are the ones that teams don't care about. They're fringe guys who are probably good enough to make somebody's roster, but they aren't worth the cost of expediting their papers. So these players often miss a draft or two while they learn life lessons in futility from wrangling with the Department of Justice and Bureau of Immigration over their right to play in the PBA.

Let's go back to our hypothetical player. The league will accept him, if he's good enough to play. Will the fans? On some level, no. If he looks as white as he's been described, then he'll probably have to deal with people calling him 'Kano for the rest of his career. Scratch that, he'll be hearing it for the rest of his life, whether or not he plays pro basketball. This does not mean that he can never win the fans' approval. Take a cue from Alex Compton and learn Tagalog. He's a Filipino citizen and was raised mostly in the Philippines, it sounds, so he can probably do better than "barely" speaking Taglish. People are of course aware that Compton is a white American, but he is adored for his game and his obvious love for the Philippines, the clearest proof of which would be his fluency in the national language. Other options for our hypothetical player are to be drafted by Ginebra, in which case he will automatically become a small-scale national hero, or to play really hard and kind of crazy à la Ronald Tubid or Alex Crisano, because the fans love nutcases. 

No matter what happens to this young man, it sounds like he's got a lot to look forward to in life. As a potential 6'4'' citizen of the United States, the Philippines and New Zealand, who goes to Manila International School, Brent or Faith Academy (I'm guessing) and has blond hair and blue eyes, he will be in constant demand at VTRs and modeling/hosting auditions, if basketball doesn't work out. My advice to you, young man: Artista ka na lang!


Blogger borg_queen said...

He can't be an artista, either. He's blond, blue eyed. Unless he can transform himself to look like a tanned, brown eyed, dark-haired Brazilian, he'll just have to make do with modelling for SM Malls.

1:34 AM  

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