LAMITAN, BASILAN — The Maharlika Pilipinas Basketball League just have a new milestone in holding the first ever regular game in this previously known war-torn province.
There were apprehensions from MPBL teams to go here when the idea of staging a double header of the Datu Cup was first brought up, but Basilan, thru Governor Mujiv Hataman, Vice Mayor Julz Hataman and team owner Hegem Furigay were more than willing to show Basilan in a good light.
True enough, the thirst for the game was much visible as local folks here lined up to get tickets to support their very own Steel.
They packed the Lamitan City New Gymnasium, hoping to watch the Steel play in their first home game.
Regardless of the outcome, being able to bring in the four teams from the MPBL Datu Cup — the Steel, the Davao Occidental Tigers, the General Santos City Warriors and the Pasig Pirates — was a proof of Basilan’s determined stand of changing the image of the province.
The leaders here felt that sports will be a unifying factor as the province has just started creating a sports academy right at the heart of the provincial capitol.
What we saw on Saturday night was a different Basilan — peaceful, organized, passionate in the game of basketball and more importantly, gracious in defeat.
It’s a kind of Basilan far from what we’ve imagined.
This is just the start of the province’s way of refreshing its image. Basilan is ready to make its mark now, not on the cover of the daily newspapers were depressing updates are being put up, but in the headlines of the sports pages where it is determined to show the triumph of human spirit thru perseverance, sportsmanship, and excellence in the field of basketball.
The members of the Basilan Steel are not just your ordinary competitors in the MPBL. They are also the ambassadors of the game while competing in the fastest growing regional amateur league put up by Senator Manny Pacquiao with PBA legend and former MVP Kenneth Duremdes serving as commissioner.
Rey Joble is a member of the PBA Press Corps and Philippine Sportswriters Association.