2013 NBA Global Games Manila: A Cultural Behind-The-Scenes Blogger’s Wrap-Up

This is Poor Man’s Commish reporting to you from Beijing, where I have just arrived after spending a few days in Manila and Taipei.

The days have gone by quickly. I can bluntly bottom-line them as follows: succumb on Day One to jetlag, cover practice on Day Two, cover the game on Day Three, rinse and repeat in Taipei. Add to that the complications of transportation and language barriers, without having a local’s infrastructure, there’s hardly enough time and energy for writing about what happened that day, especially if your income is garnered from other means.

So let me begin with a behind-the-scenes summary from Manila.

THE PASSIONATE AND LIGHT-HEARTED FILIPINOS

Jeremy Lin even mentioned it during interviews at practice. Filipinos by and large are very polite. They call you “sir” and have a light-hearted approach. In the press room, we had a “media mom” (my words, no term was actually used to describe her) who made verbal announcements, usually in a mixture of Tagalog and English, in the room and tried to make sure the reporters — pretty much all of them Filipino except myself — had the resources they needed.

As I wrote in the Lin and Larry Bird piece, the Filipinos’ passion for the game comes through a lot, but what I also saw time and again was their ability to have fun with tense moments, in almost a “Minions” kind of way.

While interviewing Chandler Parsons and amidst rumors of his interest, from various tweets, in native actress KC Concepcion, a Filipino reporter began what appeared might be a series of leading questions asking Parsons, “What do you think of Filipino women?”

“I think they’re beautiful,” Parsons replied.

That’s when another Filipino reporter jumped in to save face on all sides. “What my colleague is trying to say is, did you meet with KC yet?”

It is this kind of diffusing of the situation that you find a lot in Filipino culture. Witness the silver lining in Bird’s shutdown of the question about pressure as a feeling of privilege to see Bird’s competitiveness come out in an intimate setting long after his career was over, or quite simply a bunch of workers at Sofitel Hotel breaking out in laughter with a funny anecdote trying to pass the time during a 4:00AM shift in the lobby (yep, I was up that late/early, working — some of us bloggers have regular telecommutable jobs and actually don’t get paid to write!).

By the way, Parsons acknowledged that he had dinner with Concepcion.

I should add that there were rumblings of high ticket prices which made it impossible for the average Filipino citizen to attend the game, as well as difficulties getting to the arena due to traffic. The stated attendance of nearly 13,000 seemed to fall well short of early estimates of as much as 20,000. Even PBA star Josh Urbiztondo refused to pay the exorbitant prices. He also said he tries to get to every function early due to the ubiquitous traffic delays.

2013 NBA Global Games Manila GlobeHEIGHTENED SECURITY AND THE “MOA”

There’s a bit of irony with the omni-present white-clad handgun-armed uniformed police patroling all public areas, such as the magnificent state-of-the-art Mall Of Asia (“MOA”). While you do feel safer after a bag search and metal detector, you also feel more unsafe when not in the fortress of glass that is the MOA. The same can be said of the Hotel Sofitel, where the guard will check each the underside of each car with a protracted mirror, as well as the trunk, for bombs.

The level of heightened risk can easily be gleaned by the demeanor of the armed security, as well as the local taxi drivers because of the effect on traffic.

The night after the game, as I left the arena, I noticed the guards had added a small rifle, being carried with both hands, as part of their weaponry. That got me a little wary of making sudden movements and hoping the firearm had the safety on, just in case.

Little did I know that it would portend the hardest time finding a cab. When I did, they tried to bargain with me, demanding 100 to even as high as 250 pesos (worth about 1/40th of a U.S. dollar, thankfully) for a ride back to the hotel which normally costs 60 pesos. I found out there had been a bag with unknown contents thrown on top of a bus nearby and the police had sectioned off certain streets. I finally agreed to 200 pesos after going through about four taxis which were hard to locate in the first place.

JEREMY LIN IS ADMIRED BY FILIPINOS TOO

COURTSIDE CHATS AND OBSERVATIONS

  • MOA Arena is NBA-ready. LCD signage and luxury suites abound.
  • Per David Stern, Manila is definitely on the NBA’s radar for the future, although talk of expansion there is premature.

THINGS THAT EVERY NBA INTERVIEWEE IS TALKING ABOUT

  • The Filipinos’ passion for the game.
  • NBA games abroad help teams bond.

MORE LINKS

THE GOOD

  • BTV.com.ph, a basketball channel (24 at the hotel) that’s 24/7.
  • Taxi fares.
  • Looking at the jeepneys I read about in Pacific Rims and not having to ride in one.
  • MOA modern-ness.
  • Prices of food.
  • Cellphone unlocking expertise.
  • Hotel Sofitel breakfast buffet.
  • SO-Fit, the fitness room at Sofitel.
  • Seeing random NBA’ers in the hotel lobby.
  • Houston Rockets writers on the beat.
  • Good, authentic Filipino meal on the day of the game.
  • The 8-peso difference in currency exchange between the airport (48) and hotel (40).
  • Getting bumped up to business class from Philippines Airlines, albeit a short two-hour flight.

THE BAD

  • Taxi fares when meters are turned off or terrorism threats are heightened.
  • Technology, or lack thereof, during airport security screening.
  • The food at Snaps, the 24-hour sports bar at Hotel Sofitel.
  • When Snaps, which is supposed to be 24 hours, is reserved for a private function.
  • Starbucks not being any cheaper there than in the U.S.
  • No Indiana Pacers writers on the beat, although video crew were there.
  • Press conference room was so far away from the media workroom.
  • Media food on the day before the game was a turkey wrap with more wrap than turkey.
  • Media food on both days rapidly ran out.
  • The 8-peso difference in currency exchange between the airport (48) and hotel (40).
  • TV screen didn’t work for 13-hour flight on China Airlines, plus I had window seat.

THE UGLY

  • Four mosquito bites, all from inside the arena!
  • Public restroom at the MOA Arena.
  • MOA one-way roads forcing a walk of 4-5 blocks after closure, just to get a taxi.

I read in a newspaper article at the hotel that there were some 1,800-plus media credentials handed out and I, for one, can certainly say that I felt extremely privileged to be one of those who could soak in as much as I did during my stay. I will definitely be back because interacting with the Filipino media was really fun!

Stay tuned for another edition of my trademark Blogger’s Experience posts where I talk about my run-ins with NBA players while in Manila…


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