On the Dec. 9 at 10:00 a.m., the opening ceremony of the 2012 Neepawa Basketball League (NBL) began with the parade and introduction of the participating teams. The event had a great turn out as many of the players’ family members and friends came to watch and filled the stands. The 12 participating teams were Hymie’s Young Guns (Captain Ball Hymie Hurrell), Manitoba Beermen (Capt. Deric Lizen), Canada Gilas (Capt. Jayr Diaz), Aces (a junior team), Moose (Capt. Dods Tagbacola), For The Win/FTW (Capt. Edsel Lecaros), Monterey (Capt. Aye Eusebio), Kill Floor Hoops (Capt. Milton Cristobal), Neepawa Bulls formerly the Master Cutters (Capt. John Balabat), Bisons (Capt. Rafael Flores), Huskies (Capt. Sam Emralino), and the Albinos (Capt. Dustin Osbourne). The program started with an opening prayer by Cliff Borres. Christine Waddell sang the Canadian national anthem and the Filipino crowd sang altogether for the Philippine national anthem. Hymie Hurrell, the Chairman of the NBL, welcomed the participants and guests who came to the occasion. Mayor Ken Waddell, the guest speaker, spoke of his gratitude and admiration towards the growing Filipino community. The “Oath of Sportsmanship” was headed by Emralino Samson, who was the Most Valuable Player (MVP) in the 2011-2012 Basketball League. The games were officially opened by Bradley Battad, the Vice Chairman of the NBL committee. The former Chairman, Ronald Allan Santos and former Vice Chairman, Rex Toledo are now the advisors for the league. The members of each Filipino team were clad in custom-made jerseys from the Philippines. Lyanne Cypres, the Assistant Manager to the QA Department of HyLife Foods awarded the “Best in Uniform” certificate to Team Huskies. The team wore bright yellow jerseys and neon green runners which definitely made them stand out amongst all the other teams. An intermission number ensued with a dance number by the “Pinoy Intensity Crew.” The “Inaugural Jump Ball” or ceremonial toss was carried out by Mayor Waddell and Hymie Hurrell for the first game played by Team FTW and Canada Gilas. There were six games slated for that day. All 12 teams competed against each other after the opening ceremony. As mentioned in last week’s issue, the Huskies played versus Moose, Monterey versus Neepawa Bulls, Aces versus Bisons, Manitoba Beermen versus Hymie’s Young Guns and the Albinos versus Kill Floor Hoops. Basketball is to Filipinos like hockey is to Canadians; it is the most popular sport in the Philippines that some even consider it to be a national sport. There is a basketball court in every community or “barangay” (meaning village or district) in the country. Filipinos build their own half-courts complete with a free throw lane, three point, side and base lines. Even in the middle of a rice field, streets, on vacant lots, and on driveways, one can find a makeshift basketball hoop with a piece of plywood for a backboard. Community leagues are a hit during the summer months of March or April. Filipinos form junior and adult leagues that compete for a grand championship match at the end of the season. The whole neighborhood comes to watch the final game and then hold a celebration afterwards, with lots of food and alcoholic beverages. During the 1950’s, the Philippine Team was a gold medal winner in the Asian Games for two years. This made them one of the best basketball players in the world at that time. In 1975, the Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) was founded. Professional players from all over the archipelago joined these franchise-owned teams. The PBA is considered the second-oldest professional basketball league after the NBA. By 1983, students from different universities were promoted to become players in the Philippine Amateur Basketball League (PABL). They eventually advance into the PBA. PBA players are considered “superstars” in the Philippines. Children look up to them as heroes. Companies like “Nestle Milo” (the chocolate drink) sponsor yearly basketball clinics called “Milo Best” for kids who dream of being basketball players someday. Despite the fact that we Filipinos have an average height of about 5 feet 6 inches, we have skill and an extraordinary passion for the game, both of which are important attributes of a great athlete.