A Feature: We Don’t Change

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(co-authored by sportswriter Kirby Garlitos, in lieu of Oktoberfest)

Change.

Change pervades the world of the Filipino, and it has become, so to speak, a norm of life. It dictates the lives of our people. As such, Filipinos have been – for a lack of a better term – forced to go with it or be left behind. Eat or be eaten. Hunt or be hunted.

Such kind of life has, in turn, spawned an attitude of ‘what-you-can-do-I-can-do-better’, and conceived a behavioral exercise which may best be described as one-upsmanship. Indeed, Filipinos have always aspired to be at the head of the game.

But fads come and go, fashions roll through and past, and today’s trends will eventually dissipate into yesterday. Very few transcend the realm of vogue and, in the minds and hearts of Filipinos, even fewer enter the rare air of tradition.

At first glance, basketball and beer seem to have little connection. Maybe none at all. The first is a sport involving the fundamentally physical activity of putting inflated orange balls in a hoop despite a host of defenders. The other is an alcoholic beverage best enjoyed chilled, with a group of friends, in pursuit of relaxation. The disparity may seem obvious, but in confronting this seemingly stark contradiction, one will realize that basketball and beer are uniquely intertwined.

In the distinct consciousness of the Filipino, basketball and beer are traditions that share a familiar bond. And that bond is love.

As the undisputed leader in the industry, San Miguel Beer has not only carved for itself a dominant presence in the market of Filipino drinkers. It has also built a unique emotional attachment to local niches.

SMB, for more than a century now, has evolved into the beer of choice for metro-based Pinoys and provincial consumers alike. With its rich golden color -refined by a distinctly smooth and crisp taste – the drink is now a staple in parties, concerts, get-togethers, and your usual al fresco inuman sessions. Even foreigners have so declared their affinity for this beer that the “San Miguel Escudo” has become a universally-recognized seal – known and loved by people in countries from Australia to America, from Mexico to China. Yet despite having attained a truly global appeal, the San Miguel brand remains to enjoy a kind of phenomenal following amongst the Filipinos.

Right alongside San Miguel in the pantheon of Filipino traditions is the sport we call basketball. Born and raised overseas, the game has grown to acquire an astoundingly strong hold among Filipinos, and is second to none as the most widely played sport in the Philippines. At fabled gymnasiums, along street corners, under the roofs of plush villages, and even in the shadows of run-down city jails – these are places where one will always hear the unmistakable sound of a bouncing basketball.

To Filipinos, basketball is at once a simple diversion as well as the paramount battle – just a game yet at the same time life itself. Upon the hallowed ground of polished hardwood or skewed asphalt, people play either to settle serious scores or forget serious miseries. Within a 94 x 44 ft. boundary, Filipinos have found a refuge, a home, and a tradition that’s shared agreeably with common society.

And this, in a way, is how basketball and San Miguel Beer are reconciled. When times are turbulent and the odds seem insurmountable, we take the time to go play. Or go drink. And for those few precious hours, there are neither worries nor inhibitions – simply Filipinos who’ve grown to enjoy two traditions near and dear to their hearts.

“Manalo, matalo – mag-San Miguel tayo.”

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