During the final timeout of the series, Ginebra’s faithful bathed the upper boxes of the Araneta Coliseum in lights emanating from their phones. It was a fitting prelude to Justin Brownlee’s title-winning trey. The ball deliberately traced an invisible arc through space, hit the back end of the inner rim, and swished through the net. The on-air panel comprised of Charlie Cuna, Alex Compton and Yeng Guiao, belted out “Oh!” in a spontaneous three-part harmony, to go with a roaring Gin Kings mob. Atlas and Sisyphus would have envied that roar. It meant that a weight was finally lifted from weary shoulders.
This victory by Barangay Ginebra San Miguel (BGSM) ends a title drought spanning eight years. Eight years. That’s an eternity, considering BGSM is the most popular ball club in this hoops-obsessed land. With all the drama this franchise had gone through (a whirlwind of player trades, slapdash coaching changes, off-court controversy, etc.)—and not to mention the amount of ridicule thrown the team’s way—fans are right to savor the moment. That Mark Caguioa got to utter the rhetorical “Sino’ng kangkong ngayon? (Who’s the kangkong now?)” is worth cherishing.
But there’s more to this championship than meets the eye.
Ginebra triumphed the same day Lawin (Haima) strengthened into a supertyphoon. Filipinos were still seeing Karen (Sarika) off when its successor crashed the party. Gusts and rainfall punished Cagayan and Isabela (signal no. 5 at the time) as Finals MVP LA Tenorio dished out dimes. Winds in Abra and Ilocos Sur (signal no. 4) tore through rooftops as audiences howled at each Jayjay Helterbrand touch, and Mark Caguioa bucket.
The win also came hours after Manila Police District officer Franklin Kho plowed a van into protesters near the US Embassy. The now relieved officer claimed he was driving away from the activists out of fear that they would take over the vehicle, and use it against the MPD. Whether or not Kho’s claim is valid, the incident does not bode well for the relationship between law enforcement authorities and the people they’ve sworn to protect. It’s not a good look, especially at a time when public paranoia over a newly emboldened police force continues to rise.
That’s just the tip of the iceberg. It’s been tough trying to keep up with the sharp turns and swerves through which the government has steered the country: from the issues surrounding extrajudicial killings, the De Lima probe, Bongbong Marcos hanging around, US-Philippines versus China-Philippines relations, to Manila’s traffic situation. Citizens themselves can’t civilly disagree on such matters, and it adds fuel to the already raging fire.
The Philippines has been in a months-long This is fine meme state, and has clamored for any form of pressure release.
Here’s where Ginebra, Everyman’s Team, kicked down the door. The Kings kept their bearings against a Meralco Bolts squad raring for a Game 7. Coach Tim Cone’s men, aided by a Robert Jaworski pep talk at halftime, rallied to close out the series. It was dramatic af, and the timing could not have been better.
This championship doesn’t vanquish the demons of a nation battered by storms outside of, and within itself. It does, however, serve as a moment of catharsis—a stay of insanity. The Filipino people desperately needed a win. Ginebra, thankfully and finally, gave it to them.