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(© 2017 Journal GlobaLinks)   

CHICAGO (JGL) – Canadian-American James Naismith’s invention of basketball promoted by the United States around the world has gone full circle as far as Filipino Americans are concerned.

In appreciation of the good will of the Chicago Bulls after the six-time NBA champions accommodated the request of the Filipino American community for their help for the victims of super Typhoon Haiyan (Yolanda) in 2013, the community members bundled up and descended in full force to the United Center in Chicago, Illinois last Friday (Jan. 27) despite the chilling weather.


MIAMI HEAT COACH ERIK Spoelstra is sandwiched by Ruben Salazar (left), Cultural Director of Philippine American Cultural Foundation and organizer of the second “Filipino Heritage Night, and  Joseph G. Lariosa of PM (philiamessenger.com), who introduced Mr. Salazar to Mr. Spoelstra. (JGL Photo by Jessie Domingo)   



“This is our second “Filipino Heritage Night” with the Chicago Bulls,” according to Ruben Salazar, Cultural Director of the non-profit, Philippine American Cultural Foundation based in Chicago’s northwest suburb, who invited more than 100 Filipino Americans to watch the Bulls entertain the visiting Miami Heat basketball team. The first “Filipino Heritage Night” took place shortly after super typhoon Haiyan when he invited some members of the community to attend a Bulls game to raise funds for the survivors of the strongest typhoon on record that claimed the lives of 6,300 people in the Philippines and wrought damage close to US$3-billion.


MIAMI HEAT COACH ERIK Spoelstra (left) welcomes PM (philamessenger.com) reporter Joseph G. Lariosa for the third time for a brief interview with the first Filipino American two-time NBA champion Miami Heat coach during the pre-game shootaround inside the United Center on Friday, Jan. 27, and prior to the second “Filipino Heritage Night.” (JGL Photo by Jessie Domingo)

Aside from the Bulls, his PACF also solicited help from others in the community and “we raised about $10,000,” Mr. Salazar said. 

“But our timing for this second heritage night was also important because we will also get to watch our fellow Filipino American Erik Spoelstra coach his Miami Heat team against the Bulls.Mr. Spoelstra is very proud of his Filipino roots and we want to return him a favor by honoring him during the Filipino Heritage Night,” Mr. Salazar added.



DWAYNE WADE, the Chicago Bulls star, dances “Carlton” and Filipino American Jan Paul "JP" Ferrer (inset right, middle) has been chosen to name the dance Wade is performing on the Jumbotron as part of pre-game show by the Bulls on Jan. 27. Mr. Ferrer, a community financial planner and advisor, is among the more than a hundred Fil Ams who joined the second “Filipino Heritage Night” to honor the Chicago Bulls and fellow Filipino American Miami Heat Coach Erik Spoelstra. After guessing other dancing moves, Mr. Ferrer won Bulls’ power forward Taj Gibson’s jersey. (JGL Photo by JOSEPH G. LARIOSA)

Earlier on the day of the Filipino Heritage Night, Mr. Spoelstra accommodated the requests of the Chicago-based community outlet, PM (philamessenger.com) and Manila-based GMA TV network for separate interviews during his team’s shootaround at the United Center. In response to GMA’s Ms. Dona Faye Reyes’s question of “What (Filipino) quality do you bring into your coaching,” the two two-time NBA champion Spoelstra, who is son of a Filipino mother, answered, “I hope my mother brought character (to me), (by) making right decisions, feeling of community and family … which is important in making successful teams.” Ms. Reyes is producing a full-length video feature that will inaugurate the second season of the TV program, “Fil Am NOW,” soon.


WITH HIS BACK to the video camera, Filipino American Jan Paul "JP" Ferrer points behind him the Filipino language name of the Philippines, “Pilipinas,” on his jacket with Philippine colors after winning the guess-the-name of the dance contest of the Chicago Bulls as a pre-game come-on before the start of the game of the Chicago Bulls against the visiting Miami Heat, which beat the Bulls, 100-88, on Jan. 27 when more than a hundred Filipinos showed up at the United Center to honor the Chicago Bulls and Filipino American Coach Erik Spoelstra. (JGL Photo by JOSEPH G. LARIOSA) 

Because she had her hands full during the “Filipino Heritage Night” in preparation for the entertainment portions of the game, Ms. Harris sent for her colleague, Mr. Robby Joseph, Manager of Group Ticket Sales of the Chicago Bulls, to receive the Fil Am group. Mr. Salazar said aside from meeting with Mr. Spoelstra, his group also wanted to have a face time with fellow Filipino American Michelle Harris, a Chicago native who is a full-bloodied daughter of Filipino parents and Entertainment Director of the Chicago Bulls. Both of Miss Harris’ parents – her Mom surnamed Dino and her Dad with family name, Marella, hail from Balayan, Batangas in the Philippines.


IT SEEMS PINOYS are well represented in the United Center during the second “Filipino Heritage Night” as shown by this photo taken by this reporter. Michelle Harris, a Filipino American herself, and Director of Entertainment of the Chicago Bulls, told this reporter that Bulls' three out of four disc jockeys (DJ’s), including the DJ here, Jay Funk, are Pinoys. (JGL Photo by JOSEPH G. LARIOSA)

Ms. Harris, who understands Tagalog and knows few words and expressions, told this reporter that she is not the only Filipino American staff in the Bulls organization. The others are three Filipino DJ’s (disk jockeys), namely DJ Flipside, DJ Marquee and DJ JayFunk, Michelle Mangoba, an Incredibull (part-time Bulls employee, who cheers and performs acrobatic stunts during game intermissions) and Marlon Vigan, a member of promo staff.

Mr. Ross Lipschultz, Bulls’ Manager of Corporate Communications, said as Director of Entertainment, Ms. Harris’s “team’s goal is to ensure Bulls fans are having an exhilarating and memorable time at every home game, regardless of the score.” It was this reporter who made arrangement with Mr. Spoelstra’s assistant, Mr. Tim Donovan, Miami Heat’s Vice President for Sports Media Relations, on behalf of Mr. Salazar to have Mr. Spoelstra met with the Fil Ams during the event. Mr. Donovan followed up with Ms. Harris Mr. Spoelstra’s fellowship arrangement with Fil Ams. The fellowship during the pre-game lasted for about ten minutes.



CHICAGO BULLS shooting guard (No. 3) Dwayne Wade tips in two points in a losing cause during his Chicago Bulls’ game against the visiting Filipino American Coach Erik Spoelstra-led Miami Heat, who beat the Bulls, 100-88, on Jan. 27, featuring the second “Filipino Heritage Night” attended by more than a hundred Filipino Americans honoring the Bulls and Mr. Spoelstra. (JGL Photo by JOSEPH G. LARIOSA)

When this reporter asked Mr. Spoelstra how he felt about his meeting with the Fil Am community, which he described as "mini-Manila in Chicago," he said, he was pleased but noticed that the Fil Ams were mostly wearing Bulls red jerseys. But he smiled, saying most of them were wearing Dwayne Wade jerseys, perhaps, as Fil Ams’ tribute to Dwayne, who was a former Heat player, who helped Heat lead to two NBA championships. When I asked Mr. Salazar, whose team was his group rooting for between the Bulls and the Heat, Mr. Salazar said, “It’s a mix. The good thing is it’s a win-win situation. “If the Chicago Bulls win then, definitely we are for the hometown team. If Miami Heat win, we also win because of Erik Spoelstra, the Fil Am coach.


FILIPINO AMERICAN women (Pinays) and Filipino American men (Pinoys) are having fun on the bleachers during the second “Filipino Heritage Night” in this scene Jan. 27 inside the United Center. (JGL Photo by JOSEPH G. LARIOSA)   

“We are also hoping to sponsor a Filipino Day for World Series Champions Chicago Cubs because their short stop Addison Russell is a Fil Am. So, watch out for announcement for Filipino Day at Wrigley Field with Chicago Cubs and Addison Russell.

“Next year, we will plan a bigger Filipino Heritage Night with Chicago Bulls, hoping to invite entertainers from the Filipino community to open up a pre-game event for Filipino Heritage Night with the Bulls.”  He said his group plans to hold the event when the Bulls host the Los Angeles Lakers, who has a Filipino American player in Jordan Taylor Clarkson, who plays shooting/point guard. Clarkson’s mother, Annette Davis, is a Filipino. Salazar said,

“The Bulls and the Lakers play only once during the season so that would be our first pick for the next year’s game. I know Brooklyn held a Filipino Heritage Night when Brooklyn played LA Lakers last year so we are hoping to do the same thing next year to honor Fil Ams still playing basketball.

 "I'm glad the community is finally getting together and helping out and celebrating. Ironically, basketball is the most popular sports in Philippines although the average height of Filipinos is less than six feet.”


FILIPINO AMERICAN LOUELLA Baron Maningas, wearing the Philippine color jacket, and other Pinoys and Pinays celebrate when a Jumbotron video camera man focused on their bleacher seats during the second “Filipino Heritage Night” on Jan. 27 at the game between the host Chicago Bulls and visiting Miami Heat coached by Filipino American Erik Spoelstra, which won 100-88. (JGL Photo by JOSEPH G. LARIOSA)


In 2015, when Lakers played in Detroit, the Filipino American community also held a Filipino Heritage Night to honor Clarkson. In 2006, it was Manny Ilagan, Deputy Director of the Philippine Tourism Office in Los Angeles, California, who organized the “first-ever Filipino-American Community Night” of a major American league. With a shoe-string budget, Mr. Ilagan was able to have Acting Philippine Ambassador to the United States,  the late Willy Gaa, threw the ceremonial first pitch on July 24, 2006, at Dodger Stadium, according to mabuhayradio.com, edited by Filipino community leader Bobby M. Reyes.


COACH Erik Spoelstra has a photo op with his relatives after his Miami Heat beat the Chicago Bulls, 100-88, on Jan. 27 witnessed by more than a hundred Filipino Americans celebrating the second “Filipino Heritage Night” in the United Center. The 46-year-old Mr. Spoelstra, who just married late last year to 27-year-old former Miami Heat dancer Nikki Sapp, told them he is wearing a bow tie to honor an NBA coach who died recently. Will Hayes of Legacy.com told this reporter the coach being honored is Michael H. Goldberg, the former head of the NBA coaches union, who died Jan. 20. (JGL Photo by JOSEPH G. LARIOSA)

In 2011, Mr. Reyes also organized another Filipino Heritage Night also at Dodger Stadium for the third consecutive season when Dodgers faced the Houston Rockets on June 17. The pre-game show included the playing of the national anthem and the ceremonial pitch thrown by Filipino community leaders. Please click this link.



TIM DONOVAN (left), Miami Heat’s Vice President for Sports Media Relations, poses with journalist Joseph G. Lariosa during the shootaround of the Miami Heat in the United Center last Jan. 27. Mr. Donovan has been responsible for arranging this reporter’s interview sessions with Miami Heat Coach Erik Spoelstra in coordination with Matt Yob of the Bulls’ press staff. (JGL Photo by JESSIE DOMINGO)

The Americans brought several sports to the Philippines after the Spanish American War and later the Philippine American War. But only basketball panned out while other sports like baseball did not catch fire.  Because of the popularity of basketball, big private companies put up their own teams to serve as their advertising vehicles. These teams later formed their own professional basketball association called Philippine Basketball Association patterned after the NBA, the National Basketball Association in the U.S. These private companies subsidize the salaries of PBA’s member teams and players and coaches. PBA gets its pool of players from students from colleges and universities, which are members of either the University Athletic Association of the Philippines (UAAP) or the National Collegiate Athletic Association, like the US’s counterpart, NCAA. While basketball is the number one spectator team sport in the Philippines, its popularity is rivalled by the individual sport of boxing. Baseball, however, thrives in Japan, Taiwan and South Korea because the sport does not need height to excel in the sport. Also popular in these Asian countries is soccer. But the non-stop showing of NBA on television makes basketball the No. 1 spectator team sport in Asia. (Contact reporter: jglariosa@hotmail.com) 

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