Franco Luna (Philstar.com) – February 10, 2020 – 9:46 p.m.
MANILA, Philippines – No country has seemed to integrate a sport into its national identity as much as the Philippines has with basketball.
The New York Times called the archipelago a “hoop paradise.” Many books have been written about the phenomenon, the country’s seemingly rabid love for gambling, and their connection that transcended mere sporting events.
A recent SportsCenter documentary narrated by Utah Jazz goalie Jordan Clarkson, who has represented the country internationally, portrays the human face of Filipinos’ deep connection to basketball.
“It’s not my story, but as the only Filipino-American player in the NBA, I’m honored to tell you,” Clarkson began.
The mini-documentary told the story of the Fort Bonifacio collective housing project in the slums of Taguig, which housed more than 3,000 Filipinos.
Each unit in the building was only 21 square meters in size, but each would house several families living in poverty. According to the video, the whole building would cost $ 56 – Php 2,800 – per month to rent.
– SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) February 9, 2020
“As the government prepared to evict the residents, an idea was born: to get together and paint murals on the grounds,” Clarkson said.
“As a Filipino who loves gambling, I wanted to see the mural myself.”
Clarkson visited the building in 2016. And since then LeBron James and Paul George, both superstars in their own right, have stepped onto the pitch.
Starring mural artist Maya Caran Dang, the documentary also recounted how the building’s iconic murals ultimately saved its residents from eviction.
“Basketball is a religion. It is the center of our life here,” said a citizen living in the building.
“We would probably have been evicted and relocated to very remote places.”
“This mural in the Philippines is bigger than basketball,” SportsCenter said of the mural in its tweet Sunday night.
Responding to the video, a Filipino commentator wrote: “Our greatest athlete is a boxer, but the greatest sport we love is basketball! Thank you Jordan Clarkson for representing us in the NBA as the only active Filipino player. -american! “