The All-Filipino Women Team for the “Congen’s Cup: Basketball 2021: Ang Huling Kabanata (The Last Chapter)” at their practice game on Tuesday evening at Dubai Design District.
Mariecar Jara-Puyod, Senior Reporter
It will be Filipina prowess and stamina at the hard court evening of Friday (Aug. 6), at the Al Ahli Sports Club in Dubai when 13 lady ballers from across the UAE, gun it out with the All-Male Organising Team of the “Congen’s Cup Basketball 2021: Ang Huling Kabanata (The Last Chapter)” in coordination with the Dubai Sports Council (DSC).
The face-off exhibition game is historic just as Philippine Air Force Staff Sergeant Hidilyn Diaz and amateur boxer Nesthy Petecio – both from the Southern Philippines island of Mindanao – have proved their mettle and calibre as Filipina athletes of international standards in harvesting the gold and silver at the 55-kilogramme weightlifting and featherweight, respectively, at the ongoing “Tokyo 2020 Summer Olympics.” It was 33 years prior or at the “Seoul 1988 Summer Olympics” when another Filipina, Arianne Cerdena, brought home the gold from the bowling exhibition sport.
“We are very excited and thrilled for being part of this year’s Congen’s Cup. We are definitely looking forward to our game against the All-Male Organising Team,” said Monaliza a.k.a. Monet Santiago, former forward/shooting guard of the Adamson University varsity team.
For the 9am to 6pm “Congen’s Cup,” she brought together 12 other Filipina cagers after Organising Committee member Ronin Rinald Endozo connected with her for the first-of-a-kind game. The Cup has been going on for four years – pre Novel Coronavirus – a collaboration between the Philippine Consulate General in Dubai through outgoing Consul General Paul Raymund Cortes – thus, the “Ang Huling Kabanata” (“The Last Chapter”) tagline – and the DSC, in partnership with the Filipino Community in Dubai and the Northern Emirates for the promotion of active lifestyle and discipline towards healthier lives to both men and women, girls and boys.
At the press conference announcement a week back, Organising Committee chairman Ace Echo Quijada said it was the women who turned down their proposal of going for the mixed teams.
Aside from these 13 ladies, many other Filipinas from Abu Dhabi to Fujairah, play basketball in their free time and whenever squeezable from work and every day tasks. Their passion and interest is a big influence by their fathers and/or brothers as well as those close to them.
Basketball led them to soar up or plummet down in the adrenalin-pumping ferocious inter-departmental/collegiate/university competitions. Majority were athlete scholars.
“We are not one ‘formal’ team. We come from various Emirates, We meet from time to time for games,” said Santiago, who, admitted her athlete father trained her as she was attended arts, music, dance classes and told herself she could what girls playing basketball could do.
Myricar Lajara, point guard and her brothers from Quezon province became university players from years of seemingly endless games in childhood: “I and a brother were strolling when we saw a group of ladies in a practice game in Satwa Park. We enquired and started joining leagues and meeting different players. I believe that success depends on self-discipline.”
The brothers of fitness trainer Legiel Ortencio, orward/guard, former Philippine National Team member, instilled in her the joys of basketball: “The benefits is more when compared to indulging in jogging or gym. Basketball gives you a deeper sense of camaraderie, belongingness, a venting out of stress and mental disturbances.”
Licensed Physical Education teacher Katrina Gail Fermin, forward, was a grade school varsity team member and was University of Santo Tomas (UST) team captain: “Playing the sport that I love and studying for free in a prestigious university was the best experience.”
Accountant Nerissa Ayala Cabrera, shooting guard, was also a volleyball player: “We, Filipinos, are immensely crazy about basketball. Backed up by a wonderful and established Filipino Community here in Dubai, male and female basketball enthusiasts do not have a hard time getting together, coming to events, and building teams.”
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