by Connie Macatula-De Leon, ABS-CBN News
CHICAGO, IL — The Philippine American Cultural Foundation, or PACF, hosted Filipino night at the Chicago Bulls – Miami Heat basketball game at the United Center last week.
“We are here to celebrate Filipino-American [culture] with the Chicago Bulls,” said proud Bulls fan, Baron Cabalona. “We’re definitely proud, definitely happy. It’s wonderful to celebrate with Filipinos and the Chicago Bulls.”
Ruben Salazar, Director of PACF, reserved 100 seats — and within less than three weeks, he was sold out.
It all for what Salazar considers a worthy cause.
“The proceeds will go to PACF for our workshops. PACF has now a group called ‘NextGen,’ consisting of younger Filipino Americans and they’re going to be doing lessons in Tagalog, cooking…and cultural dances, as well,” said Salazar.
Meanwhile, 46-year old Filipino American coach, Erik Spoelstra, talks about the Miami Heat.
In his ninth season as the team’s head coach, Spoelstra says challenges are all part of the game.
“We’re building our foundation, trying to build our culture with a young team. We’ve gone through a lot of adversity, but I like this group. We are improving as the season goes on,” Spoelstra said.
When asked about Pinoy kids aspiring to be in the NBA one day, Coach Spoelstra says:
“The NBA now is a league of opportunity — with players coming from every region in the world. I cannot wait until there’s a player who comes from the Philippines. I try to go back during summer as much as possible. It seems like players are coming from every country and the next country, hopefully, will be the Philippines. No country deserves it more, because basketball is a religion there.”
The Chicago Bulls, on the other hand, boasts about having Filipino Americans in their overall organization.
The Bulls DJ is a kababayan, and two Bulls coordinators are Fil-Ams as well.
Spoelstra encourages the next generation of basketball players to dream big, and stay focused.
“Basketball is a beautiful game… it’s allowed me so many opportunities to travel the world. It takes a great commitment and discipline to work the craft,” he said. “For myself, it’s coaching. I spend a lot of time trying to get better at this craft. For players, I tell them all the time, it takes dedication.”
“While other people are doing normal things and going to movies, going to parties, going out to dinner, the best basketball players are in the gym, and sacrificing and spending time working, trying to get better.”
Despite the Chicago Bulls’ loss to the Miami Heat, 88 to 100, during last week’s game, kababayans still had a great time connecting with other Filipinos, and are looking forward to the next Filipino community gathering.