Inspired by the unabashed enthusiasm for (and tireless research into) Philippine basketball by Rafe Bartholomew in his recent book Pacific Rims, Filipino writer Asterio Gutierrez imagines a real-life kapre, 7’6” Bolado de Makiling, as the “first ever full-blooded Filipino to play in the NBA” in his fantastic* short story, “The Big Man”.
A DVD of the entire season was released by Solar Sports in partnership with the NBA, which sold out within two months (and perplexingly, has not been reissued). Entitled A Season of Bolado, it features every one of his games—to which, amusingly, the film’s writers each gave nicknames. It begins, of course, with “First Blood at Phoenix”. Played November 3, 2004, it broke Bolado‟s own PBA debut record as the most-watched event in Philippine television history, and kicked off the trend of live sports broadcasts becoming promotional draws at cinemas, bars, and even fine dining restaurants.
… Before Stoudemire [premier NBA center, formerly of the Phoenix Suns, currently with the NY Knicks] even had the chance to lower his forearm, Bolado whirled to the center of the lane and lofted a jumphook. It hit the bottom of the net clean. While hardly anyone cheered at Atlanta—it was just another basket in the second quarter, by a reserve no less—the entire Philippines erupted. Globe and Smart broke down for an entire fifteen minutes. Magandang Tanghali Bayan was interrupted by a newsflash and never resumed. Both AM and FM stations looped Bolado’s Magic Sing hit Tuktok ng Bundok well past midnight. It would become one of those cultural watershed moments, akin to the Eraserheads rising to the stage to the opening bars of Alapaap at their reunion concert, and Charice Pempengco entering frame on Glee. He would end up with four points and two rebounds; the game ended up contested up to the last minute, so he did not enter in the fourth quarter to pad his numbers. But as the rest of the DVD episode list showed, greater things were still to come.
Pure imagination, yet every word rings true.
Kudos and thanks to Aste for sending me a copy (and for writing it, of course!). “The Big Man” appears in the recently-published collection Philippine Speculative Fiction Vol. 6– look for it in your local bookstores!
(*in both senses of the word)