Hundreds of Filipinos working in Korea travelled all the way to the sleepy neighborhood of Hywangnam-eup in the city of Hwaseong in Gyeonggi Province. Yes, it's far out of Seoul and going there.
If playing against Iran was a challenge for Gilas Pilipinas, going to the venue was a challenge for the fans. There was no subway station nearby, and you should either have to drive going there, take a bus, or take a cab. Some fans spent KRW30,000 to KRW40,000 for cab fare just to join the fiesta. The sports complex seemed to have been built in the middle of nowhere and the Asian Games website didn't exactly give enough information how to go get there.
As anywhere else in the world, the Filipino fans can be depended on for support, and that day before the game started, they were already loudly cheering, taking selfies with the players and displaying banners and Philippine flags.
Yung hindi lang maganda sa Pilipino fans ay yung pagpasok ng Iranian team. Biglang may mga Pinoy na nag-boo, at malakas pa. Dinig na dinig ng lahat. Hindi pa nagsimula ang laban, bakit kailangan mag-boo? Sana naman, isipin palagi natin na nasa international venue tayo, at nasa ibang bansa pa naman. This is the Asian Games, at hindi liga ng barangay. Dapat huwag natin dalhin dito yung ugaling bastos. Dapat iniwan yan sa Pinas.
Maski punong-puno ng Pinoy fans ang buong basketball venue, hindi na distract ang Iranian team. Focused pa rin sila maski nawala yung kanilang lamang.
This was my first time to watch Smart Gilas play. Ang tanong ko lang: gano'n ba tayo kadumi maglaro? Ang dami-dami nating fouls, at meron pa yatang isang technical foul dahil siniko yung higanteng Iranian player. I was seated in the direct line of sight of the Iranian goal when that Filipino player with the ball on his hands and trying to shoot, siniko niya with his right elbow yung Iranian player. After that, the Iranian player had to lie down outside the court, perhaps to let the pain subside.
So, ang tanong ko uli: Gano'n ba talaga tayo kadumi maglaro?
And I guess, basing from shouts of the very angry Philippine coach, we are. I heard him scream: "Putang ina! Ang tigas ng ulo!" He was referring to one of the Smart Gilas players, I guess.
When I heard him swear, I thought, "Uh-oh. That's the end of the fiesta." Ha-ha-ha!
The Philippine team lost to Iran by 5 points; 68 to 63. Although it was fun watching a Philippine team play here in South Korea, it was even more fun to enjoy that fiesta atmosphere inside the Hwaseong Sports Complex. Too bad, there was no lechon, no adobo, and definitely, no victory. Ha-ha-ha!
The Philippine team will play again this weekend, against South Korea and Kazakhstan. I hope they will this time.
As of this writing, the match is underway and the Filipino fans must have been cheering their lungs out at Samsan World Gymnasium because Gilas Pilipinas is playing against South Korea, which means the locals will definitely outnumber the Pinoys in both numbers and flaglets, but hopefully not in the final score. Hopefully.
So, good luck na lang to the Philippine team and all the Pinoys athletes in these Asian Games!
Here are some photos from the match: