Dubai: Bound by the spirit of Bayanihan (communal unity and cooperation), a group of Filipino basketball players in Dubai held friendly games over the weekend to raise funds for the benefit of families affected by the recent super typhoon that hit the Philippines.
“As much as playing basketball is in the psyche of every Filipino, helping kababayans (compatriots) in times of need is also in our DNA,” Dubai resident Arnel Fernandez, 47, basketball organiser and founder of OldSchool Basketboleros, told Gulf News. “Our country, particularly the Bicol region where I came from, was devastated by super typhoon Rolly (international code name: Goni), recorded as the world’s strongest cyclone this year. We saw in the news how the strong winds and torrential rains of Rolly wreaked havoc on Monday and we were moved to help our fellow Bicolanos,” Fernandez, who is from Libmanan, Camarines Sur, added.
According to reports, Rolly, the world’s strongest tropical cyclone so far this year, left at least 22 people killed (19 in Bicol and three in Southern Luzon) and injured hundreds of Filipinos. Official records say close to two million people were affected across different parts of the Philippines, with over 360,000 residents or more than 105,000 families in Bicol left homeless or displaced by the super typhoon.
Fernandez noted he heard from friends and relatives that most services, including electricity, telecommunications and water supply in some areas were still cut off. Damages to infrastructure in Bicol — an agricultural region — alone was pegged at 5.8 billion Philippine pesos (Dh440 million) as the storm destroyed houses, properties and crops.
Small amount, big help
Fernandez said his group was able to raise only a small amount but it would certainly help needy kababayans. “This is the spirit of bayanihan — we help in our own small way but with our collective efforts, we can really make an impact,” he explained. “We are very happy to contribute something, although many of us are also struggling with our finances due to the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Fernandez, who added he and his wife Japrille are planning to forego a party for his 48th birthday on November 19 and give the money instead to charity in Bicol.
This was not the first time, however, that Fernandez and OldSchool Basketboleros held charity games. Previously, as part of their ‘Tulong Mo, Laro Mo’ (Your Help, Your Game) series, OldSchool raised funds for a cancer-stricken Filipino basketball referee and another basketball player who had a motorcycle accident. They also organised friendly games to raise funds for the victims of Taal Volcano eruption early this year.
Fernandez said strict health protocols were observed during the games. Players were required to wear masks when not on the basketball court and temperatures were checked before the game. Games were held in a bubble at Al Nasr Club in Dubai and officiating was conducted by JK Sports. There were no audience or cheering fans but matches were beamed live on their personal Facebook accounts.
Six teams were formed, with 12-15 players in each team a mix a various skills and abilities. Luminous team emerged as the champions and their players received medals and lifted the trophy.