I can definitely play lolo in the upcoming movie. But seriously, proud grandson here. Maybe the Olympics can look at what happened and give them the medal they deserved decades ago.
Reposting from the Philippine Star:
MANILA, Philippines — The little-known saga of the Philippine basketball team that endured historical injustice at the 1936 Olympic Games in Berlin, Germany, is the subject of the Philippines’ first historical sports feature film which will start rolling anytime now.
Veteran sports anchor and writer Bill Velasco, who is the film’s co-producer and writer, said that the movie 1936: The Islanders in Berlin will pay tribute to the Filipino hoopsters who placed fifth overall at the 11th Summer Olympics. “It is up to this day the highest finish of any Asian team in Olympic basketball history,” he stressed.
The Filipino squad — called The Islanders from what was then known as the Philippine islands before it became a Republic — was the darling of the German media as well as adoring blonde girls, who sent them scented love letters mainly due to their exotic looks and agility when basketball was played outdoor on a dirt court and without shot clock.
“It’s well-documented that the Olympic basketball rules were changed when the Philippines was winning and while the tournament was going on,” Bill pointed out in a detailed account based on extensive research and recorded interviews, including one with the late Sen. Ambrosio Padilla who, at 26, served as team captain.
The rules of basketball were totally different when it made its debut in the Berlin Olympics, Bill noted. “At the time, you had the jumpball after every made basket so the game was so slow and boring,” he said. “And because of that rule, everybody had to be the same height. The height limit was set at 6’3 and everybody complied.”
However, Germany, under Adolf Hitler, allowed the Americans to violate the rules as a political accommodation to avoid a boycott by the US over the banning of Jewish and black athletes, according to Bill. They let the US double the number of its players and let four athletes over 6’3 in height to play; the tallest was 6’8.
“This made everyone else an underdog,” Bill said. “On the third day, organizers declared a change in format that whoever lost from that point would be eliminated. As luck would have it, the Islanders’ next opponent was the US. And with numerous jumpball situations, the Philippines was knocked out…yet they competed with total sportsmanship and set records that still stand today.”
He revealed that one actor being considered for a major part is Jhong Hilario to play Padilla’s co-team captain, Jacinto Ciria Cruz, the Islanders’ best player who later became a World War II guerilla and was beheaded by the Japanese in 1944.
“Jhong and Jacinto have the same built, same height, color and everything…but Jhong is too busy with TV projects (Ang Probinsyano, It’s Showtime!) and as Makati City councilor,” Bill said, adding that he has already talked to the actor-host.
Bill said the 1936 Olympics has over 4,000 hours of footage commissioned by Hitler himself and which can be used for the film since they are now public domain. The biggest challenge, he said, is the set design, of which “everything has to be recreated.”
Bill added that one of the film’s highlights is the unimaginable travel of the squad to Europe at a time when there was no commercial flight yet. They spent three weeks on a ship to get to Paris — enduring seasickness, boredom and lack of rice — and another week crammed into tiny compartments on a train to Berlin.
Bill said he has sought the help of the Philippine Olympic Committee and the Samahang Basketball ng Pilipinas to make representations to the International Olympic Committee and FIBA to honor the Islanders, all of whom are already gone now.