Malilong: Gibastos

Frank Malilong
·3 min read

THIS is one of those instances where the English equivalent fails to capture the essence of the Cebuano language. The nearest term that comes to mind is “debase” but it is inadequate as it does not capture the vehemence expressed by our word “gibastos.”

“Gibastos” was how Jerry Pingoy described what the opposing teams did to the tournament in their game in Alcantara on our southwestern coast Wednesday night, April 14, 2021. Jerry knows whereof he speaks when he comments about a basketball game; he was a standout in the Cebu collegiate circuit in the eighties before he played in the Philippine Basketball Association (PBA).

The tournament he was referring to was the VisMin Super Cup, a startup league that provided employment to professional basketball players who were not talented enough to hack it in the PBA. The teams were the Siquijor Mystics and the Lapulapu Heroes and they were playing in the first game of a doubleheader at the Civic Center in Alcantara.

The game was halted with Lapulapu leading 27-13 because the players disrespected not just the tournament but the sport itself with their conduct. Gibastos. Game-fixing.

Until I retired and limited myself to being just a fan of the Los Angeles Lakers, I had been involved in organized basketball for more than 20 years either as a sportswriter, team owner, team manager, league president, tournament commissioner and regional director of the national sports association. During that period I have heard allegations of game-fixing and have watched games that were played suspiciously.

But until I watched and reviewed tapes of the Lapulapu-Siquijor game, I have never seen a game so disgustingly played, it left me wondering how the players were able to escape lynching by the Alcantara townspeople who braved the threat of Covid-19 in order to watch a good basketball game, only to find themselves cheated so scornfully. No, I am not suggesting that they should have been dealt a good old whuppin but neither am I prepared to say that they shouldn’t have.

I do not know if money passed hands for the players from both teams to play so despicably. Not that it mattered, throwing away the game was revolting enough, being paid to do it would have been just an aggravating circumstance.

I once pinchhit as coach of our university’s women’s basketball game and I remember feeling how agonizingly slow the game clock ticked as I watched my players tumbled, fumbled, gave away possession and missed easy shots. But the girls gave it their all, they were not just meant to play basketball.

That’s something you definitely cannot credit Siquijor and Lapulapu with. These are adults who had been playing basketball for a living, most of them anyway, and yet there they were, playing like my women’s team, wantonly surrendering ball possession, milking the game clock even if they were trailing in the case of Siquijor and, in the case of a Lapulapu player, shooting his free throw with his non-shooting hand before shifting to the other.

Siquijor has been banished from the tournament while Lapulapu earned only fines and players’ suspensions. The penalties seem reasonable; Lapulapu initially played with intent to win, Siquijor never. Lapulapu’s sin was in their immature response to the aggravation by descending to the level of their opponents, who should never be allowed to play basketball in Cebu again.

I repeat that: Never.