There are many ways to celebrate Independence Day. Trips to Luneta. Museums. Parades. Listening to platitudes. Reading the papers. Getting depressed about our country. Waving flags.
And then you could also choose to see the good in our country. You could choose that that day will be the day when you said goodbye to our old crooked ways. As Chino Trinidad, the main proponent of the tribute exhibit and event, said, he hoped that that day would be the start of our choosing to remember and do what makes the Filipino so great: that the Filipino remembers, the Filipino can sacrifice, the Filipino can aspire for excellence and greatness, that the Filipino can inspire.
Such was the case last June 12 during the awaring ceremonies of Pagpupugay. Pagpupugay is sport artifact and art exhibit situated in the ground floor of Resorts World Manila (You can’t miss it). It started this June and will end on June 15 (which I Father’s Day. You might want to take your dad there and he might be more than happy to do a live annotation of the exhibit for you.) The highlight was the Gabi ng Pagpupugay held right on Independence Night. The event gave honor, tribute and symbolic trophies to the different awardees: the different greates in Philippine sports who might not have even been given the right recognition during their time.
The list includes a pantheon of Pinoy demigods: Pancho Villa,Paulino Alcantara, Teofilo Yldefonzo, Simeon Torribeo, Miguel White, Ceferino Garcia, Felicisimo Ampon, Ben Arda, Anthony Villanueva, Flash Elorde, Eugene Torre, Paeng Nepomuceno, Bong Coo, Efren Reyes, Arianne Cerdena, Onyok Velasco, Lita Dela Rosa, and Caloy Loyzaga. For the deceased, their families accepted their trophies, shared stories, and some even shed tears.
Poignant points of the night were when the younger greats were the ones who paid tribute their lolos, to the ones who first blazed the trails (such as Chieffy Caligdong paying Tribute to Paulino Alcantara, “The Net Breaker”). And when friends introduced friends a la NBA Hall of Fame (It kind of chokes you up when jokers like Django Bustamante and Efren Bata Reyes suddenly choked up).
Also, there were very significant moments when the current Philippine athletes were called to the stage to be honored and joined their titos and titas, lolos and lolas. The current young boxers, Chris Tiu and Marc Pingris, and even kids who were given better lives because of Sports Foundations.
We might not have all been varsity players. But we must have taken up some sport or two. Joined some MILO camp growing up. Or was taught how to swing a tennis racket or how to run. Or we would cheer and jeer and coach from the couch when we watch any sporting event. We might not have been “athletes,” but we applaud greatness when we see it. We might not have represented the flag on another land, but we rise to the same anthem they fight for. We might not play their same game, but they paved the very roads we tread on today. We might not wear the same jacket, but we are all Team Pilipinas.
And the very least we can do, when someone fights on our behalf, is say thanks. And remember.
Because one day, we will need to call upon their greatness, and like they would want us to do so, believe that that greatness is in us, too. Not just in sports, but in the many fights our country needs to fight.