Why the UP bonfire celebration was truly a microcosm of Filipino society


upbonfireAs team manager Dan Palami had promised, the University of the Philippines (UP) basketball team held a “bonfire celebration” last Saturday, August 9, because the Fighting Maroons won against Adamson University (AdU) in a game from this year’s University Athletics Association of the Philippines (UAAP) season.

Now, this is an especially big thing to the UP community, considering that its basketball team was on a 27-game losing streak, one that has spanned at least two seasons. Their last win was supposedly back in 2012 against the University of the East (UE).

As expected, UP’s win sparked sentiments of something I call “university pride” – one wherein members of a community scream “proud to be from this university” whenever a team of theirs wins any competition. They are quick to latch on to a victory of their colleagues as one of their own, and more often than not they personally don’t have much of anything to do with it. University pride is but a mere subset of the Pinoy Pride which Filipinos are notorious for, and which the authors of GRP have extensively written about.

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Reaction to the win and the bonfire was mostly positive – why wouldn’t it be? And yet there was also some questioning and dissenting opinion, an example of which is “why would UP throw a bonfire for the basketball team? How about for the other sports where we do better at and win more?” Even JR Gallarza, one of the members of the basketball team, felt “disrespected” and “insulted” by the hype that surrounded that game with AdU. Nonetheless, he was thankful for the support from the fans.

As expected of university pride – a subset of Pinoy Pride like I mentioned above – reception to such kind of differing/dissenting opinion was along the lines of “walang basagan ng trip” (don’t be a spoilsport), or “napaka-nega naman ng taong ganyan” (a person who says things like that is so negative-minded). Well, you get the idea; Filipinos will not let anything get in the way of their good vibes and feel-good moments; the UP community, being a subset of the Filipino community, is no different.

As a friend of mine pointed out, the bonfire celebration itself was awesome – who can complain about a night of free food and acts – but the occasion seemed a bit sad. Not a few comments I’ve seen on social media indicated that UP is so desperate for a win in UAAP basketball that a win like this is a very big thing for them. Note that bonfires are normally reserved when a team wins the overall championship, much like what fellow UAAP members Ateneo de Manila (AdMU) and De La Salle University (DLSU) are used to doing for the past years.

What this bonfire has shed light on, it seems, is a nagging insecurity. Even if UP students are among the best and brightest in the country, it will, quite simply, not matter to the bigger Filipino community, just because their basketball team is not as successful. It is indeed sad to observe that despite the success that the UP community has had in other sports and in other fields of endeavor, it has seemingly fallen into the trap of disregarding such, just because it does not measure up in basketball. Frankly, as the premier state university, I expected UP to adhere to its own standards of excellence and self-worth, instead of allowing itself to be judged on that which is set and dominated by others. I would have wanted to hear the UP community say, “Who cares about basketball anyway?” Too late for that now.

I never really quite latched onto the inordinate obsession that Filipinos have with basketball. It is a tall man’s game; Filipinos, compared to most other countries who play it, are anything but. Despite the claims of Filipinos that they have heart (puso) and fighting spirit (laban) that make up for their lack of height, it quite simply does not. But I digress…

A comment I read on social media said the following:

Big hope comes with little wins. UP won one game today. Next year, it might win two. The year after that, it might just win three.

…which brings us back to the question: hope in what exactly?

The UP community, as a next step, must do things to substantiate such hope. Once the good vibes from this basketball victory have passed, it can do either one of two things, or both:

a) They can focus on the things that really matter, like looking for even more ways to improve the education they give their students in spite of lackluster government funding and support, or;

b) They can throw a lot more organized support behind their basketball team so that they can get what they need to win more games.

As a friend of mine has said, perhaps it would have been a real victory for the entire UP system and community if they had contributed to that victory. Sadly, what is apparent is that the team fought “alone” for the most part of the time leading up to this recent occasion. The second point above is all the more poignant given stories of how the UP basketball players reportedly go to games hungry, and how they play without proper nutrition. Both the current student body and the alumni need to work together if they want to make the UP basketball team more successful. As cringe-worthy as it sounds, they can take pointers from AdMU and DLSU with regard to alumni support.

So, what does the UP community plan to do, and where does it plan to go after this victory and bonfire celebration? That is the more interesting question that aches for a resolution. I hope the answer is not bahala-na, and/or pwede-na-yan; it would be extremely disappointing.

43 Replies to “Why the UP bonfire celebration was truly a microcosm of Filipino society”

  1. When I watch Filipino basketball I am always struck by the lack of teamwork and passing. Far too often the person who receives the inbound pass is the person who shoots the ball. I believe that any small college (Division II) team from the US could beat every Philippine NCAA team and probably even beat the best of the PBA. Even those small colleges generally have 1 or more guys 6’8″ or better and American coaches rely on teamwork, play making and passing.

    1. Ironically, “the lack of teamwork and passing” is something Filipino ball players picked up in large part trying to emulate AMERICAN style play in the NBA. 20-30 years ago, it was about the transition game and passing the ball. Since then, a lot of NBA players have become selfish; they’re convinced of their infallibility and play with an attitude that says ‘give me the ball to prove to you what I can do.’ If you played as a team, you were vilified as boring and emotionless. (There are quite a few basketball fanatics in the Philippines who hate the Spurs for beating their more exciting favourite, the Miami Heat, because of this.)

      Don’t get me wrong. These atheletes are great. You don’t get to play in the NBA if you aren’t phenomenal like LeBron James. Those singular performances make for fun, entertaining basketball.

      But there’s no question that playing ‘exquisite basketball’ — as Erik Spoelstra calls it — is what propelled the Spurs to their fifth NBA championship. Not LeBron James’ MVP-worthy 31 point performance.

      1. @ Saint, try to wrap your head around this:


        and then realize where you live & who really runs your country.Then you MIGHT (as your not too bright) realize that not matter what you say or do, in terms of operating within the current system in place in your country,it will come to NOTHING. and that you will be forever FUCKED as long as you continue on the path the country is on.

        I have no answers for you,as I do not like you very much.But you think you know what is going on and you really are just as clueless a flip that ever lived. I could have produced a little better source material but you should be able to grasp the link above (I wont bet on it though as you really are: not too smart) and I do not want to waste too much of my time eductaing your retarded ass.

        Your country is run by forces you know nothing of and the only way to stop this is something I will never tell you.Coz I really do not like you, you arrogantly ignorant flip.
        Thinking outside your own country is not your strong suit, and I am being kind in saying that.
        Enjoy your serf-itude, there is a way out, but I am betting you will not even know which way to look,let alone which way to move towards.

        1. Apparently, Thom Hardy, the LIAR, harbours a narcissistic delusion built around the ludicrous notion that the anonymous contributors to Internet blogs crave his affection. The reality is that the world turns with its own inexorable logic and does not require any kind of approval from the LIAR, Thom Hardy.

        2. @ SAINT, just as I thought. No response, just an insult, an un-informed trying-hard-to-impress with more big words that mean nothing insult. You are too stupid to comment on anything outside of your own backyard.You’ve got nothing in the way of a world view and your opinion of me, as ill-informed and lacking any substantial insight (U dont know me!)is absurd as it is laughable.


          You shall live in a rat-hole for the rest of your life.

  2. @ Hyden I feel the same way too I’m not fixated into basketball like most of our folks and hey it seems that Gogs has written something relevant about sports right?

  3. Our local type of basketball is all “papogi”. It’s almost fancy dribbling all the time and one would think it’s a dribbling exhibition. Every receiver does some fancy dribbling first wasting precious before shooting in a hurry.

    1. As I have stated in previous blogs where I talk about pinoy basketball. Being the only nature on Earth obsessed with basketball has its disadvantages. Basketball is the only team sport where every person on the court/ field has the exact same abilities. Not duties but abilities. All 5 can dribble, pass , shoot, rebound, set a pick. Hence making it one of the easier games to comprehend on a superficial level. There is hoop ball goes in. Of course there is more to it than that. Being the only team sport pinoys watch, there is very little teamwork or worker bee mentality from other sports that sinks in to the pinoy consciousness. They could never relate to an offensive line or a checking line. It is all about glory. It is all about vanity. Dribble down the court and finish off with a score.

      Baseball can be known as an individual sport. But that can be debunked when you see how somebody like Barry Bonds can be taken away because 1) he only gets to the plate one every nine times. 2) he can be pitched around. 3) His fielding help cost the Giants the series against the Angels. There was a stretch where the Mariners lost Griffey and Randy Johnson and they got better. Take away Lebron James from the 2009-2010 Cavs and a year later one of the worst teams in the NBA. By the same token I think the year after Carmelo bolted , George Karl and the Nuggets had an even better record.

      Pinoys rarely stand out in the region ( which takes away all the height excuses) let alone in the world in terms of basketball yet the only nation that thinks about it 24/7. Which is all fine and dandy except what little they do accomplish they treat like it was long overdue. The usual feeling of entitlement that allows somebody to become president just because mommy dies.

      Do what you love but don’t expect attention if you are not the best. Very few team sports cater to the individual swapang like basketball and it is seems suitable that it is the only team sport that the Me First Filipinos embrace.

      1. I stopped watching PBA after my crush, Kenneth Duremdes, won the MVP and started watching UAAP after Chris Tiu sort of become an inspiration except that I crush on Duremdes because of his play while I crush on Chris Tiu because of his charm. Back then, I only realized Duremdes is really worth taking off your shades after he won the MVP. While most of the men or boys I know act like chimps escaping from a zoo every time they watch a basketball game… What can I say? It’s fun.

  4. Microcosm? i dont think so. There really is no big deal with this said activity. It has nothing to do with people not from UP. What’s the big deal with a group of people celebrating a small win? It happens all the time and not just in UP. Funny how some people who doesnt watch basketball talk about basketball. whuuut?

  5. Poor analysis. here’s why: confirmation bias. failure to check cultures around the world. failure to analyze sports underdogs around the world, including harvard.

    1. pretty much “nerd underdog story”, true. we see it (less sports oriented) on western coming-of-age films wherein the skinny smart guy proves he can take on the strapping jock with the sheer willpower of his cajones and walk away triumphant. admit it, we all love those scenarios.

    1. @Joey and obviously you’re a moron for having a shallow argument. It doesn’t matter if the writer is from UP or not, it’s about stupid things that Pinoytards do everyday that have no importance at all. That little pride Pinoytards have for their precious alma mater? Pure bullshit.

  6. Susmaryosep, it was just an innocent bonfire celebration after winning a simple basketball game. Period. Let’s not over analyze this.

    1. Just like the “American rednecks”, Pinoytards like celebrating petty competitions that doesn’t really have any relevance in improving their daily lives. the UP bonfire is no difference from celebrating Pacquiao or Azkal’s sports victories.

      1. @ Archie, How many ‘American Rednecks’ do you actually know? Do you know why they are called ‘Red-necks’? I’ll bet you do not, based on the above statement.

        1. And where the fuck would it be relevant if I know an American redneck or not? I know the word when I use it. America have rednecks for American rugby and baseball as Philippines have Pinoytards for basketball and bowling. You’ve got a sensitive Pinoy pride? Then go fuck yourselves.

  7. Team Manager Dan promised a bonfire for a win. The team won. Win:Bonfire. No logical mess about the equation.

    Some celebrated. Some didn’t feel like. Feel/thoughts/opinions always vary and is a normal phenomenon.

    I am not sure where the hype is coming from. :)I guess the gen rule is, so long as we do not proactively/consequently harm life along the way, let us just live and let live?

  8. “What this bonfire has shed light on, it seems, is a nagging insecurity.”

    Seriously? This is no different from parents celebrating their children’s little victories. Kahit ano pa yan, walang basagan ng trip.

    I used to like this website because it talks about issues that affect readers: government corruption and the prostitution of the mainstream media. It used to be an independent voice of the press.Now, it is nothing more than a “basag-trip” blog.

    Please stick to issues that can make this country better. What this “basag-trip” blog has shed light on, it seems, is “a nagging insecurity”, whatever that means. I would have wanted to hear the getreal bloggers say ” Who cares about that effin’ bonfire? My life is not affected by it!” Too late for that now.

  9. UP did not celebrated mediocrity… we celebrated success in face of adversity… we don’t have the best college players in the country because we refuse to pay or reward them with money or material things (hindi po kami bumibili ng players). knowledge and a promise of a bright future is what the university offers first and foremost, not a trophy or banner in a gym.

    1. Buhuhu. Basketball is a competition not adversity. There may be hardships but athletes feel it not the audience. It’s not connected to your veins as if you’re going to die if they don’t win. Stop yapping like little babies on petty victories.

  10. We were laughing at ourselves. It was an exercise of self-deprecation which a lot of UP alums do. Humor and wit. That was it. 🙂

    1. there you go. no wonder one of the players felt insulted. why bother joining the league if this is the kind of support one can get from the school.

      1. The UP basketball team is already overwhelmingly alumni-funded. We are supporting and continue to support them. The players know that.

        As for support coming from the Government (since this is a State university, after all), that has been a call from students, faculty, and alums of UP for decades. The budget of UP is very small as compared to Ateneo or La Salle. Actually, the budget allocation for education in our country is already problematic in itself.

        1. that’s not what i meant. making a big fuss about it make it look like the school is acknowledging how bad its team is that ANY win from them is a big deal.

        2. Well Tomas, your reply below to my second post clearly manifest that you do not celebrate life’s little victories and that you cannot laugh at yourself from time to time. I pity you. Go get a life, man!

        3. oh come on. you may as well say that to the players who didn’t feel like “laughing at themselves” as well. might as well tell them to grow a bit of self-depricating sense of humor because, as you have said, it is purely laughing at oneself. you’re right: how dare this player feel insulted about it?=)

  11. ilan kayang players from other Universities ang papasa sa UPCAT kung sakali? ilan kaya ag tatagal sa academic requirements? yun yung sagot kung bakit mahina basketball team ng UP, di nilo-lower ang standard para sa iisang sport lang hehehe!

    1. That might be true for some cases but there’s still the financial support that other schools can provide; UP can only dream of compensating their players at the same level as some billionaire-backed schools.

    2. Even if the players are eligible to be UP students, UP simply cannot compete with other schools in terms of financial support for their athletes.

      I admire those student athletes who think they have a better chance at life by going to UP but I also can’t blame those who would enroll in other schools for the academic scholarships if they had a choice.

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