When Pinoys Played Harlem | Philstar.com
1 December 2022 | 12:00
The basketball players known as the Harlem Globetrotters visited Manila to perform in 1953, 1964, 1982 and 2009. Their debut was a stop on the team‘his first round-the-world tour to celebrate the Trotters’25the anniversary.
Chuck Menville, in his book “Harlem Globetrotters: 50 Years of Fun and Games” wrote about the trip: “The Philippines was the only place along their route where basketball was not only famous, it was the No. 1 national sport. There were over 400 teams playing year-round, each with its own dedicated band of followers. Thus when the Globies‘ 10-day visit to Manila coincided with the world premiere there of their new film ‘Go Man Go‘ (made‘his second feature film with Dane Clark and Sidney Poitier), the result was that Manila became Trotter Town for so long. There were queues of ticket buyers for both theater and arena tickets, all wanting to see the fabled magicians of basketball in action, whether on film or live.”
Menville said that something unusual happened during Harlem‘s visit, an it-could-only-happen-to-the-Trotters event. “The team was eagerly anticipating a rare day off when a millionaire Filipino plantation owner arrived and made them an offer they could‘do not refuse” he wrote. “Their opening date found them flown, all expenses paid, to the millionaire‘the island where he employed 90,000 workers on his eight sugar plantations. In the middle of the jungle he had hacked out a clearing and constructed a beautiful mahogany playing floor with bleachers that could seat 12,000 employees – all just for this one game. Needless to say, the Globies gave them a run for their money‘is worth.”
New York Times writer George Vecsey identified the Filipino millionaire as J. Amado Araneta who allegedly offered the Trotters the sum of $5,000 with all expenses paid to play in Bacolod City. “Araneta sold 12,000 tickets at $4 to $10 each” Vecsey wrote. “The gate was $30,000, the largest of the entire world tour. The Trotters earned their $5,000, the expenses were paid off and Araneta gave all the profits to build a new church in the middle of his island jungle.”
Ateneo Sports Hall of Famer Ando Hernaez, now 84, recently reached out and mentioned that he was on the all-Filipino team that engaged the Trotters in Bacolod in 1953. Hernaez corrected Menville‘s account that the game was played “in the middle of the jungle.” He said“not in the middle of a plantation but in the Paglaum Stadium right in the heart of Bacolod City” and confirmed that a wooden track was laid out for the competition by Don Amado. The playing coach of the Philippine squad was 1948 Olympian Manolet Araneta, late father of First Lady Lisa Marcos.
“Manolet was on the Philippine team in the 1948 London Olympics with the Fajardo brothers, Lauro Mumar and Ramoncito Campos,” Hernaez said. “Manolet’s uncle Don Amado sent him to Bacolod to coach the Bacolod Murcia team. In 1953, Don Amado brought the Globetrotters starring Goose Tatum and Marques Haynes to play against the Bacolod selection. At that time, there were not enough college- players, so Manolet recruited four high school players. I was lucky to be selected at the age of 15. I was a third year high school student at UNO-R. One of my teammates was Dodo de la Rama who later played for Ysmael Steel in the commercial league. An immediate wooden field with seats for spectators in the open was built.”
Hernaez recalled that it was raining during the game, so “the Trotters weren’t able to make fun of us.” He added: “I don’t remember the final score but it was lopsided in favor of the Trotters.” Would Tatum and Haynes have made it to the NBA? “I doubt it because they never played serious basketball even though they could attract big crowds and people paid to see them,” Hernaez replied. More on Hernaez in tomorrow’s column.