After a winless but encouraging stint by Perlas Pilipinas at the 2018 FIBA 3×3 World Cup, many have started to ponder whether it’s time for the Philippines to have its own women’s professional basketball league.
As we continue to develop as a nation, women’s roles and participation in society should naturally grow as well. Many professions used to be thought of as “for men” only are now being occupied by women who are as good—or even better—at the job. However, there are still certain fields that need a lot of catching up to do in terms of inclusivity for women.
In the Philippines, basketball is undoubtedly the most beloved sport, and therefore, being a professional basketball player is the most lucrative athletic profession in the country. But that is if you are a man. If you are a Filipina who wants to play professional basketball, you won’t have any opportunities here.
Our biggest basketball rivals, China and Korea, have professional leagues for their women. More than that, it is puzzling to think that countries such as Japan, Hong Kong, and Lebanon (among others) have existing pro leagues for the ladies but the Philippines doesn’t. These are countries that we handily beat in men’s basketball, which are not well-known to be crazy for basketball like the Philippines. It is not like there is no demand for it or that Filipinas can’t play the sport.
Despite no professional background, Perlas Pilipinas was competitive in almost every game they played in the 2018 FIBA 3×3 World Cup and even almost pulled off upsets against powerhouses such as Spain and Germany. Perlas member Janine Pontejos also won the tournament’s three-point shootout. Imagine if these women actually got to constantly train and play games professionally even when there is no FIBA tournament for them to prepare for.
“Grabe ‘yung reaction ng crowd. Siguro that was the best part. We live for that moment and it was so amazing,” exclaimed Jack Danielle Animam, with tears flowing down her eyes. “Sobrang sarap lang sa feeling kasi yung paghihirap namin meron palang nakaka-appreciate.”
(The crowd’s reaction was great. That has to be the best part. We live for that moment and it was so amazing. It feels great knowing that people appreciate our hard work.)
“I’m encouraging all the female coaches and athletes not to feel bad sa situation namin sa basketball. Instead of complaining, dapat ma-challenge kami everyday to work harder para makita ang effort namin. Hopefully, someday magkaroon naman ng commercial league for women rin dito sa Pilipinas,” said former long-time Perlas Pilipinas member and now Adamson Lady Falcons head coach Ewon Arayi in a previous interview with FOX Sports Philippines.
Perlas Pilipinas head coach Pat Aquino echoes this sentiment.
“We’re hoping na baka mapansin kami ngayon and there’s still a chance na baka ihabol kami sa Asian Games,” Aquino said. “These girls are really working hard for it. Alam ko may ibubuga pa at maibibigay pa kami sa bansa natin na recognition from around the world. It starts something big sana for us in the future. Maybe this is the spark for women’s basketball in the coming years and I’m hoping na sana masuportahan kami.”
This may indeed be the start we’ve all been waiting for, but there is still a long road ahead for the development of women’s basketball in the Philippines. As they say in basketball, “It’s not how you start, but it’s how you finish.”