With so many other pressing concerns currently confronting our nation, the now well-publicized brawl that broke out during the basketball game between Australia and our own Gilas Pilipinas may seem like a trivial matter. But as the passionate debates that have come about in its aftermath clearly attest, this is an issue that strikes a chord with many of us, simply because it is not just about the basketball game itself nor the fracas that followed, but about our own individual notions of what it means to be Filipino.
There are many who insist that what we witnessed was a defense of “Filipino pride,” and it is easy to understand where they are coming from. We are a nation and a people whose history and experience are sadly replete with many instances of subjugation and humiliation, and lashing out at “foreign abuse” can readily be taken as an expression of patriotism and courage.
Patriotism and courage, however, must mean more than giving vent to our anger, even during the times when there is ample justification for it. Patriotism and courage demand that even in our righteous anger, we must always insist on doing what is right. The curses we hurl and the punches we throw, whether literally or figuratively, may provide immediate satisfaction. But if they undermine the essential justness of our cause, they serve us poorly.
Courage often demands restraint; strength must come with self-control. And many victories have been lost for failure to grasp this truth.
It is good to note that a number of our players involved in the brawl have spoken up to express their regrets, acknowledge shortcomings, and reaffirm their determination to do what is right. This is the deeper expression of Filipino pride: owning up to our mistakes, and doing what is necessary to set them right.
We can be proud that there are many of our fellow Filipinos who are finding the courage to do precisely that.