Wednesday / February 12 / 2014
nicholai rhiz roska

Photo: Varon Panganiban/Clippers

LOS ANGELES -- In recognition of the value and importance of their robust Filipino fan base, the Los Angeles Clippers organized Filipino Heritage Night for the third straight year running at swanky Staples Center here in the City of Angels.

The latest edition of the festivities took place Sunday night. Clippers account executive Jessica Bascara, who stood in the forefront of the event, told Philippines that over 600 basketball-loving Pinoys took part in the memorable evening where world-class basketball was melded into the celebration of the exotic Filipino culture.

Entertainment began long before tip-off. A white rabbit booth was made available for fans to take photos and freeze the moment forever in time while special commemorative Filipino Heritage Night t-shirts were given freely to all attendees.

As a special treat, the Clippers' Spirit Girls were made available for a meet-and-greet and the gorgeous, super friendly dancers proved to be a hit as they happily posed for posterity with their eager fans.

An a capella boy band named Filharmonic, a composition of vocal wonders with Filipino roots, gave a stirring rendition of the American National Anthem. It was a command performance that induced goose bumps and sent shivers down my spine.

Photo: Varon Panganiban/Clippers

"The guys really felt nervous, they didn't even realize there were so many people until everyone cheered! It was an honor to be able to represent Filipino Heritage Night and they hope to be able to sing there again," Filharmonic manager Rose Buado told this writer via e-mail.

After all the pre-game hoopla, the Clippers went to work and walloped the visiting Philadelphia Sixers senseless, leading 46-15 after one quarter. After two quarters, the beating got even more savage as the Clippers built a 69-30 advantage.

Halftime provided a much-needed break from one-sided affair on the hard court and the Filipino dancers entertained the 19,157 souls in attendance with a traditional Filipino "tinikling" dance complete with bamboo poles and authentic costumes. It was a delightful glimpse of the colorful side of the Filipino people, over 4 million of whom currently live in the United States.

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When the basketball action resumed, the Clippers never let up on the gas and scored a lopsided 123-78 victory and improve to 36-18 by night's end.

The main story was the return of superstar Chris Paul, who dusted the rust of an 18-game absence with a 7-point, 8-assists performance in 22 minutes of play.

Beneath the CP3 headlines, though, lies the generosity of the Clippers organization. At a trying time when the Filipino resolve was tested by the devastation of typhoon Yolanda, the Clippers quietly gave part of their ticket sales for selected games and held arena auction sales to affected victims.

So now, this festivity that Filipinos can call their own becomes even more meaningful, giving Pinoys even more reason to passionately cheer for the Clippers.

In behalf of all Filipino NBA fans, to the Clippers we say: "Maraming Salamat Po".

From the bottom of our grateful hearts, thank you very much.

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