It took all of the Philippines to make FIBA World Cup 2023 possible.
As co-hosts of the world meet, Filipinos put their world-renowned hospitality on full display from the group phase when they took care of Angola, Dominican Republic, Italy, China, Puerto Rico, Serbia, South Sudan, Greece, Jordan, New Zealand, USA, Egypt, Lithuania, Mexico, and Montenegro all the way to the final phase when they also welcomed eventual champion Germany, Canada, Latvia, and Slovenia with open arms.
A key cog in the operation of the machine were eight volunteers from Mindanao, who were helping hands both at the SM Mall of Asia Arena and the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
Chelsea Bien, a 27-year-old from Bukidnon, went all around the venue to take the pulse of tourists on how their experience had been.
“Very fulfilling yung ginagawa namin kasi marami akong natututunan. At times din, nakakasilip din kami sa mga laro and ako, as a coach, nakikita ko rin yung mga plays to expand my knowledge,” said the survey volunteer after mentioning that back home, she works with the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas as local coach and game official.
Another local coach, this time from General Santos, also learned a lot about X’s and O’s alongside assisting VIPs from the Naismith Lounge to their arena seats and back.
“For me, fulfilling talaga yung ginawa namin kasi as a basketball coach, seeing world-class basketball players every day is a blessing,” said 33-year-old Jus Benson Balanag.
For his part, Maguindanao native Al-Mankadir Hadji Mohamad got down and dirty to gain valuable experience as part of the sports and competition group.
“Kami ang pinakamalapit sa coaches and players kasi kami yung nagche-change ng towels at nagma-mop. Fulfilling yung trabaho kasi yung experience na ganun, pwede naming ma-share pag-uwi namin,” he said.
One of two Bangsamoro volunteers in FIBA World Cup 2023, Mohamad now looks forward to going home and sharing all the lessons he has learned with the Bangsamoro Sports Commission.
“Gusto kong maka-inspire pa ng mga Bangsamoro na kakayanin din nilang makatulong sa mga ganito. Gusto kong patunayan na sa mga susunod pang ganito (sporting events), kaya ng BARMM (Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao) na magpadala ulit ng volunteer,” he said.
The same holds true for the rest of Mindanao, as its volunteers are all eager to be the driving force in the march forward of sports in their respective regions.
“Isa talaga sa goals ng group is to change the ecosystem of sports in Mindanao. We hope to create a better ecosystem para yung susunod na generation, they can have better access sa facilities and programs. And ang isang malaking tulong for that na nakuha namin dito is yung network of people na na-meet namin,” said Bien.
“May kasabihan nga rin kasi, ‘di ba? ‘Give back or go back.’ It’s either you pay it forward or umuwi ka na lang.”
Before they do so, though, the eight Mindanaoans will be celebrated alongside all of the world meet’s volunteers in the Pasasalamat dinner at Conrad Manila on Monday.
Afterwards, they will all head home, minds full of knowledge and valuable experience — and hearts even fuller.