BONG Tulabot has seen it all when it comes to Gilas Pilipinas, being the utility staff of the team.
Tulabot is perhaps the longest-tenured staffer with Gilas, having been part of the national team since the first appointment of Chot Reyes in 2012. He enjoys every minute of being a part of the team.
“Masarap na masaya na naging part ka ng team Gilas kahit utility ka lang,” said Tulabot in an interview with SPIN.ph recently. “Masaya dahil nakita mo na sama-sama lahat ng Pinoy na nagbubunyi mapa-bata man o matanda.”
But in all his years with the national team, Tulabot said nothing still beats the feeling of winning over Korea in the semifinals of the 2013 Fiba Asia Championship in Manila.
Tulabot said the 86-79 victory of Gilas Pilipinas over Korea ranks right at the top of his favorite moments with the team.
“Sa lahat ng napuntahan kong team sa PBA kahit nagcha-champion kami, walang katulad ang knockout game ng Gilas vs. Korea,” said Tulabot, who is also a utility of the TNT KaTropa.
“’Yung saya ng bawat isa na akala mo, buong Pilipinas nanalo,” Tulabot said.
Curiously, Tulabot had little, if not, no recollection of the actual game itself, having only watched the historic match a year after. What he recalled, though, were the emotions leading up and after one of the biggest victories in Philippine basketball history.
Tulabot recalled the anxious moments of the entire team heading into the semifinal match last August 10, 2013 with a trip to Spain on the line and Gilas eyeing to beat its archrivals on its homecourt.
He also remembered how focused Gilas was during the match against Korea and how prepared the team was.
“Sobrang kaba,” he said. “Kasi si coach Jong (Uichico) ‘yung scouting, alam mo naman ang Korea sobrang lakas. Tanghalian pa lang namin, nag-lunch sabay-sabay, nakikita mo naka-focus lahat. Wala masyadong biruan.”
The putback by Marc Pingris to seal the victory late in the game prompted an explosion of emotions not just from the soldout crowd at the Mall of Asia Arena, but also on the bench.
“Hindi ako nanonood, tumitingin ako sa bench namin nung na-shoot ni Ping. Halos maiyak kami lahat,” said Tulabot.
The tears of joy continued even in the locker room.
“Iyakan, yakapan, sigawan. Paiyak na ako pero pinabalik ko luha ko,” said the ever-affable Gilas utility with the smile.
Tulabot has been with the ups and downs of the team – including the appearances of Gilas in the Fiba Basketball World Cup in 2014 in Spain where the team won a game, to its winless campaign in 2019 in China.
Tulabot is honored to be part of the national team that has given the country something to be proud or otherwise. Regardless of the results of the campaigns, Tulabot said there is no question about the passion the players have when carrying the flag is concerned.
“Masaya dahil nakita mo sama-sama lahat ng Pinoy na nagbubunyi mapa-bata man o matanda. Sobrang emosyon kasi ang mga players. Sobrang close sa isa’t isa na akala mo magkakapatid sila,” he said.
The odds may be stacked for the Philippine team but Tulabot hopes for a successful campaign when the country hosts the 2023 Fiba Basketball World Cup.
“Walang lamangan, walang gulangan. Sana ganito ang team na mabubuo sa 2023. Gilas homecourt natin ulit. Malay mo, mag-finals tayo,” said Tulabot with a smile.
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