SPORTSMAN Manny V. Pangilinan was so delighted with Gilas Pilipinas' inspiring performance in a semifinal victory over South Korea in the just-concluded Fiba-Asia Championship he ordered that each member of the team be rewarded with - hold your breath - bonuses reaching seven figures.
That was just one of the interesting side stories to come out of what had been a breathtaking weekend for the Filipino sports fan - one which saw Gilas Pilipinas overcome tall odds as well as the loss of starting center Marcus Douthit to finish runner-up behind Iran in Asia's biggest basketball showpiece.
The highlight, of course, came in the semifinal match against Korea when Gilas, spurred on by the injury to Douthit, pulled off an 86-79 victory that should count as one of the proudest moments in Philippine sports for this generation outside of Manny Pacquiao's exploits inside the ring.
For that, they were amply rewarded.
That's not to say, however, that the national players - professionals they may be - went to the Korea game, or every match for that matter, with a potential financial windfall as their overriding motivation.
We dare say that no amount of money can bring out a heroic performance like what we saw from Gilas against the stunned Koreans on Saturday night, which for sure can only be inspired by a certain degree of pride and honor derived from playing for flag and country.
Besides, we also learned from the Fiba-Asia experience that no performance-enhancing drugs concocted, so far, can match the adrenaline rush that 20,000 cheering home fans can give.
Pangilinan, head of the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas and known to be one of the most generous team owners in the PBA, was so touched by the performance against Korea that he decided to raise the ante, sources said, announcing the seven-figure bonuses infront of the team moments after the 86-79 victory.
The bonuses are for each of the 12 players and did not include coaches, whose own bonuses are not announced before the team.
Bonuses given out during Gilas victories in the group stages were significantly smaller, sources said, with a P100,000 incentive handed out to the players after the quarterfinal victory over Kazakhstan.
In all, the bonuses came up to a figure that should be enough to "buy an SUV," an insider estimated.
But as big as it was, the windfall could have been bigger since another bonus reaching seven figures awaited the nationals had they won over Iran in the finale, the source added.
Bonuses, of course, are par for the course as far as organized sports is concerned, given out for every major achievement even in small-time cage leagues.
But Gilas' bonuses are not bad, right? Not bad at all.