PHILIPPINE basketball’s MVP couldn’t have picked a better encore in his role as head of the governing Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas.
With his tenure as SBP about to come to an end, Manny V. Pangilinan pulled off yet another first for his basketball-crazy country when the Philippines was named one of three hosts of the Fiba Olympic Qualifying Tournaments, each one staking a place in the basketball competition of the 2016 Rio Olympics.
The hosting rights couldn’t have come a better time for the country's foremost sports patron, who stood at the forefront of two major battles, both of which the Philippines lost to a by-now familiar foe.
First, Pangilinan and the SBP faced off with sports giant China, its bid backed by its great infrastructure and deep pockets and fronted by former NBA star Yao Ming, and lost in the bidding war for the hosting of the 2019 Fiba World Cup.
“I'm truly saddened and sorry in coming short of delivering the 2019 Fiba World Cup to our people. We gave it our all, and our best,” said Pangilinan on his Twitter account @iamMVP.
Then in September, Pangilinan saw Gilas exceed expectations in the 2015 Fiba Asia Championship with a team minus several players on head coach Tab Baldwin's wishlist - only to come up short against China in the battle for the title and the lone automatic berth allotted for Asia in the Rio Olympic Games.
On both counts, Pangilinan invested not just resources but emotions as he aspired to put Gilas in a position to succeed and help the country reclaim its place on the international basketball map.
No wonder he was the most devastated after the twin setbacks.
But that doesn't mean the businessman-sportsman will stop trying, even if he is set to step down as the head of the country's governing body for basketball when a new round of elections is held in mid 2016.
Just last week, Pangilinan and the SBP scored a major breakthrough when the Philippines was named one of the hosts of three Olympic wildcard qualifiers in July, putting Gilas in the most ideal position to aspire for a ticket to Rio before its rabid home fans.
The tournament won't be easy by any means, with world No. 5 France, powerhouse Canada and Turkey standing in Gilas' way during the July qualifiers. But expect the Gilas players to give it their best shot - it's the least they could do for a man whose support and belief in the Filipino player has never once wavered.
“I personally will support the SBP in whatever means,” Pangilinan vowed. “My love for basketball doesn’t diminish at all. ”I will labor and persist until our country achieves its goal.”