Gilas Pilipinas Women made history on Tuesday night after striking gold for the very first time in the Southeast Asian Games following an impressive win over perennial contenders Thailand.
Coach Pat Aquino was, of course, extremely proud of the achievement. And now, he hopes that this will be the start of greater things to come for women’s basketball in the Philippines.
“Well, we’ve been dreaming of that since Day One that we handled the national team, na sana we make it great for women,” said Aquino moments after the Filipina cagers’ 91-71 victory.
“And now that we’re here, we achieved the goals that we’re supposed to do, and sana, for me, to keep it growing. You know, let’s not just let this pass by.”
One good sign appeared on that very same night, with a sizeable crowd at the SM Mall of Asia Arena cheering for Gilas Women while they coasted to the historic triumph.
“So far, I’m just so happy na may ganitong crowd, may ganitong tao dito ngayon,” said Aquino, who took over the national team in 2015.
“Just glad na napapansin na talaga kami.”
Philippine women’s basketball has really grown. In the last two FIBA Asia Cup tournaments, it has played in the Division A — the Philippines is the only team from this region to play in the top division.
At the collegiate level, NU has become a historic and dominant figure. The Lady Bulldogs have lorded over the UAAP women’s cagefest for six straights seasons now, including a 96-game winning streak.
So far, there are two leagues in the country which players could enter: the Women’s National Basketball League, and the first-of-its-kind Chooks-to-Go Pilipinas Women’s 3×3.
However, for women’s hoops to really rise, Aquino said that more sponsors — besides long-time backer Ever Bilena Cosmetics — and a high-profile league are necessary.
“Well, that’s the dream na gusto ko. Now, that I’m the program director for women’s basketball, I really want women’s basketball to grow,” said the SBP’s women’s basketball director.
“Hopefully, a sponsor will come in next year and help us out to have a league of their own for women’s basketball. I think they’ll be proud of it,” he furthered. “These girls really work hard.
“Sana lang, sana lang ‘yung dream ko na ‘yun maging dire-diretso sa mga susunod na mga taon.”