Delaware a new world for Philippines team

It’s hard to imagine doing anything other than sleeping after a 21-hour flight that encompasses four cities and two continents. Well, maybe showering or eating…

Coastal Point • Monica Fleming: The Asia-Pacific team from Balacod City, Philippines, in their team house in Bayside. The girls’ temporary home is as big as their whole school at home, explained Philippines Little League Administrator Jolly Gomez.Coastal Point • Monica Fleming
The Asia-Pacific team from Balacod City, Philippines, in their team house in Bayside. The girls’ temporary home is as big as their whole school at home, explained Philippines Little League Administrator Jolly Gomez.

But, when you take softball as seriously as the players from the Asia-Pacific team representing Balacod City, Philippines, do, you just do what needs to be done. After a flight delay, they started their World Series week run-down and hungry — but with heart.

“They were really tired,” said house-mom Nancy Hamilton of Seaford, “exhausted and starving.”

Coach Andy Bosnan of the American Central team from South Bend, Ind., whose team took the win against Asia-Pacific Sunday night, had nothing but praise for the girls and how they played.

“We saw them come in, and get right in at the last minute. As far as they had traveled and as many hours as they did, they came out and played one heck of a ball game. Their work ethic was there. They were fundamentally sound. They practiced hard — you could tell they were here for a reason.”

“What a great group of kids,” Bosnan continued. “They have the best attitude, as friendly as can be. With their economic and political situation, I think the town missed out not having these kids these past few years. We’re just sorry we didn’t meet them sooner. They’re really just a good bunch of kids. I can’t really say enough about them.”

Many of the girls come from modest backgrounds in their country. They have fishermen and carpenters for fathers and their mothers are homemakers. They come from homes where they use a pump to get their water and a clay pot for speedy cooking to air conditioning and all the luxuries of typical American life.

“This is as big as their whole school,” said Jolly Gomez, district administrator for Little League Philippines, gesturing up to their high-ceilinged, modern team house in the Bayside community. “They come from very simple families. People in Delaware should realize just how special this is for them. Things you take for granted, like air conditioning, carpet and grass this green, is so special for them.”

For instance, to get a visa to come to the United States costs each girl $130, or roughly a month’s salary for their fathers. That’s on top of the costs for airfare, which most must raise with help from their local government.

“We have no money. That’s why we are always together,” said Gomez. “They live off the charity of others in the Philippines, $5 here or $10 there. They couldn’t even get a slushy or a Starbucks in the airport. That’s why they came hungry.”

He went on to say that, as a culture, Asians respect cleanliness and order — something that is obvious to any visitor to the Philippines team house, as a dozen or so pair of flip-flops sit at the front door. The girls do their own laundry and cooking, and clean up after themselves with much pride.

“They are typical Filipinos,” said Gomez. “They are well-behaved, they are taught to respect everything, from family to their team to their opposition. They are very proud. We are not rich but we are rich in our hearts.”

As for Delaware and the surroundings, the girls think it is “very beautiful” and “nice.” And the people, besides being friendly, they described as “big.”

“They are saying they are big,” explained Gomez, translating for the giggly teenagers talking on the couch, even though all of them speak fluent English, as well as the Philippines’ national language of Tagalog and the dialect for their area, Hiligaynon. “Big vertically and big horizontally,” he said with a grin.

World Series staff member Petie Holloway, who was a house-mom for the team from the Philippines in 2004, joked that she had even taken their uniforms to a tailor so they would fit into them, because of their small stature as compared to other teams.

Although the girls come from modest upbringings, each of their families proudly displays ribbons and medals in the center of their rural homes. The tall, athletic girls are introduced into softball from fourth grade on, and they play “until they get other interests,” such as meeting boys, explained Gomez with a laugh. They practice from June until March, before and after classes, and take time off in their summer, April and May.

This team beat eight teams in the Philippines before beating China, Guam and Indonesia to win the Asia-Pacific title. This is the second time for the Philippines to represent Asia-Pacific at the District III World Series in Roxana. Many of them played in Portland, Ore., as 11- and 12-year-olds in previous years and then in Kirkland, Wash., as 13- and 14-year-olds. Next year, five team members will be old enough to go on to Big League, with hopes to compete at Kalamazu, Mich., for the world title in that age group.

Beyond that, the girls have plans to have careers and lives beyond softball. Teaching is in the cards for Cindy Carol Banay, Angelique Benjamin, Nerissa Benjamn and Elvie Entrina. Jusel Marie Talaban, Lucile Rote and Cherry An Basco plan on being caregivers. A career in nursing appeals to Julie Marie Muyco. And accounting speaks to Jenalyn Polinario. Cherry Bartolome has plans to study criminology and become a policewoman.

All of these dreams are propelled by the girls playing ball as seriously and with as much pride and heart as they do.

“Lucile has already got a scholarship to the best college in the Philippines,” said Gomez. “Sports is their way out.”