The Rage Directed at Chot Reyes Has Gotten Out of Hand

Funny how Filipinos have higher standards for basketball games and beauty pageants. We excuse public officials lying, plundering, and underperforming, but we draw the line on bad coaching. Now what does that say about us?
IMAGE Louis Miguel A. Talao

The parade of boos that would echo from the arenas during the 2023 FIBA Basketball World Cup were directed at one man. And we all knew who he was. Head Coach Chot Reyes bore the brunt of the Gilas Pilipinas losses during this run. Rightfully so, I might add.

It's not difficult to see that our local basketball program needs a change of scenery: too many Jordan Clarkson isolation plays, not enough ball movement, the lack of space in half-court sets, a flimsy rotation that saw little to no consistency, at-times lackadaisal effort on defense, an almost non-existent interior defensive presence, and a team that just looked lost out there on both ends. Truly damning, considering just how fluid other countries' styles of play looked when going against us.

Apart from the win against China (which admittedly felt like it held more weight because of the geopolitical narratives), there was nothing really to take from this run that leaves us with optimism heading into the 2024 FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament. All we know, of course, is the fact that the fans got their wish.

Reyes' exit from the program, at the very least, offers us some recourse. The Gilas coach might be a hallf-of-famer in Philippine basketball (a Talk N' Text legend, too), but his days as a leader for the national team are over. There's no shame in saying it was a good run when it really was one.

The rage directed towards him and his family has tarnished his legacy a little bit, though. Was the hate justified? Sure, basketball-wise, duh. And it didn't help that this was one of the worst outings for a host country in a while. Anybody who knows ball who witnessed the games up close would know this. Something else, however, unraveled as I saw how this nation crumbled in heartbreak over the course of the past week. It was this collective anger at a degree that was just absurd. The comments were out of hand. All this for a basketball coach?



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We seem to have higher standards for basketball coaches and beauty pageant contestants, don't we?

I think we have a crisis of criticism in this country. It's a sickness that comes from the top of government offices and runs all the way down to our offices and homes, as well as our social and economic systems. In case we didn't know: Nobody can criticize power anymore. The idea of checks and balances has dissipated. There's a media blackout that isn't acknowledged strongly enough. And people have been brainwashed to think that criticism is a problem in our nationhood. Public officials don't want to get criticized by the public (What a world). Police keep killing and pulling out guns on the defenseless. Activists are red-tagged left and right. Our salaries are way too low for the increased cost of living. Seamlessly approving confidential funds without any questions asked remains the next biggest mystery next to finding where the Tallano Gold is.

When we do criticize, we're told to stop being clammy about it and just shut up. Nobody cares about opinions, except for when it's about basketball, beauty pageants, celebrities, and internet affairs. Politics? Religion? The questionable consolidation of state power? The manipulation of the flow of commerce? Yeah, "let's not get too political."

See, I can't help but wonder where all this rage was during, let's say, the elections? The way people have rallied in their criticism against Reyes and our basketall program seems to be disproportionate to the criticism against elected public officials and institutions. We can excuse ex-convicts who've gamed the system to run again, plunderers with cheap promises, thieves who continue to pillage the land, and other scum of the earth, but we draw the line on bad offense in a basketball game.

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We can detect bullshit in a post-game press conference but we can't distinguish facts from fiction and propaganda. We have no patience for crappy basketball programs, but we do have some for mindless, underperforming officials and their programs. Fans are aware that basketaball in the Philippines is political and yet don't want to engage in the actual politics that affects our people. We question the power of coaches' authorities and not the authority of the people who decide the shared and individual fates of Filipinos.

It's a bewildering phenomenon. We feel as though our patrimony is at stake with every small (moral or otherwise) win we get in sports and pageants. We may argue that it is, of course (God knows how much I rooted for Pacman in the past or how shameless I can be as a Gilas Pilipinas basketball fan). But I just can't fathom how much we value the pursuit of fleeting Pinoy Pride moments over the pursuit of larger, long-term changes in our beuracracy. We want international recognition without nationalizing the Filipino consciousness among our citizens. A consciousness that entails us being mad about bad public service.

The way fans have ripped Reyes and his family to shreds feels like they're shaming a criminal. He didn't rape children, unlike some people on television. He didn't embezzle public funds, unlike some people whose records are out in the public and whom we elected in 2022. He didn't give the green light to despicable land reclamation projects, unlike unchecked oligarchs benefitting from foreigner handshakes. So what is Reyes' real crime then? That he was a bad basketball coach for a few tournaments? Okay. So he's a shoe-in for hell now, right? The ones who actually do these horrid acts, on the other hand, are up to God's judgement; and up to us to elect over and over again until the Commission on Elections ink is dry.


I wish we had the same yearning for a better country, not one for a better national basketball program. It's not that we can't have both, mind you. But the disparity in our emotional, moral, and social investment between these two are glaring. We can and should be equally critical in both our fandoms and our politics, but maybe especially for the thing that happens to decide the trajectory of our lives, aye?

We can ask to have 10 more Chot Reyeses fired, but our much more pressing issues will still be there. Where's the rage then? Gilas Pilipinas can win more games and another Filipino can become Miss Universe, and yet our countrymen will still starve, suffer, and die from choices made by dishonest "public servants." Where's the rage then? We can elect the same family over and over again, but if we don't question their policies, we're letting this shared attitude of national mediocrity become all that we are. Where's the rage then? I guess I just want to believe that we can be so much more.

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About The Author
Bryle B. Suralta
Assistant Section Editor
Bryle B. Suralta is a Filipino cultural critic, editor, and essayist. He writes about art, books, travel, people, current events, and all the magic in between. His past work in film and media can be found on PeopleAsia Magazine, The Philippine Star, MANILA BULLETIN, and IMDB.
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