The Korean is a huge basketball fan. He vaguely heard in passing that the pro basketball league in Filipino has a maximum height regulation -- something like 6 feet. Is this true? If it is, how will the occasional Filipino who is blessed (cursed?) with height pursue his dream of playing as a pro basketball player?
The Korean (who is 6' 1")
Good luck with the blog!
Dear Korean (aka "TK"),
First of all, thank you for graciously answering my email when I wrote you to ask The Filipino a question to answer in this new blog, which was inspired by you and The Mexican in the first place.
Secondly, I really like your blog, and having read many of your posts, I now have a better appreciation of your people's culture and accomplishments, as well as your quirks, oddities and sensibilities. I also could not help but draw the conclusion that your people and my people have a lot in common.
Now on to your question.
The country's professional basketball league, which is run by the Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) and is the oldest professional basketball league in Asia, does not actually have a height limit for Filipinos*. For instance, a local team, Air 21 Express, only has one player under 6 feet. And this is fairly common nowadays among the PBA teams.
However, did you notice the asterisk?
After much experimentation, at present, the PBA season is divided into two "conferences," the "All-Filipino Conference" and the "Fiesta Conference." However, the term "conference" can easily be misunderstood by people who are more familiar with the NBA's setup (with its Eastern and Western Conferences). The two PBA "conferences" are in fact two separate "tournaments."
The "All-Fillipino Conference" (which is officially called the Philippine Cup) is held each year from October to February of the following year, and as the name suggests, only Filipinos are allowed to play in this tournament. On the other hand, the "Fiesta Conference" is held from March to July, and each team is allowed to "import" a foreign player. So every "season," there are two champions for the two different conferences, but these champions do not face each other at the end of the season for the obvious reason that the winners of the two conferences can be one and the same team.
I believe the height limit you heard about is for the "imports," but it's definitely not 6 feet. Prior to the Fiesta Conference, the PBA had two conferences which allowed for "imports" to play: the PBA Commissioner's Cup (which had a height limit of 6'8") and the PBA Governor's Cup (which had a height limit of 6'4"). While the league at one point did away with the height limitation, the league changed its mind, reinstated it, and now requires that imports playing in the Fiesta Conference may not exceed the limit of 6'6".
While it may sound unfair, stupid, annoying, or even amusing to some, the height limit, I think, is a practical rule because, as phrased by a Slate writer on the subject, "permitting American 7-footers to play would wreak havoc among the Lilliputian locals."
But The Filipino, this Filipino, is one who's not afraid to face the facts. And the truth is, in its report titled "Anthropometric Facts and Figures 2003" (I found no report more recent than this), the Department of Science and Technology's Food and Nutrition Research Institute reported that the mean height of male Filipinos in the 20-39 age group is about 5'4.5" only, which is among the lowest in the world.
Why is that? Well, the answer is obvious: genetics and environmental factors (health and nutrition, for the most part), the classic nature and nurture equation. And because the country is poor, the average height reflects the impact of serious undernourishment and malnutrition among its populace.
But there's hope, and if nothing else, The Filipino is the hopeful kind. Did you know the Dutch males, who are among the tallest in the world with an average height of 5'11", used to be just as short as the modern-day average Filipino? In fact, if Wikipedia's sources are to be believed, the average height of Dutch troops in the mid-19th century was also just 5'4.5".
Imagine that? We only have to wait, um, about 160 years and we'll be just as tall as the 2010 version of the male Dutch! I can't wait!
Got a question for The Filipino? Email him now at firstname.lastname@example.org.