Oct 22, 2010

The Korean asks: Is there a height limit in the Philippines' pro ball league?

Dear Filipino,

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 askthepinoy@gmail.com.

Oct 21, 2010

Why are Filipinas beautiful but Filipinos ugly?

Dear Filipino,
I've been wondering: Why are Filipinas beautiful but Filipinos ugly?
Dear Smitten:
Thank you for at least praising 50% of us.  You could have done worse.
I don’t know what your standard of beauty is, but Filipinos (which term is used to refer to both Filipinos and Filipinas) are like mutts because we are the result of much inter-breeding over the course of centuries, unlike, say, the Japanese or Koreans, who are more homogeneous.  Yes, the truth is, the modern-day Filipino people is a product of mass migrations of, and inter-marriages among, all types of people or races which started thousands of years ago and which have not let up even today.
Hence, on one end of the facial, cranial and skin color spectrum, you will meet Filipinos who look like Africans, because they’re descended from the Negritos who settled the islands some 30,000 years ago and who share much physical commonalities with African pygmies and the Australo-Melanesians; real Africans from Africa; or even African-American GIs who fell in love with the local women or may have unintentionally impregnated their entertainers when the US bases were still operational in the Philippines (so I guess partly you can “blame it on the Marines”).
On the other end of the spectrum are the light-skinned European-looking Filipinos, who, because of present-day Western-skewed standards, are commonly viewed, deservedly or otherwise, as the “more beautiful” of the lot.  These Filipinos descended mainly from the Spaniards, who colonized the islands for over 300 years, and their progenies and extended clans in South America, because of what used to be a very active Manila-Acapulco galleon trade; hence, you can bump into Filipino mestizos and mullatoes of French, Portuguese and Mayan descent.  As also implied in the previous paragraph, American GIs, this time of the white variety, and white American missionaries (no pun intended) are also partly to blame because the Philippines was once an American Commonwealth.
In between are the rest of the Filipinos: the “Asian-looking” ones.  But even the term “Asian-looking” is too broad because you can have the South Asian look (dark) and the North Asian look (light or “yellowish”), owing to many entrepreneurial Indians and Chinese who have traded with the locals over the centuries and have decided to call the islands home, as well as the Japanese who also colonized the Philippines and the Koreans who recently have been finding our beaches and golf courses irresistible.  Then, of course, you have the Indo-Malay-Polynesian look (brown), which is what the majority of Filipinos now sport because people of this stock were the ones who colonized the majority of the Southeast Asian archipelagic countries of Malaysia, Indonesia and, of course, the Philippines, during the region’s maritime era. 
So you see, when you mix all sorts of colors from the blackest to the whitest, you’ll end up with all shades of brown, including the much sought-after "healthy tan" look.  That’s why the Filipinos have a story, understandably popular among us browns, that when God was “baking” humans, his first batch was overcooked and from this batch came the dark-skinned races.  So he tried to bake another batch, but not wanting to overdo it again, he pulled his second batch prematurely, thus resulting in the light-skinned races.  Not happy with his results so far and not wanting to strike out, he tried again, this time guarding his oven more closely.  Of course, more experienced this time, God had his Goldilocks moment because his third batch was “just right” – and from this batch descended the brown Filipinos.  Not a bad legend to feel good and beautiful about one's self, isn't it?
Smitten, I’m sure the above doesn’t really fully answer your question, and I doubt you will really find an answer satisfactory to you.  But I think if you’re smitten by beautiful Filipinas while at the same time finding their male counterparts ugly, you are probably just understandably jealous of the latter, who roam around these beauties more freely than you do.  And because of that, man, I feel sorry for you! 
Got a question for The Filipino?  Email him now at askthepinoy@gmail.com.

Oct 20, 2010

Welcome and ask away!

Why lie?  This site was inspired by "Ask a Mexican" and "Ask a Korean" -- two fine web sites that provide answers to questions that confound, baffle, puzzle, vex, bug, stump, or even annoy people about the Mexicans/Mexico and Koreans/Korea, respectively.  Hopefully, this site will also grow to become a robust site worthy of being called the go-to site for people who have questions about the Philippines and the Filipino diaspora.  Of course, the main aim of the site is to hopefully make other people understand the Filipino people better.  Not an ignoble aim, don't you think?

Please have patience as the Filipino tries his hand on maintaining a blog/website.  The Filipino is on a shoe-string budget so for now, he's using the free Blogger account to do this thing.  So if it's not very pleasing to the eye, have some pity, will you please?
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