book: pacific rims

"pacific rims" by rafe bartholomewaccording to the time stamp on my inset image, i bought this book last july. and i spent close to two weeks reading the book. does that mean i didn’t like the book? no. it only means i had a harder time than usual reading it.

first of all, i’m not a fan of basketball. the only reason i picked up the book was because i was intrigued as to how the author, a foreigner, sees the philippines. modern-day philippines, and not the philippines in school textbooks. and second, i do take longer when reading non-fiction, than when i read something fictional. i don’t know why.

in the end though, only one thing was important to me. was the book worth buying? yes. and i’m glad i bought it.

PACIFIC RIMS reads a little like an underdog novel. you are introduced to your main characters, the ‘losers’ so to speak, and then you join their journey to become champions.

rafe bartholomew, the author, spent three years in the philippines to experience first hand the “unlikely love affair” the philippines has with basketball. having lived here all my life, i don’t actually get the “unlikely” part of the love affair. i’ve lived knowing that filipinos love basketball. i’ve never taken a liking to it, because of my ineptitude in sports, but i’ve seen enough of it to know that it’s a very filipino sport.

how so?

basketball is like a short soap-opera. you have heroes, antagonists, powers-that-be, all mixed with talent and chance. it’s a live theater production that people can relate to because it has simple rules. it’s entertainment in its purest form.

and like most popular soap-operas, it’s free to watch on television. and for a price, you can watch the magic live.

reading PACIFIC RIMS, i was amazed to find myself getting sucked into the world of philippine basketball. as i already mentioned, it’s an accepted part of life. i was just never a fan. and i’m not claiming that the book converted me into one. it hasn’t. but for the days that i’ve been reading the book, i felt part of that world.

i guess i should credit that to the author’s way of writing. it’s very inclusive. when you read mr. bartholomew’s accounts, you’re not just reading about his experience. you feel part of the action. also, the book doesn’t romanticize the sport, but you can see just how the author loves it. it comes off in the writing.

the best part? the actual games. i’ve seen a few basketball games, so i remember the exhilaration of watching it live. and the author was able to put that exhilaration into paper. you can really see (and feel) rafe bartholomew’s love for the game through the words. and because of that love, the words transform themselves into an experience you feel while reading his accounts.

and then there are the segues. basketball being an intrinsic part of filipino culture means it touches upon other parts of the filipino psyche. the author touches on some of them in the book as well: from how politics had involved itself in the game, to the integral part it plays in societies–it even has part of a chapter set in the world of entertainment.

the book trailer i’ve seen of PACIFIC RIMS mentioned that it’s not just a book about basketball, it’s a book about the philippines. and i agree. i can also say that it’s one of the most accurate description i’ve seen of the philippines in print. then again, most of the things i’ve read about the country are either praise releases, or condemnations. so i salute rafe bartholomew, a foreigner who is more filipino than most of our celebrities, for writing about the philippines without prejudice and bias.

but before i completely end this post, i just have to mention something. rafe bartholomew’s haunts in the book, ateneo de manila, araneta coliseum, and even his stint in BAKEKANG, a local soap opera, where the places i’ve been to during the same time. his first year in the philippines, when he was researching at the ateneo library, was my last year of school in ateneo; BAKEKANG was one of the first shows i handled during my time as a features writer for a local entertainment website; and as for araneta coliseum? i’ve never been there during pba games, but i’ve been there (and around the area) for so many times because of events i had to cover.

why do i note this? because throughout rafe bartholomew’s three years in the philippines, while he was moving around the same circles i was, i never saw the things he saw. for me, that time was a new chapter in my life, but everything was pretty much same old, same old. but for him, it was a whole different ball game. pun, not intended.

9 thoughts on “book: pacific rims

  1. I remember asking you about this book during the meet up because I’ve heard good things about it. It’s funny that a foreigner finds the fascination of Filipinos for basketball so interesting. It’s not really high up my wish list but I hope to read this someday.

    • If you want to borrow my copy, just tell me before our next meet-up. So I can take it with me. 😉

      It really is an interesting read. But you’ll have to put time aside for it, as it’s not something you can just breeze through. 🙂

  2. Your review is, like Rafe’s Pacific Rims, a love letter in itself, Jason. I like how you imbued it with your personal musings. I especially liked your comparison of basketball in the Philippines to soap operas.

    As for the author, he really is someone we Filipinos can be proud of. He made it a point to fully acclimate to the Filipino culture by learning the language and mingling with the people. I hope to read this book someday if only to discover how highly he regards us Filipinos, whether we’re crazy for basketball or not.

    • haha, what gave it away? the repetitiveness of my words? 😀

      and yes, I agree with you that Rafe is someone to be applauded. Not because he wrote about the Philippines, that would be a bias on our parts. But because he didn’t just write about the Philippines, he became very much a Filipino during his three-year stay here.

      hey, my offer to chachic extends to all filipino book bloggers (in manila). if you want to borrow my copy, just tell me before the next meet-up. 😉

      • From your review, the book sounds like a travelogue as much as it is a book about basketball. I may be able to appreciate this book, if it will let me see my home in a different light. I’ll browse through some pages next time I’m in the bookstore.

      • there are a few chapters that deal with basketball in the provinces, but it still focuses mainly about basketball. so i don’t know how much a travelogue it’s going be. 🙂

        again, feel free to borrow from me if you guys want to give the book a go. 😉

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