Saturday, March 28, 2015

Filipino-Americans (Fil-Ams) in the NBA

The advent of the cable TV has enabled people in every corner of the world to watch their favorite sporting events such as the NBA. Basketball is a game that is viewed and followed by millions of people. And Filipinos are people who love basketball, and watching NBA games is a favorite pastime of many of them. But no blue blooded Filipino has ever made it to the NBA as a player. However, there are few Filipino-Americans who made it to the league as players or coaches. Below are the few who have made headway to the league.

 Raymond Townsend was born in San Jose, California on December 20, 1955, to the couple Ray Sr. and Virginia Marella from Balayan, Batangas, Philippines. The 6’3”, 175 lb Raymond Jr. played college basketball at UCLA. He was a member of the 1975 UCLA National Basketball Team. Raymond was selected with the last pick in the first round (22 overall) of the 1978 NBA draft by the Golden State Warriors. He concluded his career in the NBA in 1982 as a member of the Indiana Pacers. Raymond Townsend is the first Fil-Am to play in the NBA.

 Ricardo Brown was born to an American father and a Filipina named Connie Vidal of Santa Cruz, Manila. Ricardo was a third round, 59th overall pick by the Houston Rockets in 1979. In 1983 the 6’1” point guard went to the Philippines to play for the Philippine Basketball Association (PBA). He suited up for Great Taste from 1983 to 1987 and for San Miguel from 1988 to 1990.He was a member of the 1980 Philippine national team Northern Cement that was coached by Ron Jacobs which competed for the Jones Cup in Taiwan.  The Philippines defeated Taiwan, Sweden, Italy and the United States to win the championship. Brown is now the principal of Ross Middle School in Artesia, California.

Andray Blatche no. 11 (credit: Leo Hidalgo from Wikimedia)
Andray Blatche was born on August 22, 1986 in Syracuse, New York. He was drafted in the NBA in 2005 as a second round, 49 overall pick by the Washington Wizard. The 6’11”, 260 lbs power forward/center played for the wizards from 2005 to 2012. From 2005 to 2006 he was with the Roanoke Dazzle (D) league. In 2012-14 he was with the Brooklyn Nets. In 2014 up to the present he played for the Xinjiang Flying Tigers in China. On May26, 2014, a bill granting Blatche Filipino citizenship was approved by the Philippine senate and signed by Pres. Benigno Aquino II. As a naturalized Filipino, Blatche played for the Gilas Filipinas for the 2014 FIBA World Cup in Spain. Blatche was also selected to play in the 2014 Asian Games. However, he was disqualified to play due to eligibility issues cited by the Olympic Council of Asia (OCA).

credit: Mark Schierbecker fro Wikimedia
Jordan Clarkson was born on June 7, 1992, in San Antonio, Texas. He was a 2014 second round, 46 overall draft by the Washington Wizard which then sent him to the LA Lakers. The 6’5”, 186 lbs Filipino-American is a current point/shooting guard of the Los Angeles Lakers. In July 2014, he joined the Lakers for the 2014 summer league, and signed with the team on August 25, 2014. On March 24, 2015, he had a season high best game with 30 points, and 7 assist in a 102-107 loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder. Starting along with Jeremy Lin, the pair became the first Asian-American starting back court in the league’s history.

credit: Zereshk
Arthur “Chip” Engelland was born on May 9, 1961. Although he was not able to make it to the NBA as a player, he however, has found his way in the league as an assistant coach for various teams. A native of LA, he played professional basketball for 9 years. The 6’4”, 175 lbs Engelland became a naturalized Filipino citizen and spent two seasons as a member of Philippine National Basketball team under the sponsorship of Northern Cement Corporation which captured the Jones Cup title in 1985. He was known in the PBA as “the Machine Gun” for his superior shooting skills. In the United States he played for various teams in the CBA from 1986 to 1990. From 1990 to 1991 he played for Calgary 88’s in the World Basketball League.  Chip Engelland was assistant coach of the Detroit Pistons from 1999-2000, Denver Nuggets in 2003-2005 and San Antonio Spurs in 2005 up to the present. As assistant coach he won 2 NBA championships in 2007 and in 2014 for San Antonio Spurs.   

credit: Keith Allison from Wikimedia
Eric Spoelstra was born on November 1, 1970 in Evanston, Illinois. His father, John Spoelstra, is a Dutch-Irish American and former NBA executive of Buffalo Braves, Portland trailblazers, Denver Nuggets and New Jersey Nets. Eric’s mother Elisa is a Native of San Pablo, Laguna, Philippines. Eric is the first Asian-American to ever win an NBA championship as a head coach. From 1997-2008 he was an assistant coach of Miami Heat, and from 2008 up to the present he is elevated to the position as head coach of that team. As assistant coach he helped the Heat win the NBA championship in 2008. And as head coach he won two NBA championships in 2012 and 2013 for his team. He is also a four- time Eastern Conference Champion from 2011 to 2014. Eric Spoelstra was the NBA all star game head coach of 2013. 

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

A Boko Haram Kind of Marriage

Boko Haram is a terrorist organization in North East Nigeria. It is also active in Chad, Niger and Northern Cameroon. The terror group was initially linked to Al Qaeda, but it later expressed support to ISIS. On March 15, 2015, Boko Haram formally pledged allegiance to ISIS. Like its terror counterpart, Boko Haram is also notorious for its acts of brutalities such as kidnappings, beheadings, vandalizing and raping women. Effort of the Nigerian government security forces has not been enough to destroy the terror group. The growing threat posed by Boko Haram in the African region has made the neighboring countries of Chad, Cameroon and Niger to join in a coalition with Nigeria to deal with the terrorists.

On September 2014, Boko Haram swooped down on the town of Bama in Borno State and killed people. Under duress, scores of captured women were then forced into "marriage" by the male terrorist combatants. Only the pregnant women and the elderly were spared from being “married” to the terrorists.

In the month of March 2015, government forces of Nigeria put heavy pressure on the terrorists in Bama who had to flee from the area. The terrorists thought that bringing along their “wives” in their retreat might hinder their movement as they and their “wives” might be separated during encounter with government troops.                                  
The other concern of the terrorist was that their “wives” might remarry capturing soldiers or other infidels. The terrorists then thought that killing their “wives” was a good course of action relative to their concerns. By being killed by their “husbands”, the “wives” would retain their piety by not remarrying infidels. Some of the terrorists were not sold to the idea and fled with their “wives” to the neighboring town of Yobe.
With their fanatical religious view, the terrorists believe that by remaining pious their “wives” could get to heaven or paradise after they had killed them. The terrorist husbands could later reunite with their “wives” in paradise if they would subsequently die as martyrs. With these reasons the terrorist could not allow their “wives” to be retaken by male “infidels”.

In Bama, residents tell the government troops of their harrowing experience at the hands of the terrorists. Residents led the troops to a well where the dead bodies of terrorist “wives” were dumped. Other bodies were also thrown away on a River Bama bridge. The people said that the killings began 10 days before Bama was liberated by government forces.  

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Alexandria, Egypt, the Eternal City of Alexander the Great

The Lighthouse of Pharos, Alexandria
Alexander the Great was a Macedonian King who at a young age, conquered the Persian Empire and lands that included Asia Minor, the Levant, Persia and parts of India. In his conquest in military campaigns he named several places after him- Alexandria. Over time, through changes in rulers, demography, cultures and religions some of these places vanished off the maps or changed its names such as Kandahar in present day Afghanistan while others retained the name of the legendary king. One that stands out from the rest is Alexandria in Egypt which Alexander founded in 331 BC. He envisioned the place to be the finest seaport in the ancient world.                                                                                                                                                                       
statue of Alexander the Great
Cleomenes, Alexander’s viceroy in Egypt, continued the development and expansion of the city when Alexander pursued further military expeditions to the southwest. In 322 BC, in India, after a lengthy campaign, Alexander’s battle weary troops mutinied and refused to march further. Alexander acceded to his troops’ desire and returned to Babylonia where he was afflicted with a fever and died after a few days. He was just 32 years old. Alexander’s generals then fought among themselves for the division and rule of the vast empire that he had left. Ptolemy or Ptolemy I Soter, one of the generals took hold of Egypt and made himself as king or pharaoh with Alexandria as his capital.   
During the funerary procession of Alexander to Macedonia, Ptolemy hijacked the remains in Damascus, Syria and brought it to Memphis in Egypt. He believed that whoever had the remains of the legendary king would become powerful. Ptolemy Philadelphus, a successor of Ptolemy I later transferred the remains from Memphis to Alexandria where later a communal mausoleum for Alexander and the members of the Ptolemaic dynasty was built. In Egypt, Ptolemy I and his descendants succeeded in firmly establishing the Greek Ptolemaic dynasty and made themselves the heirs of the original Egyptian pharaohs.                                                                                                                                                  
Because of its strategic location in the Mediterranean coast, Alexandria in ancient times was a major city of Egypt. It is situated north in the Nile River Delta. During the reign of the Ptolemies some of the significant structures and places of interest were the Brucheium or the royal Greek quarter in the east, the Jewish quarter in the northeast. There was also the Lighthouse on the island of Pharos which was considered as one of the seven wonders of the ancient world. There were also the Soma or mausoleum; the emporium or the exchange; the poseidonium or the temple of Poseidon, the god of the sea; the museum; the Greek theater and the Serapheion or the temple of the Egyptian diety Serapis. The population of the city during the Ptolemaic era was about 300,000 composed of native Egyptians, Greeks and Jews as free citizens exclusive of slaves and strangers.

Alexander’s conquest of the Persian Empire and its vast territory paved the way for the introduction of Hellenism or Greek culture to the people of the lands that were east of Europe and south of Greece. The Greco-Macedonian rule and the settlement of the Greeks to the empire made Greek became the lingua franca of the ancient world. During the rule of the Ptolemies Alexandria was the center of Hellenism and the literary center of the ancient world. It was also the center of commerce and science. There was the famous library of Alexandria and influential schools of philosophy, rhetoric and other branch of learning were established. In its heyday, Alexandria rivaled or even surpassed Athens as the ancient world’s center of culture and learning.  Overtime, the Greeks’ contact with the Jews influenced their religious thought which would then eventually replace their polytheistic belief into a monotheistic one. There was a translation of the Old Testament from Hebrew into Greek before AD 100.

During the rise of Rome, Cleopatra the queen of Egypt and a descendant of Ptolemy I allied herself with the Roman Mark Anthony, her lover, who was an adversary of Octavian, a legal heir of Julius Caesar. Octavian defeated the forces of Cleopatra and Mark Anthony in the battle of Actium in 31 BC. She and Mark Anthony then committed suicide and Octavian who later became Roman Emperor Augustus Caesar made Egypt as a Roman province and assigned a prefect under him.

The Romans quelled a Jewish revolt and annihilated the Jewish population and destroyed a large portion of Alexandria in 116 AD. In 215 AD, the Roman emperor Caracalla ordered his troops to massacre male inhabitants of the city with age that was already capable of bearing arms over an insulting satire directed at him. On the other side of those brutalities, the reign of the Romans made Alexandria the second most powerful city after Rome. The position of the city made it a center of trade and commerce between east and west and fleets of grain ships sailed from Alexandria to Italy year after year.

The rise and fall of empires and military and economic fortunes of other nations affected the significance of Alexandria as a city that resulted to its decline. Constantinople was founded and became the seat of the Byzantine Empire thus diminishing the importance of Alexandria as a major city in the Roman Empire. In 638 AD Muslims under Amr Ibn-al-as sacked the city after a siege lasting 14 months. The rule of the Arabs and the making of Cairo as the capital of Egypt contributed more to Alexandria’s decline. The rise of the Ottoman Empire was not any better. In 1798 Napoleon Bonaparte held and captured the city and remained there until the arrival of the British expedition in 1801. Europeans began leaving the city following the Suez Canal Crisis in 1956 that led to the outburst of Arab nationalism.

Modern Alexandria is a major and second largest city of Egypt with a 2013 population of 4,546,231 of diverse ethnicity and religion such as Judaism, Islam and Christianity. As the country’s main port city, Alexandria handles about 80% of the imports and exports of Egypt such as cottons, grains, sugar and other goods. The city also boasts of modern amenities in airports, highways, railways, buses, taxis, ports, theaters and museums to cater to its local residents and visitors. Those infrastructures and facilities benefit the city being an important tourist resort of the country.

The rise and fall of world empires, the wars, the change of culture and the change in demographic composition of Alexandria have had little effect to its splendor as one of the world’s most historic and greatest cities of all time. The name of the city is a fitting tribute to its founder, Alexander the Great, who in life and in death, was admired by people around the world for his strong leadership, military genius and exceptional exploits that made him establish the largest empire the ancient world had ever known.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Secular Education, Different Culture and Civilization Are ISIS' Enemies Too

human-headed winged bull (photo credit: Marie-Lan Nguyen)
ISIS is not only intolerant of people who do not conform to its extreme religious belief; it is also averse to things that they deem idolatrous. The latest victims of its atrocities are the Mosul Public Library and the Mosul Museum which housed precious books and priceless artifacts and other things of historic value.                                                                                                                                                                    
On February 25, 2015, ISIS forces broke into the Mosul Museum which housed several statues and artifacts that date back to the ancient Assyrian, Akkadian, Greco-Roman and Islamic empires around Mesopotamia. That region which is identified with the Fertile Crescent is considered one of the cradles of civilization on which agriculture, writing and other fields of human endeavor developed. Members of the ISIS used sledge hammers and electric drills to pound and smash artifacts and other properties inside the museum.   
Also on the last week of February 2015, ISIS bombed the Mosul Public Library and burned about 8,000 rare books and manuscripts. ISIS considers those reading materials as promoting infidelity and disobedience to Allah. Efforts by some local residents to persuade the ISIS members not to destroy the library failed.                                                                                                                                          
People around the world were horrified with the incidents considering that the books are there to promote knowledge, and the artifacts and other historical items are not objects of worship in the modern time. Those objects are there as legacy of the past and lesson to link us to our world’s history. The loss of the books and artifacts such as the gigantic human-headed winged bull because of intentional destruction is a loss not only to the Iraqi people but also to other people of the world.

During the US-led invasion of 2003, there were looting of books and artifacts. But there were people who were able to save some of them by hiding them in their homes. However, at present, the ISIS warned people that such acts are now punishable by death.

The ISIS is notorious for its brutality to people who do not share their views. And places that are deemed sacred to others such as churches and mosques are not spared. Among those destroyed last year were the church of the Virgin Mary, and the mosques at the tombs of prophet Younis or Jonah, Prophet Jirjis or George and Prophet Seth.                                                                                                                                           
In the religious traditions of Muslims, Christians and Jews Seth was the third son of Adam and Eve. Jonah in the tradition was swallowed by a whale because of his defiance to God’s order to go to Nineveh and prophesy against it. Inside the fish belly, Jonah repented and pleaded to God to save him. After three days the fish spewed Jonah out, and he then proceeded to follow God’s order. In the Christian tradition, the story of Jonah relates to the death and resurrection of Christ.

The Mosque which was a site of an ancient church that contained the tomb of Jonah as well as the other mosques at the tomb of the prophets was destroyed because people made them as shrines and places for pilgrimage. ISIS considers the practice as idolatry because people divert their worship from Allah who is the only one who deserves it. The ISIS considers the shrines as sites of apostasy instead of places for prayer.  

ISIS' aim is to establish an Islamic caliphate and impose Sharia law. In consonance to those objectives it has to purge all practices and relics which do not conform to their radical religious views. Many people around the world have condemned the acts of the terrorist group, and Muslim religious and political leaders have disowned it. Some of the Muslim nations even joined forces with the western world to fight and eliminate the ISIS in Syria and Iraq.