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This is the blog of Ian Rosales Casocot. Filipino writer. Sometime academic. Former backpacker. Twink bait. Hamster lover.

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Saturday, June 25, 2022

entry arrow11:49 AM | A Gay Basketball Game in Lo-oc

Last night, June 24, we were invited by our PETALS Dumaguete colleague Hanover Lenor to watch a gay basketball game in Lo-oc, which was part of the festivities the baranggay was holding for its fiesta. Who would have thought I would enjoy a basketball game this much? Certainly not me. I have always been loathe to playing the otherwise nationally popular game for certain reasons, and I consider all the times I had to play it just to pass P.E. in high school and college some of the worst memories I've had of growing up. I’ve had no trouble swimming or playing soccer and volleyball, but the mere suggestion of having to play basketball in my youth filled me with so much dread. It was a source of anxiety I could still vividly remember even now.

Still there was a time in my life when I recognized that loving basketball contained a certain social cache that could not be denied, and made you a member of a community you desperately longed to be part of. This meant following the games of the NBA or the PBA with a passion, and rooting for a team of your choosing [usually informed by an uncle or two]. This also meant hanging out with friends and playing hoops in a neighborhood court. I tried. I must have been about 10 or 11. I couldn’t hack it. I knew I was playing pretend. Eventually I stopped.

In high school, I played one or two games just to be able to pass P.E., and fumbled around the court like a mess who didn’t know how to dribble [and subsequently endured the jeers and laughter of lookers-on]. In college, I opted to write a paper about the game instead of playing it.

In hindsight, I know the game itself is not bad — it is in fact a powerful game to behold once you get to know its strategic gameplay, and how certain players have somehow defied physics to make a beautiful dance out of it. It is a beautiful game.

The truth of the matter is, basketball for many Filipino gay men [although not all] has always been synonymous with conforming to societal standards of masculinity that we fell short of. Basketball can be such a minefield of toxic masculinity, which is why many of us stay away from it.

But something was different in the game I watched last night in Lo-oc. In the presence of players who strutted to the basketball court in various attempts at drag — one was wearing a grassskirt, another one was in a gown, another one was in a small black dress, another one was in a bikini entirely made up of packaging tape, another one was in a dress that recalled the mascot from Julie's Bakeshoppe [the commentator, in fact, referred to her as “Julie’s Bakeshoppe” all throughout the game], and several others were in cheerleading costumes — I knew the game was in the service of undermining all the toxic masculinity I used to associate it with.

True, it was not thoroughly a technically-clean game. Early on, there was a tacit agreement to allow the players a pass for “travelling.” According to one judge, “Pasagdi ra na sila, wala na sila kabalo unsa’y travelling.” [This elicited good-natured laughter from the crowd.] And true, there were many missed chances by the players at scoring. But those things did not really matter. What mattered was the camaraderie among these gay players, who took to the game with a fantastic combination of fierceness and fairness. What mattered was the appreciative response of the Lo-oc crowd, who might have been lured initially to watching it by the circus-like promise of “mga bayot gadula og basketball” but ended up cheering for every shot made, and laughing with and not at the queens when they made some hilarious fumbles [and resorted to shenanigans]. What mattered was subverting the deeply masculine makeup of the game in our culture, and giving it a very nice gay vibe.

It was a game between young gay men from Sibulan and Dumaguete, by the way. Sibulan won. Con-drag-ulations, Lo-oc!

[Video by Renz Torres]

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