As the country celebrates the success of Gilas Pilipinas, which booked a spot in the 2019 FIBA World Cup by winning two road games in the just concluded qualifiers, Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas president Al Panlilio couldn't help but look back and thank the man behind the triumph of Philippine basketball, his predecessor Manny V. Pangilinan.
The telecommunications mogul has been at the forefront of the changes in Philippine basketball since his election as SBP chief in 2007, and even when he stepped down a couple of years ago and Panlilio took over, Pangilinan continues to support the SBP programs - particularly Gilas.
"It was really MVP's vision that brought Philippine basketball back to where it is now," said Panlilio.
"He started with a clear vision and executed it to near perfection. He led the way and we followed," he added.
Panlilio pointed to the times when Pangilinan had to travel several times to FIBA, basketball's governing body, when the Philippines got suspended by the federation due to bickering and politics.
Pangilinan stepped in and led the unification of two warring factions, leading to the formation of the SBP.
"MVP gave it due importance because he felt the need to bring back glory to basketball and effectively unite the Philippines thru what people feel is the country's national sport," said Panlilio.
As head of the SBP, Pangilinan started to bankroll the basketball program in 2009 with the creation of the original Smart Gilas Pilipinas. He was also behind Gilas 2.0 that won the silver medal during the 2013 FIBA-Asia Championship here that earned the country its first World Cup spot in 42 years.
And 10 years since he started supporting the Gilas program, Pangilinan was again solidly behind the bid of Gilas in this year's FIBA World Cup qualifying tournaments.
"MVP planted the seeds with Smart as the main backer to jumpstart the program. In this 2019 World Cup qualifiers, MVP gave full support and priority even when things became shaky. His faith never wavered."
"When I took over as SBP President, I knew how enormous the task would be to continue the legacy that he has started. The road to this year's World Cup qualifiers was not at all easy. The narrative behind our success was a living proof to everyone that we Filipinos really thrive on adversity and we simply don't give up."
"We were challenged all throughout this campaign and yet, we still made it. We showed that Filipinos are resilient. We fought till the end for flag and country," added Panlilio.