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Gilas fans still cheering despite dismal World Cup start

FOSHAN, China -- Gilas Pilipinas forward Japeth Aguilar had a highlight to remember against the Serbian national team. The Ginebra star climbed the ladder and flushed down a two-handed slam midway through the fourth quarter of their group phase game that got the Philippine fans on their feet.

That dunk would be one of the few moments the Gilas faithful had to cheer about inside Foshan International Sports & Cultural Arena in the Philippines' 126-67 loss to Serbia.

It has been a forgettable FIBA Basketball World Cup for the Philippines. The team's two losses are some of the worst in Gilas' World Cup history -- the Serbia defeat being the biggest they have ever suffered in the competition.

Despite the misery of the campaign, Philippine fans in attendance still cheered for every good play Gilas Pilipinas scrounged up. After the final buzzer sounded against Italy and Serbia, Filipino fans applauded instead of booing.

While Gilas' 3-point shot did not travel well to China, their loyal following did.

Filipino fans have even garnered a reputation on the international basketball scene. Angola head coach Will Voigt, who's team plays Gilas tonight, said Philippine fans could give a boost in the final game of the group phase.

"We've played two European teams [in Group D] so obviously the following for [those teams] hasn't been that big," Voigt said. "I would expect a good crowd of support for the Philippines, and that is a little added energy for them."

A large number of fans from the Philippines made the trip; excited to see their favorite PBA players on the international stage. Ruby Santos traveled from Makati City to support the team. For her, the expenses, the planning, and the heartache of the losses have been worth it to support her country's team.

"No regrets, no matter what. As long as we keep fighting." Santos said in a mix of Filipino and English.

The same is true for Philippine fans from different parts of the world. Luis Gomez, a Filipino based in Dublin, Ireland, made the trip with his family and friends. This is Gomez' second trip to the World Cup, having followed the team with his father in the previous edition of the competition in Spain in 2014.

While the results from Spain were better for the Philippines, Gomez said he is still happy to have made this trip.

"It's been worth it so far, we're here no matter what," Gomez said. "Whether they win or lose, we will support them regardless. I just want to see their heart."

Aguilar and breakout rookie guard CJ Perez said the team is aware of the lengths fans have gone to see them in person. According to them, not being able to give their fans much to be happy about in their first two games stung them the most.

"That's why we were frustrated with our two losses, because our goal is to make our countrymen proud," Perez said in Filipino. "Hopefully tomorrow [against Angola], we can win our game so we can make it up to them."

For the team they understand what they owe their fans.

"Our goal is to make the Philippine fans happy with the way we play," Aguilar added in Filipino. "We talk to fans, we know where they come from. We appreciate their support, and we want to perform well for them."