Filipinos are hardly acknowledged in our community, especially in sports.
But they have played a part in the Cayman sports scene for some time and one of their biggest contributions has been in basketball, courtesy of the Filipino Basketball League.
The 2008-2009 FBL saw the semi-finals of its playoffs last weekend and by month’s end will cap off its 15th year of play.
The league normally starts just after every summer (around September) and goes on for roughly five months.
Some 168 players were in the league this year and they were spread out over 14 squads.
For FBL co-founder Shelby Carlos the current status of the league shows there has been great growth over the years.
‘The league was started back in 1993 by me and Jan Barrozo [the chairman of the league]. It started off as a four-on-four league and we provided jerseys for the guys that came out.
‘Back then we had six players per team and six teams. After four years it became a full court, five-on-five league.
‘Now we have 12 players per team across 14 teams and we’re glad it happened like that.’
The Filipino community is a very tight-knit group of people and as Carlos, who himself is a Filipino, explains that has shown in their support of the league.
‘The Filipino community looks forward to it every year. The demand is out there and we have even been able to bring semi-professional players here from the Philippines.
‘A big crowd comes out for the league games. The Filipino community supports financially and in every way they can.’
In addition to Carlos and Barrozo there are a number of executive members of the league. Among them is Eduardo Atanacio, the current commissioner of the league.
All have come together to help the FBL work in tandem with the local senior basketball league.
The result is there are no schedule clashes and a Filipino team (simply called Team Philippines) regularly competes in the senior men’s league.
Over the years the league has received support from a number of local businesses. This year some of the companies involved were Caybrew Beer, Western Union, Digicel and Tony’s Toys.
As Carlos states the presence of those companies is critical to the league’s growth.
‘Every year the league gets bigger and bigger. A lot of local businesses support the league.
‘The league has been so popular that everyone wants to be part of it. This year’s league is not even finished yet and companies are already coming onboard for next year.
‘The league will continue with the support of the community as a whole. At the end of the day we are well-organized, no one gets paid and everyone gives their time and effort to make it work.’