Text and photos by Dexter R. Matilla
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 22:05:00 08/30/2010
The author reads a passage from his book.
WITH THE Araneta Coliseum—home to decades worth of Philippine basketball memories—peering, and perhaps eavesdropping through the third-floor window of the National Book Store in Cubao, Fulbright scholar and Filipino-speaking author Rafe Bartholomew gamely answered questions about his book “Pacific Rims,” which takes a look at this country’s obsession with a sport where height is might.
Somewhere in the six-foot bracket himself, the New York-based Bartholomew admits to being a basketball fanatic, and the idea of going to a country where this one particular sport could play a significant enough role in the lives of its people was clearly a no-brainer for him.
He arrived in the Philippines in 2005 and what was supposed to be a one-year stay became the “best three years” of his life. While he did get to visit and stay in the provincial areas to see rural hoops action at its finest and up-close, he also found himself making cameos on television shows such as “Wowowee” and “Bakekang.”
But what could be considered impressive with Bartholomew is not how he, as a Westerner, provided new insights into what could perhaps be described a Philippine cultural obsession we Filipinos already consider normal, but how he is able to speak Tagalog and with very little of the twang and more of the distinctive linguistic mannerisms we are known for, such as when he blurted out “Siyempre!” and his fondness for saying “Ano.”
When asked what he considered the best compliment he received after publishing his book, Bartholomew pointed out how he felt honored with the Philippine Daily Inquirer feature that came out on June 12 this year. The author said it particularly meant a lot to him how the newspaper chose to have the story come out on the same date the Philippines celebrated its Independence Day.
Bartholomew signs a copy for Sharline Bareng
“The ultimate mark of success for me is how Filipinos have embraced this book not just here but also in New York and in San Francisco,” Bartholomew said.
He added that he wrote the book with an international audience in mind, but to find out that Filipinos appreciated the book as well told him that he, in a way, was able to make a connection.
“Besides,” he said, “if I were writing this with the Filipinos as my intended audience, I wouldn’t need to explain in the book that longganisa is a sausage.”
E-mail the author at firstname.lastname@example.org