AFTER THE LAST SCREAMING fan has left the building, the last points scored, the last game of the tournament played, it’s just you and the ball again. You and your 11 teammates, volunteer support staff (if any), chalkboard and playbook, and the oh-so-many raw aches, sore joints and pulled muscles that feel bad now, but will feel a lot worse tomorrow.
Take away the adulation and glamor, notoriety and now-or-never competitiveness that is club basketball in the Filipino community, and basketball is simply a nuts-and-bolts game of five highly-motivated, purposeful and disciplined players seeking to outdo, outlast and outsmart their counterparts on the basketball floor. Talent, physical ability and natural gifts like height and heft are important, but not decisive. Think of five fingers acting as one hand, exploiting strengths and hiding weaknesses, reaching the pinnacle of club success playing team basketball.
This is what George has been hammering into his teams year in, year out and in so doing has been in the thick of things for nearly two decades as either player, coach or doing both with as little fanfare as possible. In the process, he’s only been building boys into men, turning gangs into powerhouses, and doing his share to give team glory and immortality to the overall success that is the Pinoy Basketball sa Auckland (PBA) organization.
As you might guess, he is a basketball workaholic, living and breathing basketball. He hates individual accolades, but uses it as a tool if it will spur the team to greater heights. He loves the idea of molding individual competencies into a dynamic whole that, on the court and off it, pinpoint the weak link and gray area in an opponent’s offense or defense, and plunge the dagger deepest into the rival’s underbelly.
After the buzzer sounds, he is the first to congratulate the opposing coach first, then each and every member of the other team. Then it’s back to work, scrimmage and diagramming plays.
A product of the De La Salle University Green Archer organization, George first showed his brilliance in the PBA via his court generalship and uncanny long-distance marksmanship, once converting 12 straight three-pointers in a game. He added value to his game by lending his vast leadership and organizational talents not only to the PBA teams he has coached but also to the Auckland basketball selections that have won numerous Labor Day Weekend, Queen’s Birthday Weekend and other Filipino basketball intercity and interleague tournaments held throughout New Zealand’s Filipino community.
And while George will be the first to admit the winning is important, he likewise will stress to you that the forging of lasting friendships and links among kabayan, strengthening ties between kabayan of Auckland, Wellington, Christchurch, Hamilton, Dunedin, and every other town, and playing a part in maintaining Pinoy-ness among countrymen through basketball, is probably equally important a factor in the formula of his basketball life.
That he has gained immeasureable respect and admiration from colleagues, fellow basketball lovers and gym rats is no doubt secondary to him.
He will never tell anyone as well, but as a natural downstream to his work as an elder in the Auckland sports fraternity, George has since the 1990s provided temporary shelter and lodging to countless Filipinos new to New Zealand and still looking for a place to stay. He does so quietly and by calling the least attention to himself, preferring to allow people to think of him shooting three’s, aligning X’s and O’s, and being a master motivator of delicate egos.
And this, as well as the fact that he is my beloved bro, is why George Bautista is my favorite Kinoy.
Happy birthday George, love you always kapatid !
Thanks for reading !
*Kinoy, a contraction for Kiwi Pinoy, is a non-racial term for Filipinos who’ve either been born or have migrated to New Zealand.