a new breed of kabayan in the young days of spring

Lito Banal with Norman Latosa

Taken during the early days of the LS Banal Cup, here are Lito Banal (left) and Commissioner Norman Latosa, who has since remigrated to Melbourne. The LS Banal Cup is one of the most popular Pinoy basketball tournaments in The City of Sails!

[ Just wanted to share with you Precious Reader my padyak series visiting Auckland from Wellington, which just made me more homesick for the Philippines. I have just one other memorable kabayan we met in AKL which we’ll  post about next, hopefully soon. Thanks for reading! ]

KABAYAN, YOU and I don’t meet many people who have sports tournaments named after them. In fact, I haven’t met anyone, living or dead, who actually had his name on the streamers above the rows of spectators of the tripleheader of basketball games that Saturday afternoon I visited my brother in Auckland Last month.

But there he was, neither a forgotten hero nor corporate logo immortalized on the tournament trophy, medals or other awards that every participant was coveting. He wasn’t there for a photo op and then whisked away to a four-star hotel brunch leaving tournament organizers to fend for themselves.

He was on the sidelines in an actual game, on the official’s table, helping keep score and cheerleading one of the teams competing. Because of his unique position as name sponsor, he couldn’t favor any one team, so he was encouraging every team participating, without being partial to anyone.

Undoubtedly, he would be helping clean up later, scheduling more games later in the season, and engaging in informal meetings with team representatives and other sponsors.

In the do-it-yourself world of Pinoy basketball in New Zealand, Lito Banal, the driving force behind the LS Banal Cup is perhaps one of the most DIY sports leaders in the New Zealand Pinoy sports community.

But this is just one of his intersecting worlds. He was President and among the most respected servant-leaders in the Filipino Catholic Chaplaincy of Auckland. He is one of the past presidents of the New Zealand Philippines Business Council. And his company Kiwi Roofing Ltd is one of the most successful businesses owned not just by a Filipino but by an Asian in the building industry, in New Zealand’s most competitive business environment. In the process he has helped hundreds of Filipinos and their families on their way to achieving the Pinoy dream of prosperity and stability in the migrant-friendly country of New Zealand.

People of much less achievement would have been instantly enlisted for lofty positions of leadership, but not Lito. The self-made Kapampangan says making his own special contribution to happiness and contentment among Pinoys is its own reward.

Recognition, acknowledgement, and the public trappings of leadership may turn on others and provide the impetus to good works, but for Lito, to know that he has made a difference in the lives of others, notably fellow Pinoys and kabayan is more than enough for him, at the end of the day, to pat himself on the back.

Perhaps, it is this very unassuming nature that makes him ideal for leadership. We know no finer example of a Pinoy leader than Cong Lito Banal!