Taipei A three-day Lunar New Year basketball tournament for Filipino migrant fishermen opened in Nanfang'ao in Yilan County on Saturday, with hundreds of people gathering at a local park for the opening ceremony and the first three games.
The tournament is being held just months after a bridge collapse in Nanfang'ao in October 2019 that took the lives of six migrant fishermen and left some 19 homeless when their boats were destroyed.
Nestor Mayo, deputy director of the Assistance to Nationals section at the Manila Economic and Cultural Office (MECO), said he hoped the tournament would have special meaning following the tragedy.
"I hope this tournament will be played in remembrance of the fishermen who perished in the bridge collapse and in turn promote sportsmanship and camaraderie between the fishermen here in northern Taiwan," he said.
The tournament consists of three teams consisting entirely of fishermen from Nanfang'ao and another three "visiting" teams from Hualien, Keelung and Yilan.
Because the visiting teams are not entirely made up of migrant fishermen, they will only play in exhibition games Saturday and cannot win the tournament.
All six teams did compete, however, in the opening ceremony parade for best uniforms and best muses.
Team Yilan, a team made up of both Filipino migrant fishermen and factory workers from the county, won the trophy for "Best in Uniform."
Their artistic jerseys, featuring a green, white, grey, and black design, reflected the local mountains in Yilan, said Rodel Gonzales Lucena Jr., the captain of the team.
They also reflected the team's pride of being from the Philippines with "an emblem on the right side (of the jersey) to represent the flag of the Philippines," he said.
Meanwhile, the Augman basketball team, comprised of Filipino factory workers from Keelung's Qidu District, won the "Best Muse" trophy, which was received by team muse Jakielyn Mangaoang.
In Filipino basketball culture, muses are females who whip up support for their teams at tournament openings.
Just as important as who wins and loses the tournament is creating unity among Filipinos, said Father Edward Pacquing, parish priest of Saint Christopher's Church in Taipei and the director of the Migrant Workers Concerns Desk, a co-organizer of the event.
Basketball is played all across the Philippines, where villages invite teams from other villages to play and it creates friendships even though the players live in different areas, Pacquing said.
"It is the same idea now, because these migrant fishermen and workers come from different parts of the Philippines, but now through basketball they will be able to meet new friends or strengthen friendships while here in Taiwan," he said.
Cesar Chavez Jr., MECO's Labor Center Director of Labor Affairs, also felt strongly about connecting migrant fishermen with the rest of the Filipino community in Taiwan.
"In addition to promoting camaraderie, it is important for the fishermen to also get together with other Filipinos, especially those in neighboring counties such as Hualien," he said.
Source: Focus Taiwan News Channel