Pacific Rims: Beermen Ballin' in Flip-Flops and the Philippines' Unlikely Love Affair with Basketball

I’ve been following the news on Rafe Bartholomew’s book Pacific Rims, on his blog Manila Vanilla this past year. The book is about his experience in the Philippines and the nature of basketball being a big part of the country’s culture. Rafe Bartholomew, the author of Pacific Rims, is an assistant editor at Harper’s Magazine and a former U.S. Fulbright Scholar. He lived in the Philippines from 2005 until 2008, which makes this book five years in the making. According to Bartholomew, “the phrase that comes to mind when I think about it is in Tagalog: Ibinuhos ko ang lahat sa librong ito. I poured everything into this book, and I hope when people read it they learn to love the Philippines and its style of basketball as much as I do.”

Pacific Rims is a journey into the world of Philippine basketball. From street corner games played by flip-flop-clad teenagers, where the losers buy RC Cola and plastic sachets of “Happy” Peanuts for the winners, to the country’s professional league, the Philippine Basketball Association, no people in the world love the game like Filipinos. I spent three years following the Philippine game, studying its roots, recording the stories of its former and current greats, and sweating my way through daily pick-up battles. The nation’s passion was sometimes irrational, often impressive and always inspiring.

I do have to disagree with some of the statements made about the Philippines, which includes basketball being the only popular team sport and that Filipinos are short. It’s a given that basketball is popular among Filipinos, but there has been a growing interest in soccer and American football in the country with some Fil-Ams moving back. As for the height, short is usually the word to describe Filipinos, which is the reason why I often get mistaken for another ethnicity. However, I disagree with the statements of height after watching some PBA games. The Philippine basketball players aren’t the seven-footers you see in the NBA, but are still pretty tall.

Overall, I’m really impressed that an American like Rafe Bartholomew took the time to understand and research Philippines’ love for basketball. I’ve gained more of an interest in Pacific Rims after seeing his interview on his love for basketball and why he decided to write the book. Now, I have to add that I’m blown away by his mad Tagalog conversational skills, it definitely shows his love for the country. I love the fact that he included Tsinelas (flip flops) in his book as I can relate to playing basketball in those as a kid. The book is now available at Amazon, so get your copy and for more information visit Rafe Bartholomew’s new official website at

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