Taoyuan, Nov. 21 (CNA) Music and festivity filled Taoyuan's Nankan area as a Filipino worker basketball league, one of the first to open since the easing of COVID-19 restrictions in recent months, tipped off with 15 teams and hundreds of players and fans at the opening ceremony.
The opening ceremony of the Lakay Basketball League Season II 2021-2022, held at Chin Hsin Riverside Park's basketball court, featured a colorful march and a dance-off, during which the teams, comprised of Filipino migrant workers and Filipino-Taiwanese players, were judged on best uniforms and best muses.
The Linkou Guishan basketball team, made up entirely of Filipino workers from Linkou and Guishan areas, won "Best Uniform," with their black, blue, and white jerseys, whose design was inspired by the LA Clippers' City Edition jersey. The jerseys also feature logos and insignia paying homage to the team's previous uniforms, said Linkou Guishan small forward Jeffery Eleria.
Meanwhile, the Nankan Rookies basketball team won the "Best Muse" trophy, which was accepted by the team's muse Danica Argallon, a 24-year-old Filipina quality control worker from Taoyuan.
In Filipino basketball culture, muses are women who whip up support for their teams at league and tournament openings.
In addition, members of the Cordillera Organization in Taiwan, also played gongs -- known as gangsa -- as members of the Filipino community performed a traditional dance to welcome guests. The gangsa is indigenous to people from the Cordillera region of the northern Philippines.
Debbie Lin, founder of the Lakay Basketball League, told CNA that the league is aimed at promoting brotherhood, camaraderie, and to serve as a healthy platform for the players on their days off work.
"We want to help make their talents shine, while also helping them relax and enjoy their rest days in the right way," Lin said.
Community and spiritual leader Sr. Cecilia Santiago, SJBP, a nun from the local parish, was also at the ceremony to promote sportsmanship.
"I am happy for them that there is this organizer who cares for the well-being of migrant workers, especially our Filipinos here in Taiwan. They need to find balance for recreation and not just only work," Santiago said.
Taoyuan City has Taiwan's greatest number of Southeast Asian migrant workers, totaling 115,057 people, including 33,271 from the Philippines, according to Ministry of Labor data as of the end of September.
The league tipped off with games to be held on Sundays and the finals expected to be held in March. This is the second season of the league, after Lakay Basketball League Season I, which was launched in November 2020.
There are a number of Filipinos in Taiwan who played top-level competitive basketball for their high school or colleges but chose to give up on a sporting career to work in Taiwan because of the lack of financial support to get noticed by scouts.
With basketball being considered the favorite sport in the Philippines, Filipino associations and clubs across Taiwan organize basketball leagues and tournaments every season for Filipino workers to promote friendship and help fight homesickness.
However, many leagues postponed or suspended games after Taiwan raised its COVID-19 alert level in May. Now with the domestic COVID-19 pandemic situation improved and restrictions continually being eased in recent months, professional and community basketball leagues have started to reopen across the country.