CHI TOWN STAND UP
By Toby Amigo
Find me a Filipino, any Filipino, who hasn’t heard of the Chicago Bulls. You probably can’t.
Man, woman, or child—every Filipino has an affinity with the city of Chicago. Chicago is synonymous with Michael Jordan. And for most of us, MJ was probably the first time you ever saw absolute, undeniable basketball greatness. If you weren’t old enough to see him dominate, chances are your dad or tito or coach heralded His Airness’ conquests for you. Because of that, Chicago seems to be the default team of even the most casual of NBA fans.
But to some, Chicago is much, much more than that.
It is a beacon of pride, grit, and toughness.
It is a hammer that shapes and moulds boys and girls into the men and women they will become. It is, to put it simply, home.
The Air Jordan 1 ‘Homage to Home’ is a celebration of Chicago and everything it stands for. There is no better way to honor the bold, relentless spirit of the city than with the shoe that started it all— a shoe so notorious, MJ was fined every time he wore them.
The kicks are split vertically right down the middle, featuring the ‘Chicago’ colorway on one side and the ‘Bred’ colorway on the other. Some interpret it as a showing of love from the North and South Side of the Windy City. But for these three Filipino iconoclasts, whose ties stretch all the way to Chicago, the shoe’s duality symbolizes a heart divided by its two homes.
Blackwater Elite breakout Mike DiGregorio was born and raised in Chicago. After playing Division II college ball, Mike found himself in his mother’s motherland. The former practice player and Kia Picanto cast-off has clawed his way to become one of Blackwater’s most valuable players. Mike gives credit to Chicago for bringing him to where he stands today.
“Chicago will always be home, it holds a special place in my heart. But even here in Manila, it’s home as well. I have a lot of friends here now, my teammates, the Filipino fans—the PBA fans are great, they’ve embraced me—my coaches, and everyone. I’m kind of planting my roots here.”
“In Chicago, there’s so much great talent, so when I was growing up I had that chip on my shoulder trying to prove myself because I was always the underdog. So I think I bring that Chicago toughness—just always grinding, always plugging away, each and every day. Yeah, that’s how I represent Chicago.”
For Jude Turcuato, it wasn’t the Chicago competition that pushed him to be the Senior Vice President and Head of Fox International Channels. It was the weather.
“I do think, because of the weather, you gain the whole personality of being gritty, not quitting easily, not being soft. You just have a lot more grit. You just push through things. So I think that’s been prevalent in how I’ve worked and how I approached things.”
“Jude was born in the Philippines, but moved to Chicago to study. And like any kid in Chicago during the ‘80s, he grew up worshipping Jordan. He recounts the Jordan memories that shaped him, like finding a way to watch Jordan play golf in the country club his aunt worked at. Or the time Jordan made him feel like anything was possible, known to most of us simply as The Shot.
“When Jordan hit that buzzerbeater over Craig Ehlo in Game 5 against Cleveland...I think that was my favorite basketball moment. Those are the images that i don't forget. Just etched in my memory, the feelings i got—feeling like I broke the ceiling when he hit that shot.”
Miggy Chavez of Chicosci tells a different story. He wasn’t born in Chicago, nor did he move there. He did spend the summers there though, making Chicago the setting of some of his fondest memories. But even at a young age, he could see that those good times did not come easy.
“My uncle who lives there, used to work in a factory. His wife worked double-shifts as a nurse. Chicago is a city na kailangang sobrang sipag mo eh. It’s not flashy by any means. Kasi ‘pag L.A., it’s all glitz and glamour. Sa Chicago, you strip that all away, hard work na lang matitira. Which goes double if you’re a Filipino.
“I learned the spirit of hard work. The grind. It has to be there talaga.“
Photos by: Rainier Gonzales