For this week’s post, we turn back the clock…to 2001. Two decades seem like a long time but they sure pass by quickly. Before we teleport to twenty years earlier, let us consider the status quo. The coronavirus remains the biggest concern at the moment. In particular, India has been ravaged. The death toll has been incredible. This is not to say that the pandemic is foreign to us. International travel is not happening this year. Social distancing remains in place. While numbers have been down, there has still been a few local cases. Events have been cancelled and crowd attendance at matches, closely monitored. One need only remember the last Aussie Open. The fortnight began with restricted attendees, only for the tournament to be made crowd-free.
Twenty years ago, what was I up to? I was a student in a Catholic school, having just wrapped up an eventful year. I had started reading Harry Potter and was loving it. In December of 2001, I had watched the first Potter film at the cinemas. It was a full house. I would get 95% in social studies, which was the highest in my year. It was by far my favourite subject. Reading the sports section of the dailies became a routine. The education system then was quite different. Nowadays, the Philippines follows a K-12 program where all years are compulsory. In high school, there are now a variety of learning streams which were not present before.
No Grisham, no Picoult
At my age, I have yet to read some big names like Grisham, Baldacci, Picoult, and Connelly, to name a few. The Da Vinci Code hadn’t been released. That school year, I joined the school paper for the first time. Then, they published three of my articles. I became sports editor the following year. There was no such thing as an iPhone. Neither were there iPads. Facebook was still a few years away. Google had been around for less than a decade. I remember Buwan ng Wika (Language Month), which transpired in August. I recall agape, where we would sit together in groups and discuss matters of the faith. At the same time, we would share a meal.
Days of yore
Due to the lack of social media, ultra-thin laptops, and emojis, the era had a very different feel. People wrote letters instead of emails. Landlines were still in. There were no trending topics or memes. Online shopping didn’t exist. However, some things were already on hand. Food delivery was happening. We would sometimes order from them when we wanted something different. Halo-halo on Sundays was lovely. Chicken-Joy, palabok, sariwang lumpia, and Jolly Spaghetti were sumptuous. Other times we’d have McDonald’s: Big Macs, cheeseburgers, McNuggets, and sundaes.
There may not have been streaming services, but pay TV was popular. This brought the world to us: CNN, sports, HBO, and the BBC, to name a few. We were able to catch up on the latest anime episodes, often dubbed in Filipino. Others would view reality and lifestyle shows. Earlier that year, Denzel Washington won a second Oscar for his gritty portrayal of a corrupt five-oh. In lighter news, the first Shrek movie was released on 18 May 2001. It was an inchoate time, where the next phase was just commencing. The time had a nineties feel but shades of 2010’s. I feel nostalgic remembering those days.
The following summer, in 2002, I was probably in Manila – a few weeks before the start of the next school year. It wasn’t a vacation; I was there for a reason. Less than a year ago (2000), I joined a school tour to the nation’s capital. We occupied two buses for three days of work and play. We stayed in a dorm. Regardless, I started tuning into Slam Dunk, which would be a talking point for the whole school. I remember visiting SM Manila and did some shopping. I snagged some Jag items. I remember seeing Spider-Man (the original) at the cinemas with family. I also recall twice going to Chinatown. I recall buying some books in a National Bookstore, including The Little Vampire, a Grant Hill bio, and Michael Jordan: a biography. The shop was in Recto Avenue.
Speaking of Jordan, Ronald Lazenby had yet to pen the definitive biography. The late Kobe was only on one ring at that point. Steph Curry was still a teenager. He was tagging along during his dad, Seth’s, dog days. Even LeBron was in high school. At the time, Shaq was the most dominant player in the league. Hakeem was still suiting up, as were Ewing, Gary Payton, and David Robinson. I recall the All-Star game, which I watched for the first time. Kobe talked in Italian. Jason Kidd was my favourite then. The association only had twenty-nine teams and had a second Canadian franchise. There were no outfits in Brooklyn, Oklahoma, and New Orleans but there were in Seattle, New Jersey, and Vancouver.
We had four dogs at home. Our house was beside a massive mango tree. Summer spelled vacation time, a respite after the long school year. May would have been the height of summer, with cool smoothies, lots of mangoes, and ice cream. It also meant fruits like santol. As per above, this is also the time of the NBA Playoffs, where legends are made. That May, the Lakers, Spurs, Sixers, and Bucks were still alive. They were the few squads who had a legitimate shot at the Larry O’Brien trophy. While the Lakers swept the Spurs, the Bucks gave the Sixers all they could handle, forcing a Game 7.
The Lakers pulverised the opposition, going a then-record 15-1 in the postseason. They got out of the West without a single setback. The Sixers were worthy adversaries in The Finals. Iverson dropped 48 points in Game 1 in LA. However, playing 1-on-5 he wouldn’t emerge victorious. My favourite moment of that playoffs was when he hit a shot over Ty Lue late in Game 1. Marv Albert’s sentiment was priceless. The LA title repeat was arguably the sports story of the year. However, the biggest headline belonged to the 9/11 attacks. A terrorist strike at the world’s financial and media hub…in broad daylight? In the aftermath, even a mighty cub named Tiger had to cancel his golfing event. I’ll make sure to expand on this in the future, when I commemorate 9/11 on its 20th anniversary.
Unlike today, social distancing or wearing a mask were not required. Establishments were not capped at a certain number of visitors. You could enjoy the game as a supporter and did not have to worry. You could go to the beach, get a tan, and not squirm about whether the spell is short-lived. You could go to Reykjavik or Samarkand, the Pantanal or Kilimanjaro. As long as you fulfilled the travel requirements, you were on your way. Going back to the present, we sometimes took these things for granted. These simple joys are more precious than we imagined. Looking forward, what would the next twenty years have in store for us?