Tagalog 101 for Gilas coach Baldwin

PUERTO PRINCESA—Among American basketball coaches who are based in the Philippines, nobody speaks the Tagalog dialect more fluently than Alex Compton.

Compton would give any other native a run for their money when it comes to speaking the dialect. The Alaska Milk coach could now speak in dual dialects – Tagalog and Bisaya as his wife hails from the South.

But Tab Baldwin, the current coach of Gilas Pilipinas, is slowly starting to get to know his Tagalog and determined to challenge Compton as far as speaking the dialect in the days to come.

“That’s his claim to fame,” said Baldwin, referring to Compton’s fluency in speaking the language. But I would give him a run for his money.”

On our way to Dos Palmas on board a boat, Manila Standard had a chance to talk to Coach Tab, who shared his fascination on the ocean, why he loves to spend time there.

“I grew up in Florida and there are many beaches in Florida,” Baldwin said. “I love the ocean and I love to catch fish. Fishing not as a sport, but something you would love to do for pleasure.”

In between the hour ride, Baldwin got some lessons speaking Tagalog.

“Malas what does that mean? Oh, bad luck, so that’s the word,” said Baldwin.

Coach, what about suwerte?,” this writer asked. “What about it? It means your lucky.”

“Now that’s two words I’ve learned aside from Salamat Po,” he added in a chuckle.

Our conversation got even dragged to the street language that had something to do with basketball.

“You ever heard of the word buwakaw, Coach?.”

He answered back: “Yes, but I don’t know what it means.”

I replied: “It means you’re selfish.”

Perhaps Coach Tab should have listened to Meralco coach Norman Black telling one of his players: “Ikaw ha, nagiging buwakaw ka.”

Coach Tab could also use it to motivate his team to play together more efficiently by using the word: “Pass the ball, you’re so buwakaw.”

Or what about the phrase “bilog ang bola.”

“What does that mean?”  Baldwin asked.

“It means the ball is round,” I replied.

It’s always fun to hear American coaches speak Tagalog. You would hear multi-titled coach Tim Cone, who’s been in the PBA since 1989 asking a referee in Tagalog disputing a call: “O ano, mali ako? Mali ako?”

Or Compton getting animated in the sidelines, screaming to the ref : “Ref, kanina pa ‘yuuuun!”

I won’t be surprised if  one these days, Baldwin would scream his lungs out either at the referees or his players picking the dialect piece by piece either to motivate his team or to let the Pinoy officials know that he’s one of us.

For now, Baldwin would like to show his gratitude in a simple way and ended our conversation with “Maraming salamat po.”       

COMMENT DISCLAIMER: Reader comments posted on this Web site are not in any way endorsed by Manila Standard. Comments are views by readers who exercise their right to free expression and they do not necessarily represent or reflect the position or viewpoint of While reserving this publication’s right to delete comments that are deemed offensive, indecent or inconsistent with Manila Standard editorial standards, Manila Standard may not be held liable for any false information posted by readers in this comments section.