Coronavirus kills Fil-Am basketball star

By Alex P. Vidal

“Thousands and thousands are dying due to coronavirus and yet when this thing is over the humanity will declare a victory! What victory? Fools! There is no victory for the dead people! And when it comes to the living people, everyone should have a deep sadness in their soul, not a brag of victory!”―Mehmet Murat ildan

A POPULAR basketball player in the Fil-Am Basketball League in Queens could be the first casualty of the novel COVID-19 in the Filipino community in the borough of Queens in New York City.

Robert Aguirre, a former team manager, described the victim only as “Jeffrey.”

He was one of the most outstanding in their team that won the back-to-back title in 2006 and 2007, Aguirre told this writer in an exclusive talk April 4.

Aguirre said he could not yet reveal Jeffrey’s real identity without the approval of the cager’s family.

“Once Jeffrey’s name is revealed, the family members are afraid that authorities will subject all of them to a coronavirus test and if this will spread in the community, they will be avoided and even discriminated. Bal-an mo man ang mentality sang iban nga mga Pinoy,” Aguirre, who hails from Victorias City, Negros Occidental, explained.

Aguirre said Jeffrey was one the original cagers who joined the team in their series of games played in other states and in Canada in 2007.

He added that Jeffrey had passed the league’s strict scrutiny of legitimate Fil-Am players during the recruitment stage.

Their team was financially backed by the owner of the Johnny’s Air, Aguirre said.

The basketball player was between 40 to 55 years old when he died about two weeks before New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo imposed a “stay at home” or lockdown order, Aguirre said.




As of the cases of other Filipinos who reportedly died of coronavirus, Aguirre, popular in the Roosevelt Avenue, said he was “never informed” because even the Philippine Consulate on Fifth Avenue in Manhattan could not give the correct details.

“How can they give us the correct information when the Consulate had been closed even before the lockdown order,” Aguirre bewailed.

Aside from Jeffrey, four other Fil-Ams reportedly died of COVID-19 in New York City and New Jersey. No names were available as of this writing.

He surmised that Jeffrey was never given a normal funeral rite.

“I have been a health worker for 18 years here in New York and I know that once somebody dies and the death is related to a communicable disease like the coronavirus, the dead body is immediately wrapped and cremated,” Aguirre added.

The former basketball manager said he learned that other coronavirus victims “never had a chance to talk or say goodbye to their loved ones” because they weren’t brought to the morgue of any hospital as what normally happened.

“There’s no formal ceremony unlike what we do to our dead in the Philippines as a Christian country,” Aguirre said.

With more than 8,000 death, confirmed cases of coronavirus in the United States, meanwhile, surpassed 300,000 on April 4.

The updated total came as the country’s top infectious disease expert, Anthony S. Fauci, reiterated that the risk of a coronavirus resurgence is real.

President Trump, on the other hand, said that although he can’t commit to having fans back in stadiums at a specific date, he pushed for sports to return as soon as possible.

(The author, who is now based in New York City, used to be the editor of two local dailies in Iloilo)