by ‘dilettante’ maia

NOTE: Maybe this story was inspired by the Phil.’s current preparations for the SEA games…it brought back sad memories, though in a different tournament, the Asian Games in Busan, when Olsen’s free throw missed the basket and South Korea proceeded to play against China in the men’s basketball championship. In my basketball-crazy mind then, I thought I would hate South Korea forever. Little did I know that years later, it would be changed by their lovable koreanovelas. THANKS TO THAT! So meanwhile, let’s transport ourselves to the SoKors side and try to dabble on the behind-the-scenes and lives of these national players. Let’s also pray for a PEACEFUL HOSTING AND OUTCOME of the forthcoming games here in the country and to all our Asian neighbors, let’s raise our glasses/bottles and say ITAAS MO! (now you know what’s my fave PBA team I guess)…Hope you’ll like this story ;-)











Cast of Characters:

Kenneth – YXZ
Nicole – SM
Warren – KYZ
Judith – YX
Erika – XYM
Cielo – ZD
Alan – XD
Kirzten Hun
Janse Ui

It was already the middle of the year. The South Koreans were busy preparing for the Asian Games. They wanted to improve their previous standing in the Hiroshima Games. The men’s basketball team were not spared with said preparations. They bagged the silver in Hiroshima second only to the Chinese, and they want to give the gold a try again. Alan, the coach for the men’s basketball team was deep in thought. He has dismissed his boys for the day and now he can hear them bantering in the locker room.

Alan was reading the fax report of his scout. Now it’s not only the Great Wall of China that they have to reckon with. He stared again at the paper in his hand. His scout confirmed that the Philippine basketball team would be sending their professional players. He looked at the list. Gone are the names which he knew from the previous tournaments. There are even American sounding names and he was informed that these are Fil-Ams who have been playing in the Philippines professional league. He will review the tapes tonight sent by his scout. He went to the dug out to check on his wards.

‘Ok boys, I want you to take your rest today. Tomorrow please proceed to our house. I want you to view the tapes of the Filipinos,’ Alan told his team who looked like little boys teasing each other.

‘Are they really good coach?’ Kenneth Yin, the team captain, asked with a worried look.

‘I still have to view the tapes, but your previous nemesis are not here anymore. These are new names, some are Fil-Ams, and our scouts are still studying them.’ Alan waved the fax paper in the air. ‘OK boys, see you tomorrow. Remember the rules.’

‘What are you so worried about? I’m sure they’re also afraid of us. So what if they’re Fil-Ams! Before they can climb the Great Wall of China, they have to pass Seoul first.’ Warren boasted. He is also a member of the team and Kenneth’s best friend. They were classmates in Sung Kyun Kwan University in Seoul taking up business course when they were drafted to play for the national team. Together with Choy, they formed the SoKor team’s triumvirate.

‘Come on guys, let’s have some food and …go girl watching.’ Choy said the latter phrase was said in a whisper.

Kenneth shook his head. He looked at his watch. ‘Let’s not be long, I have to fetch my girlfriend in an hour.’

‘Oh Ms Nagger again,’ Choy whispered to Warren. They don’t like Judith, Kenneth’s girlfriend, they cannot stand her constant complaining and nagging. They cannot understand why Kenneth, whose so kindhearted would end up with a girlfriend like her.

‘I heard that.’ Kenneth commented as they approached his car.

Warren sat at the front seat and Choy, who was sitting at the back, asked again, ‘Do you really love her Kenneth?’

Warren shot him a warning look when Kenneth did not reply and said ‘Choy, they grew up together, what kind of question was that.’ As far as Kenneth can remember, Choy had asked that question a lot of times and he would often answer with a smile and a shrug of his broad shoulders.

He parked in a nearby restaurant. ‘Since I’m the driver, I choose this one’ Kenneth said referring to the Italian pizza restaurant.

‘Game’ the two agreed. ‘For a change, let’s eat Italian. Filipinos are also fond of pizza I heard and perhaps we can dissect what’s in the ingredients that makes them good basketball players.’ Choy said dramatically.

They were halfway eating their meal when Warren glanced up. There at the counter was a girl who looked like an angel with her curly shoulder-length hair, ordering take-out pizza. She was laughing at what the cashier was saying. She was wearing a pair of mint green shorts with matching shirt. And she has very nice legs, Warren noticed.

‘I think I just saw an angel,’ Warren said softly. Kenneth and Choy followed his gaze and Choy gave a soft whistle which earned him a kick from Kenneth under the table.

‘Ouch Kenneth, I think you should join the World Cup and not this basketball team.’ Choy looked at him dramatically again.

‘And I think, you should join the theaters instead of playing in this basketball team,’ Kenneth bantered.

‘Shhhh. Quiet. Did you hear her voice… It’s so sweet. Angelic too.’ Warren watched as she picked up her order and walked out of the restaurant. She waited for a while until a car stopped and she went inside.

‘It looks like Janse’s car, but where’s Kirzten?’ Choy wondered aloud.

A few minutes later, Kirzten crossed the street with shopping packages on both hands and proceeded to the front of the car.

‘Are we supposed to know her?’ the three chorused, intrigued by the girl Warren seemed to be interested on.
Tbc 10.3.05

by ‘dilettante’ maia

Cast of Characters:

Kenneth – YXZ
Nicole – SM
Warren – KYZ
Judith – YX
Erika – XYM
Cielo – ZD
Alan – XD
Kirzten Hun
Janse Ui

As Janse’s car faded from sight, the three friends remained deep in thought. Kenneth was thinking that the lady looked familiar, Warren was so smitten by her beauty, and Choy was thinking that she can be Janse’s hidden girlfriend.

Janse Ui was the younger brother of Alan Ui, their coach. Janse had brought honors to the country too during his days as a basketball player of South Korea. Though they were not able to bring down the Great Wall of China, he and his teammates were instrumental in giving their country a good stand in the medal tally. Now he acts as his brother’s team consultant and is also a businessman. He is engaged to the Kirzten Hun, the beautiful head of one of Seoul’s top modeling agency.

Celebrity reporters often said that both Janse and Kirzten were the perfect match. Though there were very little published facts about Kirzten, it was said that her family in Daejeon, a city located in Central South Korea, were also very rich. Her family is into silk processing, so the grapevine said.

Judith is one of Kirzten’s top models. Kenneth had grown to like the kind owner of the agency. He considered his girlfriend to be very lucky because despite her arrogant ways, Kirzten did not mind at all.

Alan’s players on the other hand have considered Janse as their mentor, he always make time to be with them to help his brother in the training.

‘So shall we call it a day?’ Kenneth asked, looking at his watch.

‘Perhaps we can ask Janse who she is,’ Warren mused, who looked so lovestruck. Choy and Kenneth exchanged fives and laughed and chorused at their friend, ‘FOCUS, FOCUS, FOCUS ON BASKETBALL.’

Inside the car, Janse asked the girl at the backseat of the car, ‘So Nicole, after training in the States, how do you find the training style here in Seoul?’

‘There’s no big difference Janse except that I’m still adjusting to the climate. I’ve been away for years. But then, we still have the same coach so there’s not much problem there,’ she replied at the same time eating the pizza she bought.

Kirzten looked at her half-sister and shook her head. ‘It’s a good thing you’re a tennis player Nicole. Or else you’ll have weight problems with your eating habits.’

She just pouted her lips and continued eating. Janse laughed and winked at her in the car mirror. He glanced at his girlfriend, ‘Don’t you want to take a bite sweetheart? I can hear your stomach growling. What’s the use of a sexy figure if you’ll end up having stomach ulcers.’

Kirzten glared at him. ‘Concentrate on your driving Mr Ui. Nicole, I bought your needed stuff already. I think we should visit the hairdresser tomorrow and see what she can do with your hair.’

Nicole’s almond-shaped eyes widened. She laughed. ‘My dear sister, I’m not one of your Barbie dolls, I’m a tennis player. NO. I don’t need an appointment with the hairdresser.’ She declared stubbornly.

Her sister was about to argue when Janse decided to intervene, ‘Let her concentrate on her training sweetheart. After her tournaments, I’m sure Nicole would welcome your treat to her to the spa or anywhere you women are fond of going.’

Nicole smiled in the backseat and continued eating her pizza.

Days passed and the South Korean sports team became so engrossed preparing for the Asian Games which will be held in Thailand.

Nicole and her teammate, Cielo, have just finished practicing at the Sports Center where almost all the athletes were doing their training.

‘So what do you think of my backhand? I think it has improved, yes?’ Cielo asked Nicole.

‘Cielo there’s nothing wrong with your backhand. In fact it has improved tremendously. You almost beat coach’ Nicole assured her friend.

‘Well, I don’t know about you but I think I’ll go ahead now. I still have some shopping to do,’ Cielo whispered the last phrase to Nicole so their coach could not hear her. Nicole giggled and waved goodbye to her friend.

‘Go ahead. I saw Janse’s car outside the basketball gym. Perhaps he can give me a ride home,’ Nicole told her as she started to gather her sports bag and tennis racket.

At the same instance, Alan, Janse, and the basketball players were emerging at the nearby basketball gym after their morning practice. Kenneth was busy looking for his car keys while Choy and Warren were teasing another teammate. When Kenneth glanced up, he saw a familiar face leaving the tennis court and heading towards them. It was lady angel. Yes she really looks like an angel with her curly hair that barely skimmed her shoulders. Kenneth was about to call Warren’s attention when he saw his friend stopped walking and stared at her also.

‘Janse, Uncle Alan!’ Nicole shouted and broke into a half-run. ‘Janse, can you give me a ride home?’ she gave her sister’s fiancé her sweetest smile and hooked her arm on his arm at the same time. The three other men whirled and Warren openly stared at her. All their other teammates have departed and they were the only ones left with their coach. Who is she, Kenneth’s mind was asking. He cannot explain it but he seemed immediately drawn to her.

‘Sure Nicole, you don’t have to ask. In fact Kirzten just gave me a call to remind me if I can drop you home,’ Janse replied. It was then that he noticed the three players staring at her and Janse smiled impishly. ‘Aha don’t tell me you’re lovestruck with our budding tennis star! Nicole allow me to introduce you to South Korea’s basketball triumvirate, Warren, Choy, and Kenneth, our team captain. Gentlemen, this is Nicole, my fiancee’s sister and SoKor’s tennis pride.’

Tbc 10.20.05


by ‘dilettante’ maia

Cast of Characters:

Kenneth – YXZ
Nicole – SM
Warren – KYZ
Judith – YX
Erika – XYM
Cielo – ZD
Alan – XD
Kirzten Hun
Janse Ui

Kenneth put down his mobile phone. He just had another argument with Judith. Why cannot she understand that even if he wanted to escort her on her night outs, he simply cannot because it would not be good to his physical health as a player. He shook his head and sat on the bed. When he’s up early and would call his girlfriend, most of the times she’s not available because he knew she would still be asleep after a night out with her model friends. When she’s up and wants to go out, oftentimes he would want to be at home to rest after practicing basketball. How could Kirzten tolerate such kind of behaviors from her models, he thought. If I’m Kirzten, I would fire them, Kenneth chuckled.

Thinking of Kirzten brought to mind that lovely face he met that day. Now he knew why she looked familiar. He saw her picture in the roster of the national players. And he recalled Warren’s plea that day as he was driving his car.

‘Kenneth, please help me court her. You’re in good terms with her sister. She’s Judith’s boss surely that would be a plus factor,’ Warren implored.

‘I think you should do it your way pal. What do you think Choy?,’ Kenneth asked their other friend at the backseat.

‘We’ll send her flowers, chocolates, take her with us to have pizza, it seems to be her favorite, and cheer for her during her games,’ Choy suggested.

In the end Kenneth reluctantly agreed to help his friend. Why was he reluctant to do it in the first place? He would often do things for his friend without much thinking but why is he reluctant to help him court Nicole.

‘She’s very beautiful and sweet, and very different from Judith,’ he thought but was suddenly startled where his thoughts were taking him. Warren saw him first, he told himself. He cannot understand it, but went to bed dreaming of angels with lovely curls and holding tennis rackets.

At Kirzten’s apartment, she peeked at her half-sister’s room and saw her watching TV and munching an apple. ‘You had dinner already?’ she looked at her lovingly. She was in her teens when her mother remarried, and when Nicole was born, she became the doting sister, protecting and guiding her. Now she has grown into a beautiful woman and Kirzten’s only disappointment was that Nicole chose to enter into sports instead of following her footsteps and become a model. She was rather tomboyish in her teens and it was a good thing Kirzten had imbibed in her the graces she has learned during her modeling days.

She sat beside her and ruffled her hair. ‘So what did you do today aside from staying in the tennis courts,’ Kirzten asked.
‘I met Uncle Alan’s basketball players today. Umm only three actually, Warren, Choy, and Kenneth,’ Nicole replied and added, ‘Kenneth is the most handsome though.’

Kirzten jerked her head, ‘Oh I know Kenneth Yin, he’s the boyfriend of one of my models, Judith, you remember her?’

‘You’re haughty Barbie doll?’ she replied but she cannot explained why that statement from her sister suddenly crushed her high spirits.

Just then the doorbell rang and Kirzten stood. ‘That would be Janse, we want to finish the wedding guest list tonight. Goodnight Nicole,’ and bent to plant a kiss on her cheek.

Nicole cannot help teasing her, ‘Are you sure you’ll be doing the guest list sister dear?’ and was answered by a flying square pillow.

So he is Judith’s girlfriend, she stood by the window and stared into the dark night. Suddenly she stopped and giggled. ‘What’s happening to you Nicole Zhen, surely you cannot be attracted to Kenneth Yin. No wonder he barely looked at me’ she thought. It was Warren whom she remembered who kept on staring at her.

The following days were a frenzy of activities for the nationals. Alan was worried, he saw the latest tapes from his scout. The Chinese, he already knew their style of play, their players. He was worried about the Filipinos. Alan Ui admitted they are really good. Their Fil-Am players are a force to reckon with. They really knew their basketball. Kenneth as the team captain shared the same views. But he always tell his teammates that they should really do their best and believe that they are the best.

One morning Kenneth was up early. He saw that his mother has sent an early breakfast for him. Now that he’s on training, his mom has tasked herself with preparing his meals, having it sent to him or bringing the food herself to his apartment. It’s a good thing she had it sent today or else she would start chastising him on the advantages of living at home.

He picked up the phone to thank her. Then he dialed Judith’s mobile phone. It just kept on ringing. He ended the call, picked up his sports bag and keys and left.

He was whistling while driving, and was wondering why he has a feeling that something good would happen today. Suddenly he stopped his car and looked at the side mirror. Yes it was her, craning her neck for a cab, she was in her white tennis attire. He didn’t knew they lived in the same area. He got out of the car and approached her.

Nicole was surprised when a red car screeched a few feet from her and Kenneth came out. Her heart was doing a tip-top-tip-top and she cannot understand why. POISE POISE she remembered Kirzten’s usual reminder.

‘Good morning Nicole, are you on your way to the Sports Center? Can I give you a ride?’ Kenneth gave her his enigmatic smile. ‘Please don’t say no’ he added silently.

She hesitated at first but nodded and gave him her sweetest smile. ‘Thank you, that would save me from waiting for a cab.’

Tbc 10.29.05

by ‘dilettante’ maia

Nicole stole a glance at his handsome profile and looked away immediately. He looked so neat in his white shirt under his blue sports jacket. She noticed also that he has nice hands with long fingers, fit for playing the piano rather than basketball.

For lack of something to say she asked. 'Do you intend to join the professional league Ken…Kenneth?' she was hesitant to call him by his first name.

''We've applied for the draft already. Funny, but when I was a little boy, I was a follower of Ivan Lendl. But perhaps tennis was not for me. My father wants me to join the family business but I want to be known differently.'

'You're a graduate of a business course?' she asked.

'Yes in Seoul University. I was with Warren and Choy in another university but I transferred later in SU. What about you, you seemed more appropriate at the fashion ramp like your sister rather than on the tennis courts,' he noticed that she has slim arms and very nice legs. She looks so fetching in her tennis attire. He shook his head and told himself, 'just what are you thinking.'

She smiled at him, 'I like playing tennis. Kirzten's job is boring, it seems I don't have the patience to have a smile pasted on my face while walking in the ramps,' she blurted, his girlfriend Judith coming to mind.

He laughed at her comment, 'But you'll give them a run for their money Nicole because you have a natural smile.'

Her heart leaped. 'Was he complimenting me?'

When they arrived at the Sports Center, he asked hurriedly, 'By the way Nicole, would you like to join us after practice for some pizza?' he hasn't asked the two men yet but he knew Warren would readily agree.

She nodded and gave him her lovely smile, giggled like a schoolgirl, thanked him and waved goodbye. Kenneth stared at her departing back, his mind a jumble of thoughts. 'What have you done to me Nicole Zhen?'

They were at the locker room when Kenneth told Warren, 'I have a surprise for you later,' and proceeded to take his shower.

'Are you sure you won't come with me, please Cielo,' Nicole pleaded with her friend. Cielo looked at her watch, she has a date with her boyfriend. She eyed the three men walking towards the tennis court.

'Oh my Nicole, how I wish I don't have a boyfriend, who among them is courting you? Is it the most handsome one,' Cielo whispered, referring to Kenneth, at the same time pretending to be zipping her racket case.

The four of them proceeded to the pizza restaurant. Nicole enjoyed their company, especially Choy, who is very humorous, but she was a bit uncomfortable with Warren. She caught him staring at her most of the time.

'Ah Nicole, can I ask for your mobile phone number,' Warren asked her.

She hesitated for a moment then slowly dictated the number to Warren. Kenneth pretended to be fiddling with his phone but was actually copying the number also while Choy was busy watching the girls at the opposite table.

That was the start of their friendship. Warren would often call Nicole and often after practice, it was either the four of them would eat at their favorite pizza hangout, 'their western connection' as they would like to call it, or Warren and Nicole would be left by the two men to have their date. Nicole did not want Warren to court her but she has started to consider him as a friend and besides he hasn’t profess anything to her anyway. She hoped she was wrong.

Kenneth had made it a habit to fetch Nicole in the morning as his apartment was only a few blocks away from Kirzten's. One time he dropped by the flower shop before fetching her and when he stopped at their apartment gate, he came out of the car and gave her the flowers. She was delighted. 'From Warren,' Kenneth said. Nicole hid her disappointment by bending to smell the blooms and turned telling him to wait for a while as she'll leave them at their apartment.

Warren was already at the Sports Center when they arrived talking to Alan and Janse.

''Warren thank you for the flowers you sent through Kenneth,' Nicole approached them. It was Warren's turn to be surprised and looked at Kenneth. The latter winked at him and bid Nicole goobye and went inside the gym. He did not want to see her bestowing her lovely smile to Warren.

After that incident, Warren became braver in courting Nicole and that was also the start of Kenneth's flower offering to Nicole with the standard 'From Warren.' And Nicole's dreaded day came when Warren told her of his real feelings. She anticipated it but still she was caught off-guard.

Kenneth was sitting idly in the bar, watching the party people milling around. It was one of those occasions when he gave in to Judith's proddings and escorted her reluctantly. It was not his kind of thing but to prevent further argument, he agreed.

His phone rang and he saw Nicole's number. They've become quite close lately perhaps because of his becoming her 'driver' in the morning as Nicole would term it. Kenneth oftentimes would check on her, make 'sports talk', but actually he just wanted to hear her voice and wanted to know if she's home already after her dates with Warren.

Tbc 10.30.05

by ‘dilettante’ maia

'Hi Nicole, how are you?' he asked eager to hear her voice.

'Kenneth are you resting already? Can I talk to you for a while?' she seemed to be troubled, Kenneth noted.

'Sure, wait for me, I'm coming.' He hurriedly went out to the carpark and it was then he rememberd Judith. He dialed her number, 'Judith, I'll return for you later. Something important cropped up and I have to attend to it.'

'Oh it's okay Kenneth, see you tomorrow, I can always hitch a ride home with friends. Besides if you'll return, I'm sure you'll drag me home before midnight so you can beat your curfew.'

He ended the call, eyebrows raised. How come she's mellow tonight, he smiled and shrugged his shoulders. And when did Nicole Zhen become an important matter to him. He almost laugh and shook his head while starting his car.

Nicole was sitting at the frontsteps of Kirzten's apartment. 'Are you crying?' he asked looking worriedly at her.

'Kenneth you and Warren are best friends, right? What am I going to do, he told me that he loves me.'

Kenneth sat beside her. 'What's the problem with that? My friend's intentions are honorable.'

She was quiet for a while and he thought she really looks so innocent despite her age. 'I don't love him,' she whispered, tears streaming down her face. 'But I don't also want to hurt him because he's become a good friend to me too.' Why can't it be you Kenneth?’, she asked silently.

Kenneth felt like a traitor when he felt elated by her declaration of unrequited love towards Warren. 'Why?' he's confused. 'Is there someone you left in the States,' he tried to tease her.

'I love someone else,' she almost blurted, tears falling again because she knew she can never have him.

'Love's like that Nicole, sometimes when it comes to us, it does not meant that we have to accept it right away. Why won't you give Warren a chance. Just continue going out with him. You never can tell, before you know it, you're head over heels in love with him.'

He offered her his hanky, how he love to wipe those tears from her eyes. 'Oh just another thing, if in the end you can't really love my friend, just be grateful that love was offered to you, but don't be saddened just because you can't love him back.'

They talked for a while and he was glad her smile returned before he bid her goodnight. 'Drive carefully Kenneth and thank you for your time,' she waved at him at the apartment gate.

'You're always welcome Nicole. I hope if I have love problems, I can also ran to you.'

Her face fell sadly but she forced herself to smile hastily, 'Don’t tell me you have those Kenneth Yin. You're girlfriend is very beautiful.' But she once heard at Kirzten's office that Judith likes to pick up verbal fights with her boyfriend often.

Then came the Asian Games. South Korea's contingent were in high spirits as they left Seoul for Thailand. 'BRING HOME THE GOLD' was the battlecry. Janse, as he has promised his fiancee, kept a close watch on Nicole. Janse knew how much Kirzten dotes on her sister.

Everyone were having a grand time. Some were winning, others were losing. It was all in the spirit of sportsmanship. Nicole and Cielo reached the tennis finals in the women's doubles and captured the silver. Nicole swept all sets in the women's singles and during her finals tournament against the Japanese player, most of the SoKor delegates were there. Warren and Choy were noisily cheering, Kenneth sat silently watching, praying that she'll make it.

Kenneth was becoming afraid of his feelings towards Nicole. During the days of the tournament, his admiration for her grew. She was not only beautiful externally, but he knew deep in heart is a very courageous and kind woman.

Unfortunately, Warren has openly shared that sentiment and for the first time in their friendship, he envied Warren. His friend would be one lucky guy if Nicole accepts him. Kenneth's thoughts drifted to his relationship with Judith. It seems to be going downhill. He shook his head, he did not want to think about it now. He focused his attention to the tennis court.

'Nicole Zhen! Nicole Zhen!' the crowd were chanting after the game. It was a close game but she came out of it victorious. She bowed to the crowd, tears of joy streaming down her face. She became the Asian Games darling because of her skills and beauty. And those were the headlines in Seoul's magazines and newspapers days later, PRINCESS OF THE ASIAN GAMES TENNIS COURTS.

Janse and Alan hugged her. Choy gave her a high five while Warren pulled her in his arms. Nicole was uncomfortable but hugged him back. 'You did great, I'm very proud of you,' he can't help giving her a kiss on the cheek. She laughed to hide her embarrassment and called out to Kenneth standing quietly in the background.

'Kenneth aren't you happy for me?' and pouted at him.

Kenneth extended his hands to congratulate her. How he wanted to pull her in his arms and share her happiness. 'Of course, I'm very proud and happy for you FRIEND.'

Nicole wanted to feel those strong arms around her. Her hands seemed to have a mind of their own and instinctively clung to his neck. Kenneth was taken aback but hugged her also. They were a picture of happiness and that was what the cameras caught and published the following day at Seoul's society and sports pages. Kenneth was experiencing emotions for which he has no words, all he knew was that he was happy just to hug her.

Tbc 10.30.05