Sportscaster Cassidy Hubbarth Connects With Her Filipino Roots Through The Game Of Basketball
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Cassidy Hubbarth Connects With Her Filipino Identity Through Basketball

Photo by Christian Soria

Basketball has been part of Cassidy Hubbarth’s life for as long as she could remember, and the Philippines’ love of the game has allowed the sportscaster to learn more about her cultural heritage while further embracing her Filipino roots.

Basketball has long been ingrained in Philippine culture in a way that could be likened to religion. Makeshift courts are everywhere, children (most notably athletes in the local collegiate leagues) are named after NBA players, and some jeepneys are adorned with faces of the league’s best.

The origins for this love can be traced back to the early 20th century when the country dominated in the Far Eastern Championship Games for more than two decades. This global feat contributed to the cultivation of the nation’s passion for the game, and it immediately spread from one generation to another—becoming a cultural marker for Filipinos all over the world.

For the full-time host and anchor Cassidy Hubbarth, who grew up in a multicultural household with a Filipino mother and a father of German and Irish descent, this basketball affinity was something that her mother shared with her during her formative years in Chicago.

Growing up in the windy city during the 90s, when Michael Jordan and the Bulls were at their peak, Hubbarth’s childhood was filled with regular game screenings that served as a form of bonding for her and her family. She looks back at all the matchups they watched, and every single time, it was her mother who had the most ardent reactions. “You could hear [her] three blocks away,” she recalls, “[and] we always had to tell her ‘Mom, blood pressure!’”

This fervor eventually passed on to Hubbarth, whose path would be led towards sportscasting—primarily reporting from the studios and the sidelines of NBA games.

Photo by Christian Soria

After more than a decade in the industry, she has never felt more attuned to herself than when she is behind the microphone telling stories and interviewing some of the biggest personalities in the league. “People enjoy seeing me, you know, happy to cover the league I love… So if you’re comfortable in your own skin and you’re exploring who you are in this job, that’s going to help you resonate with everyone,” she says.

In parallel, her career also became a catalyst for her own journey towards cultural self-discovery. Through years of covering NBA games, she has had numerous Filipino fans reaching out to her to show their appreciation, and this made her want to tune in more to that side of her lineage. “I think my appreciation for my heritage has grown more over the last few years as an adult than I did when I was younger. I think I took it for granted.”

Hence, at the start of this year, she signed up to co-host a podcast called Hoops Paradise: The Philippines’ Love Of The Game together with Nikko Ramos—the senior brand director of the basketball concept store TITAN. Partnering with Ramos was an apparent choice given his commitment to amplify the stories surrounding the Philippine basketball mania. He does this through different mediums; mostly through the work that he does with the TITAN brand.

An example of which was last year’s partnership with creative Chi Loyzaga Gibbs who paid homage to her late grandfather, FIBA Hall of Famer Carlos “Caloy” Loyzaga, through a pair of TITAN x Nike Air Jordan 2s that she designed. Caloy Loyzaga was part of the national team that clinched a historic bronze finish at the 1954 FIBA World Championship, the highest outing for any Asian team thus far and an addition to a long list of factors that has led the country to its current fascination with the sport.

Dissecting these factors and learning about the country’s basketball origins from Ramos helped Hubbarth develop a deeper understanding, not just of the sport, but of herself and her Filipino roots in relation to it. It gave her a sense of kinship; a profound appreciation that has helped her feel more in sync, more “at home” with this side of her identity. Hubbarth references this by saying, “I think any Filipino I come across, they don’t hesitate to express their love for the game… Filipinos are so passionate in general, like when we latch on to something, it’s just gonna be our thing.”

True enough, basketball has become a uniting factor for many Filipinos, a way for them to stay entwined with their background albeit being thousands of miles away from the motherland. This connection is something that Hubbarth is continuously reminded of whenever she is on courtside duty. “Anytime I’m at games I usually get called out from the stands and it’s 100% a Filipino who’s yelling.” Her response? “I always yell back at them, like without a doubt… that type of love never gets old.”

Photography by Christian Soria. Styling by Denny Balmaceda. Produced by Anz Hizon. Digital editor Andrea Ang.

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