Girmay is from Seattle, Washington where he works as an attorney and with a non-profit that he co-founded.

He recently took a trip to the Philippines, Manila specifically, and it turned out to be an interesting experience. He shares with us what happened.

TN: Why did you initially travel to Manila?

Girmay: We went to Manila for my close friend’s bachelor party.

Photo courtesy of Girmay

TN: What did you learn about the culture as it relates to sports?

Girmay: One thing I learned on this trip is that basketball is huge in the Philippines. There are basketball courts and hoops every few blocks, even on the more remote islands. Children all over wear NBA jerseys and practice their favorite player’s signature moves. When I told kids I’m from Seattle, some of them shouted “Seattle SuperSonics!”, a team that left the city and become inactive way before many of them were born. I was blown away.

Since I’m tall and Black, many children would run up to me in Manila and ask if I played basketball or was in the NBA. My favorite day of the whole trip was when a group of kids invited my friends and me to play basketball with them on the street. I loved seeing them laugh and cheer every time we scored a basket. I loved seeing their crossovers and jump shots. A crowd even formed around us and joined in the cheering.

Photo courtesy of Girmay

TN: How did the joke about you being a famous basketball player start?

Girmay: When we were in a nightclub on New Year’s Eve, I think one of my friends may have jokingly told someone we had a couple of basketball players in our group. That rumor spread like wildfire and the rest of the night was full of funny reactions to people thinking we were professional basketball players.

Related: Why Are Black Travelers Always Mistaken For Celebrities

TN: What are some of the crazy things that happened after your newfound fame?

Girmay: Lots of people approached me and asked for autographs and pictures. The DJ gave me the microphone to speak to the audience, at which point I just congratulated my friend for getting engaged. “Congratulations, Pradeep, everybody make some nooooooise!” People would walk by me and make a basketball shooting motion. The security guards escorted me to the restroom to make sure I didn’t get swarmed by fans. In the restroom, people stopped me to take selfies. Outside the nightclub, people stopped me to take more selfies. Crowds would form around us on the dance floor and cheer us on. Oh, what a time to be alive.

Photo courtesy of Girmay


TN: When you finally realized that the locals thought you were famous, how did you react?

Girmay: It wasn’t immediately clear to me that’s what was happening. When people walked up to shake my hand, smiled at me from across the room, or security guards escorted me to the bathroom, I kept thinking to myself, “people are so nice here!” Once I eventually figured it out, I couldn’t stop laughing. The rest of the night was hilarious.

TN: Do you think you will go back to Manila to continue your famous life?

Girmay: I would definitely revisit Manila. I had a great time. I don’t think this would happen again though. It was just funny a rumor that spread too fast.

Photo courtesy of Girmay

TN: Where can we find you on social media?

Girmay: My Instagram handle is @girmay.