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    This Valientes guard just one of the beneficiaries of Barroca's kindness

    Feb 1, 2023

    UNKNOWN to many, this veteran guard from the Magnolia Hotshots has been helping a number of young players from his hometown of Zamboanga.

    In fact, Mark Barroca not only gives away game-worn jerseys and shoes, he is also giving valuable advice and training to some of his kababayans who are dreaming of following in his footsteps.

    One of them is Zamboanga Valientes’ guard Jeff Bernardo.

    Virtually unknown before the start of the 2023 ABL season, Bernardo is now making heads turn in the ABL with his pesky defense and a breakout game of 10 points, 5 assists and 4 rebounds against the Bangkok Tigers last January 12.

    Jeff Bernardo Valientes

    Asked why he is playing so inspired, Bernardo told Spin.ph that he is only putting to good use some of the advice given him by Barroca in their regular one-hour phone conversations.

    “Lagi kami magkausap sa Messenger, sabi n'ya kailangan mo mag-depensa, kunin mo tiwala ng coach mo, kasi maliit tayo dapat malaki ang puso natin sa loob ng court,” he said, echoing the one-time PBA grand slam champion guard’s message to him.



      “Dapat matapang tayo maglaro. Buo ang puso. May tiwala sa sarili. Dapat aggressive tayo sa depensa at lagging sumunod sa utos ng coach,” were's Barroca words.

      Bernardo bared that he is not the only Zamboanga locals being mentored by Barroca, with his fellow Valientes guards Denver Cadiz (19 years old) and Gino-Jumao-as also receiving guidance from their provincemate.

      “Marami po kaming tinutulungan ni Kuya Mark. Kasi para po sa kanya, malilit ang players ng Zamboanga, pero may puso at disiplina. Motibasyon lang daw ang kailangan,” said Bernardo.

      Mark Barroca shoes

      “Gusto po kasi ni Kuya Mark, after ng PBA career nya may mga taga-Zamboanga na magpatuloy,” he added, mentioning RR Garcia and Mike Tolomia as the other two Zamboanguenos active in the pro league.

      Bernardo is also proud to reveal that he has been receiving hand-me-down shoes and jerseys from Barroca, some of which he put on display in their house in Zamboanga.

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      “Ayaw ko pong gamitin, gusto ko po i-display yun sa bahay kasi anuman po mangyari sa career ko, may babalikan akong memories na minsan po may isang Mark Barroca, na may star ang tumutulong sa akin. Napakabait po ni kuya Mark,” he said.

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      Asked if he thinks he’ll make it to the PBA soon like his Kuya Mark, Bernardo said: “Kaya po. Pangarap ko po talaga maging PBA player, andito ako ngayon sa ABL. Malaking blessings po yun sa 'kin.”

      Barroca, it turned out, has long been going out of his way to help young Zamboanguenos without any fanfare.

      “Nagulat ako alam mo 'yun ha. Si Mark kasi gusto n'ya lang tumulong. Ayaw nya nang ipaalam yun kasi for him, helping doesn’t have to be advertised,” said Barroca's wife Ruselle.

      Like these young players he is helping now, Mrs Barroca bared that her husband also grew up in abject poverty.

      “Alam kasi ni Mark pinagdadaanan ng mga batang players na 'yan, kasi decades ago, andun siya sa posisyon ng mga yan. He was also pennyless,” said Ruselle, who shared that at the time of this interview Barroca was fetching their kids from school.

      Wife Ruselle and mark Barroca


      Ruselle also bared that from his shoe sponsorship, the six-time PBA champion and two-time Finals MVP would often share some of these shoes to other PBA players as well, away from the glare of social media.

      “Oo, nagshe-share din siya ng sapatos sa ibang players na walang sponsorship. Para nga naman di na bumili tapos maliliit lang sweldo nila,” said Mrs Barroca.

      “Alam naman nya kasi na di nya magagamit lahat yun. Dalawa lang naman daw ang paa nya, so shine-share nya. Hala, lagot tayo. Nilabas na natin to, magagalit si Mark,” Ruselle said in between laughs.

      During his struggling days as a young recruit of FEU, Barroca would normally rely on his sister in Saudi to survive. This was before his allowances at the original Smart Gilas and his two Finals MVP stints with Harbour Centre in the PBL came in.

      Now, Mark is giving back and paying it forward.

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