FORMER San Miguel Beer stalwart Mike Mustre is currently among the medical health workers who’s risking their lives in an effort to help prevent the further spread of the coronavirus pandemic in the United Kingdom.
How he wishes he’s doing it back home in the Philippines.
Mustre is miles away from loved ones in his native land as he’s been long-based in London together with his wife, both nursing patients in a country that holds one of the highest number of Covid-19 cases in the world — 51,608, including its Prime Minister Boris Johnson.
The 6-foot guard, who won five PBA championships during his eight-year stint with the Beermen from 1995 to 2002, is currently employed as a healthcare assistant, a job that is hard to connect to the Commerce degree he obtained at Letran.
He himself wonders how he ended up working in a hospital (St. George’s University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust) when he doesn’t even have a background in nursing or medicine. But he has come to embrace the vocation that has become his calling since 2011 after relocating in the English capital 13 years ago.
“Hindi ko rin akalain na makakapag-work ako sa hospital,” he related to SPIN.ph. “Nasanay na din ako. Dati takot ako sa dugo. Pero ngayon nasanay na. Nakapag-adjust na ako.
“Mabuti nga din na nakakatulong tayo sa mga tao.”
Help for mankind is more than needed at this time as the world tries to endure the dreaded pandemic that has already killed close to 80,000 people, including more than 5,000 in the UK alone.
Although he works in the operating room that specializes in spine and brain surgeries, the second-round draft pick of Sta. Lucia in 1993 PBA Rookie Draft (ninth overall), said everybody is on alert to be assigned in assisting COVID-19 patients.
“Oo madami na (cases dito), sa building namin halos lahat na,” he disclosed. “Kaya dito lahat ng pasyente considered namin as COVID-19 positive.”
Mustre posted on his Facebook page a photo of himself completely dressed in a blue PPE (Personal Protection Equipment) and accompanied with the caption ‘Stay home for us.’ It also carried the hashtag #Frontliner #Stgeorgeshospital #Covid19soldier.
His wife is a nurse who works in a private hospital, but is the one in direct contact with COVID-19 patients as she’s assigned in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU).
“Si Mrs talaga kasi nasa ICU siya. Lahat ng may COVID dito nasa ICU, naka ventilator sila,” said Mike, who turned 52 last January.
He currently works in the hospital for 12 hours four times a week, but expects the working days and hours to be extended given the current health crisis.
“Emergency na, e,” he said. “Naka-lockdown na rin dito kasi dumadami pa ang may COVID-19 [cases]."
A native of Bacolod, Mustre’s wife was the first to move to London before Mike followed suit when it was certain his playing career in the country was over.
The couple has two daughters and two sons, both of whom play basketball. The elder one Terence, a product of Harris Academy in London, was once recruited to play for La Salle, and later had a brief stint with the Kalookan Supremos in the Maharlika Pilipinas Basketball League (MPBL).
His older son has since gone back and joined the family in London. The other son is currently playing for Enderun College.
“Pumupunta siya ng London kapag walang pasok. Pero parang ayaw dito, gusto maglaro ng basketball,” said Mustre, who endeared himself to San Miguel Beer fans with his blue-collar work ethic with the Beermen.
Because of the nature of his work, Mustre admitted he no longer has the time to play ball, or even just get updated on the latest about the PBA.
But his stint in Asia’s first ever play-for league will always be close to his heart, along with the friendship he established while playing for the SMC franchise, first with grand slam coach Norman Black, then later with the late great Ron Jacobs and finally, with former national mentor Jong Uichico.
“Yung series of championships siguro yung pinaka-memorable sa akin,” said Mustre, who had 10 finals appearances with the Beermen, the only team he played for in the PBA after failing to hook up with Sta. Lucia after the 1993 draft.
“And siyempre yung close relationship with the coaching staff and teammates, who I consider my second family.”
Whenever he goes back home for a vacation like last year, Mustre makes sure he gets to see his former teammates.
“Maganda kasi talaga yung naging samahan namin noon,” stressed the guard, who unfortunately never get to win an NCAA title with the Knights during his stay with the Muralla-based school from 1988-90.
And who ended up to be his closest friends at San Miguel?
“Si Freddie Abuda and si Olsen ‘Rah-Rah’ Racela,” said Mustre.
The two Barangay Ginebra assistant coaches for sure, wants nothing but for Mustre and his wife to be safe and healthy in London.
And the same wish as well from the rest of the local basketball community.
POSTCRIPT: British broadcaster and journalist Piers Morgan lauded Filipino healthcare workers in UK for helping ‘save’ people’s lives.
Interviewed in Tuesday’s airing of Good Morning Britain, Morgan referred to the Filipino health workers as ‘unsung heroes.’
“Amazing number of Filipinos working in NHS (National Health Service) are unsung heroes. Thank you to all the Filipinos who are here, doing all this,” he said.
Morgan added, “It is worth bearing in mind when we talk about immigrants in this country, these are the immigrants current saving people’s lives. Coming here and actually enriching our country and doing an amazing job.”