PERHAPS no one among the Rain or Shine family is more affected by the death of team matriarch Margaret ‘Mommy’ Yu more than superstar player James Yap.
It’s no secret the elder Yu, mother of co-team owner Raymund Yu, has been an ardent supporter of the two-time PBA MVP way back from his amateur days when he suited up for Welcoat.
And even when he was already in the pro league and playing for the Purefoods franchise, “Mommy Yu’ remained a silent supporter of Yap by calling him from time to time and giving advice about his personal life.
The 34-year-old shooting guard admitted being taken aback upon learning about the demise of Mrs. Yu, who died on Christmas eve of pneumonia. She was 71.
“Nakakalungkot. Sobrang love tayo niyan ni Mommy,” Yap related to SPIN.ph on Tuesday. “Nawalan ako hindi lang ng isang die-hard fan, pero ng isang nanay na rin.”
‘Mommy Yu’ was a fixture behind the Rain or Shine bench during games – from the team's heyday in the PBL (Philippine Basketball League) down to the PBA.
She never got to see Yap don the Rain or Shine uniform in his return to the franchise following the trade with Star that also involved Paul Lee, but was very happy when she was told about the homecoming.
“Yun lang ang masaklap nun, hindi na siya nakapanood nitong start ng season, kasi nagpapahinga na siya sa bahay,” recalled Yap, who was told about Mrs. Yu’s condition by her personal assistant.
As had been his tradition, Yap visited Mommy Yu at the Welbest office in Pasig earlier this year. It turned out to be the last time he’ll see her alive.
And what’s his fondest memory of her?
The native of Escalante City, Negros Occidental recalled one semifinal series when Star eliminated Rain or Shine. The next time he went to see Mrs Yu at the office, she was wearing an all-black outfit.
“Sabi niya sa akin pagdating, ‘Kaya ako nakasuot nito para malasin ka sa finals,” related Yap with a big laugh. “Masama raw ang loob niya, pero alam mo naman si Mommy, sobrang malambing yun.”
The Hotshots went on to win in the finals.
Just like a player, Mommy Yu also had her game-face on during Star-Rain or Shine matches, according to Yap.
“Kapag game, hahanapin ko yan, tapos kakaway ako kapag nakita ko. Tatango lang yan sa akin. Sasabihin, hala ayan na naman si Mommy game-face na naman,” said the shooting guard from University of the East.
It was only fitting the Elasto Painters won their latest outing in the Philippine Cup against NLEX, 107-97, a few hours before Mrs. Yu died. The team rallied from a 12-point second quarter deficit to pull off the comeback victory against a side led by former coach Yeng Guiao.
“Kaya kami nanalo dahil sa kanya,” said Yap.
The veteran superstar and his YAPsters Club 18 fans paid their respect to Mommy Yu on Monday, bringing along with them flowers and fond memories of Yap’s No. 1 supporter.
“At least makakapag-pahinga na rin si Mommy,” Yap said. “Hindi na siya nahihirapan.”
And rest assured even up there, Mommy Yu will keep on cheering for Big Game James.