Arwind Santos' humble beginnings helped him keep feet on the ground following a successful PBA career        
Arwind Santos with wife Ivette during the PBA Chairman's Ball on Tuesday night at the Resorts World Manila. Jerome Ascano

FOR someone who used to play basketball barefoot under the heat of the sun in and around Pampanga, San Miguel Beer star Arwind Santos is honored to be mentioned in the same breath as PBA legends Robert Jaworski and Ramon Fernandez.

Santos can’t help but recalled his humble beginnings after personally watching the documentary film, ‘PBA: A Nation’s Passion’ on Tuesday night at the Newport Performing Arts Theater in Resorts World Manila.

“Walang tsinelas, natuklapan na ako ng kuko, pero laro pa rin. Saka nuon magpapakamatay ka sa paglalaro para sa konting pera,” said the lanky 6-foot-4 forward in recalling his early days of playing the sport in his native town in Lubao, Pampanga.

He fondly looked back at how he’d compete in five-on-five games at cemented courts around Pampanga in a bid to try to contribute to the meager income of the family.

The former FEU ‘King Tamaraw’ added that playing against former pros like 1992 Most Valuable Player Ato Agustin, who would often act as ‘import’ in inter-barangay leagues in Pampanga, helped him measure his skills as a teenager.

“Siyempre, ganado ka, kasi parang dumayo dito ang NBA. Parang sa paglaban namin, gusto mo sabihing, ‘masukat nga kung hanggang saan ang kakayahan ko’ kasi dun mo malalaman kung kaya mo ba,” he added.

Indeed, Santos has come a long way.

Now in his ninth year as a pro, Santos has won a championship with the Beermen in 2011, was named MVP winner, a six-time Mythical First Team, a seven-time All-defensive team member, two-time Best Player of the Conference,  and a Finals MVP.

Behind these long list of accomplishments in the pro league, Santos felt his career as a player is already complete, especially with his name now being mentioned along with the rest of the PBA greats who helped build what the league is today.

Since turning pro,  the 33-year-old Santos said he has become more responsible, learning the ropes of the game and maturing in life through the help of his coaches and teammates.

“Maraming nagbago sa akin mula nung maglaaro ako sa PBA. Unang una, yung maturity ko sa buhay, tapos yung pagiging responsible ko, nandun,” he said.

“Ngayon nagpapakamatay kami, pero mas malaki ang pera dahil sa sweldo, mas malaki exposure, at maraming taong nanonood sa PBA.”

He’s thankful too, since the league gave him a decent livelihood, enabling him to purchase a property for his family, while supporting his mother and siblings as well.


“Kasi kung titingnan mo, kung wala ang PBA, di ko matutugunan ang pangangailangan ng pamilya ko, kaya mabuti na lang binigyan ako ng Diyos ng talent at husay na makalaro ng basketball,” he added.

Follow the writer on Twitter: @richava