ITS old commercial catchphrase says, ‘Iba ang may pinagsamahan.’
San Miguel lived up to that by coming to the aid of ailing former player Joey Mente, who was diagnosed with two tumors – one on his head and chest – and is currently undergoing chemotherapy.
Mente’s former San Miguel teammates recently pooled some cash from their own pockets to help defray the mounting hospital bills of the 5-foot-10 native of Samar, who played for SMB from 2001 to 2005.
The idea was actually brought up during a recent reunion of former San Miguel players at the house of former Beermen coach Jong Uichico.
“Spontaneous lang, we were helping Joey Mente out,” said Uichico, who handled the Beermen from 1999 to 2005 and was Mente’s first coach in the league.
“We tried to help a little bit, a little way we can. Kung anong maitutulong namin,” added the soft-spoken mentor, who’s now with Gilas Pilipinas. “And tutulong ulit kami.”
Among those who showed up during the reunion dinner were Olsen Racela, Danny Seigle, Danny Ildefonso, Dondon Hontiveros, Nic Belasco, Dwight Lago, Art dela Cruz, former deputy Siot Tanquingcen, and Boybits Victoria, who himself just survived his own bout with a rare autoimmune disorder.
Mente, who won the slam dunk title in the 2001 PBA All-Star Week, was part of the 2001 and 2005 San Miguel teams that bagged the All-Filipino and Fiesta Cup championships, respectively.
Uichico recalled Mente was still around the last time members of the two champion team held a get-together at the house of Lago in Greenhills.
“That was the last time I saw Joey,” he said. “I just can’t remember if that was two or three years ago, but he was there.”
Racela, now a member of Barangay Ginebra’s coaching staff under Tim Cone, took it a step further by referring Mente’s case to San Miguel Corp. big boss Ramon S. Ang through SMC sports director Alfrancis Chua, also the Kings’ representative to the PBA board.
Chua personally handed out a financial assistance to Mente’s sister Maytee, during one of Ginebra’s games at the Mall of Asia Arena prior to getting eliminated in the Philippine Cup semifinals.
“Alam mo naman si RSA, he goes out of his way to help other people na walang ingay, especially naging player din naman ng San Miguel si Joey,” related Chua to SPIN.ph inside the Ginebra dugout where he invited Mente’s sister.
The league has also extended monetary help to the ailing guard, who was San Miguel’s first-round pick (10th overall) during the 2001 draft after playing three years for the Iloilo Megavoltz in the defunct Metropolitan Basketball Association (MBA).
Also pitching in was Rain or Shine, the last team (Welcoat) Mente played for in the pro league, as well as former PBA player Mark Telan, who organized a one-day golf tournament called Fore For Mente at the Valley Golf and Country Club to raise funds for the former Lyceum standout.
Mente, 42, who had become a sandlot icon in and around Intramuros where he once stayed during his college years, had undergone operation early this year and went through radiation treatment before going through chemotherapy.
Maytee repeatedly extended her gratitude to all those who had expressed support, financial or otherwise, to his brother, who she said is trying his best to win the biggest battle of his life.
“Malaking tulong po ito para sa aming pamilya. Kung alam nyo lang po kung gaano ang pagpapasalamat ng aking kapatid sa lahat ng mga taong tumutulong po sa kanya,” said Maytee of her older brother, who’s voice and hearing were the first to be affected by his bout with the ‘Big C.’
Uichico was saddened when told about Mente’s condition, especially having remembered him as a ‘very jolly person.’
“After the operation, I haven’t talked to him na. Nagte-text lang ako, but it’s his sister who’s the one replying. Siyempre, you can’t expect din naman na si Joey ang mag-reply,” he said.
“Masayahing tao si Joey, so hopefully yung pagiging masayahin niya makatulong for him to recover.”