For Ronilo 'Onie' Padilla, being thousands of miles away is never a hindrance to fulfilling his post-basketball role to his family.
A retired PBA player known as a reliable anchor in the shaded lane during his playing days, the US-based Cebuano pride is now admirably living up to his new role as a doting provider to his family and basketball coach to his two kids — thanks to Skype, Facetime and other wonders of technology.
Onie is now based in California where he has been a caregiver since his playing career ended in 2003, but that has not stopped him from guiding his son Arnie, a Philippine under-16 team member who recently committed to play for Far Eastern University, and daughter Lymiel, who is quietly making waves by making it to the national training camp of the Jr. WNBA.
Although admitting the difficulty of being away from his family, Padilla feels much pride to see his children following in his career path.
“It's very tough for all of us. It's not that easy when I'm not there personally to guide and teach them about basketball. But I feel so proud and amazed that they followed in my footsteps,” said Padilla in a sit-down interview with Spin.ph a day before he returned to the US after a brief vacation.
Since his high school and college days playing for Cebu College of Commerce, Padilla has been known as a solid player who imposed himself with his tree-trunk physique, which proved to be his calling card in the defunct Philippine Basketball League, where he started to make a name for himself.
After playing for teams like Crispa, Burger Machine and Hapee Toothpaste, Padillla eventually moved his way up to the PBA, where he was drafted by San Miguel in 1997. Following a year in the pro league, the big man transferred to the Pangasinan Presidents in the defunct Metropolitan Basketball Association. That stint did not last long and Padilla made his way back to San Miguel the following year until he called it a career in 2003.
In search of greener pastures, Padilla made his way to the US that same year and has been there for the better part of the decade.
Yet Padilla never failed to fulfill his duties as the head of the family, and at the same time, share his basketball knowledge to his two children.
Padilla’s wife, Arlene, an effervescent presence at the games of Arnie in the Cesafi, even shared how his husband would sacrifice his sleep (because of the two countries’ different time zones) just to watch his son play — uniquely through tablet application Facetime.
“People would be wondering why I’d always be holding my iPad up during the games. That was so Onie would be able to see the (kids in) action,” Arlene said.
Technology was also useful during Arnie’s growing-up years as father and son would spend time in front of the laptop for the elder Padilla to teach his tricks of the trade.
It’s that kind of dedication that has endeared Onie to his family, especially his children who attest to how much of an influence their dad has been in the development of their respective careers.
“Dad is really my inspiration because he plays a big role in my career even though he is not always by my side. He has always told me that I will be making a name for myself. Most of all, he never fails to remind me to remain humble and disciplined,” said the younger Padilla.
“It’s really a huge factor having Dad around. I’ve learned my basketball technique from him and of course, Arnie,” quipped Lymiel, for her part.
The sacrifices are also paying off.
Arnie, a versatile 6-foot-2 forward from Sacred Heart School-Ateneo de Cebu, is set to take his act to the Big City by way of FEU while Lymiel is starting to make a name for herself in the women's game.
Even if he is so far away, Padilla is happy to remain a constant presence in his kids’ lives, be through text messages, e-mails and phone calls.
“Through constant communication I give them advice and motivation especially when they are down or at the peak of their competition. Just to keep them focused and to remind them to never give up and to be humble always,” added Padilla.