COMING from a lesser-known school, Alaska star Vic Manuel hopes to serve as an inspiration to players from leagues outside of the UAAP and NCAA.
Manuel is now one of the most established stars in the pro league and earned a recent call-up to the national team. But he swore he knows how hard it is to be outside the two major college leagues, how it is to be discriminated upon.
“Alam ko ang hirap ng lumaro sa mga schools na hindi kasali sa dalawang big leagues. Dun ako galing. Minsan hindi nga player ang turing sa yo ng iba, parang ordinary,” the 6-4 forward of the Aces told SPIN.ph on Thursday.
“May mga pagkakataon talaga na mainggit ka dun sa mga taga-schools na sikat. Kasi sila glamorous tapos kayo parang ordinaryo lang ang turing,” added the 2011 UCAA MVP.
The Licab, Nueva Ecija native said life as a college varsity player at the Philippine School of Business Administration (PSBA) was a struggle financially, saying he had to make do with a meager allowance and handouts from his patron, Crispa legend Philip Cezar.
“Mahirap lang kami, kaya wala akong allowance sa magulang ko. May allowance ang school kaso kulang P150 lang 'yun,” he recalled. “Kaya madalas nun umaasa ako sa bigay ni coach Philip (Cezar), inaabutan nya ko ng P2,500 kada linggo.
"Solve na ko nun,” he said with a laugh.
But at some point, Manuel said he became so embarrassed living off his coach's generosity that he often tried to evade him after their weekend practice.
“Madalas iniiwasan ko si coach nun pag kunwari Friday o Sabado na practice. Dun siya nagbibigay eh. Kasi nahihiya na ko, masyado na kong parasite,” he said.
Manuel led PSBA to the 2011 UCAA title, the school’s first in seven years. And it was Cezar's kindness that convinced him to stay with the Jaguars even after gaining interest from other schools, including UAAP side University of the East.
“Actually, napansin ako ng ibang teams nun sa UAAP at NCAA. May mga kumukuha sa akin gaya ng UE, kaso di ko na ini-entertain," the burly forward said. "Kasi gusto ko tumanaw ng utang na loob kay coach Philip."
Knowing the challenge of trying to rise from such conditions, Manuel said he tries to help current PSBA players in any way he can.
It's his way, he said, of paying forward the kindness of his beloved coach.
“Ngayon, sinusuportahan ko yung team. Kasi alam ko pinagdaraanan ng mga players. Kaya kapag nadalaw ako, nagpapakain ako, tapos sagot ko jersey nila - dalawang sets, kada season,” said the eight-year PBA veteran.
“Yung mga ka-size ng paa ko, binibigyan ko ng sapatos. 'Yung iba naman, hinihingan ko sa mga kaibigan ko at teammates gaya nila Simon Enciso, yun suki ko yun hingan."
Every time he drops by the Jaguars' practice, Manuel said he cites the success of another former PSBA player, Marc PIngris, to convince the players that not being in a major school shouldn't be a hurdle to their success.
“Ang sinasabi ko sa kanila, wag silang ma-intimidate o mainggit sa mga nasa UAAP at NCAA, yan kako ang gamitin nilang inspirasyon para mas mag succeed,” he said.
“Lagi kong pinapaalala sa kanila na, 'Tignan nyo ko, hindi ako galing Ateneo o La Salle, pero kahit papaano, nakikipagsabayan ako sa kanila sa mga ligang nakakalaro ko sila, tulad ngayon sa PBA,'” added Manuel.
“Sabi ko sa kanila, ang basketball hindi nadadaan sa pasikatan o ganda ng uniporme. Sa laro at puso 'yan.”