Former De La Salle Green Archers team captain Francis Zamora faces the biggest challenge of his life after throwing his hat into the mayoralty race of San Juan where he will vie against incumbent Guia Gomez.
Speaking just moments after filing his candidacy, the incumbent vice mayor admitted he will be up against formidable odds as he tries to break the 46-year reign in the city of the family of former President Joseph Estrada.
"Mabigat ang laban. they are the strongest and longest political dynasty talagang underdog ako rito. This is the biggest fight of my life, kalaban namin e talagang mayaman at makapangyarihan," said Zamora, scion of another influential family in San Juan who for a long time were allies of the Estrada family.
Zamora, who won two championships with La Salle in the late nineties as a back-up center, said lessons he learned from basketball will serve him well for what he said is the 'biggest battle of my life.'
"Ang maganda rito, anuman ang mga natutunan ko sa basketball, sa pagiging buhay player, nagagamit ko rin sa serbisyo publiko - disiplina sa katawan at pag-iisip at maging magandang halimbawa sa mga kabataan," he added.
"Poise under pressure and leadership - I went through so many UAAP battles, lost some and won some. Atleast I gained a lot of experience," added Zamora, who also had stints with Montana and Welcoat in the defunct PBL.
But more than anything else, Zamora took pride in his loyalty which nonetheless cost him a chance to play in the PBA.
The 6-5 slotman bared that after failing to land at spot at Sta. Lucia which picked him 35th overall in the 2001 PBA draft, he got a call from then Purefoods coach Ryan Gregorio.
Zamora, however, respectfully turned down the offer saying that he wants to show his loyalty to coach Leo Isaac of then Montana team, where he was averaging 10 points and 15 rebounds in his PBL return.
"After I was not signed, I was taken in by coach Leo Isaac of Montana, under him I played the best basketball of my life. I was doing things I never did before, because of the breaks he gave me," he recalled.
"Soon after, I got a call from coach Ryan Gregorio, he asked me if I have a escape clause in his contract, because he needed a big man at Purefoods. But as much as I wanted, I had to beg off because I couldn't turn my back on coach Leo," he added.
Isaac was replaced one week after the Purefoods offer.
"Yun siguro ang sinasabi ko na parang hindi talaga para sa yo. Sa ibang landa ako dinala," Zamora said, adding he took advantage of the cruel twist of fate to chart a new direction for his life.
"Mula nung nangyari 'yun, ako eh nag-aral muli and then eventually, na-expose ako sa pulitika. I helped by dad's campaign in 2004, then I took up a master's course in public administration, then I won as councilor," said Zamora, who was elected San Juan vice mayor in 2010.
Asked if he regretted the lost PBA opportunity, Zamora shook his head.
"No regrets, of course. Up to now, if given the same opportunity, I would stay with coach Leo. Yun nga lang nakakatawa, kasi nawala siya after one week. Parang naglalaro ang tadhana," he laughed.
Still, Zamora bared his desire to play remains to this day.
"Alam niyo, pag nanonood ako ng UAAP at PBA, 'yung desire ko to play is still there eh. Kaya tuwing may laro talagang I go out and support," said Zamora, a former teammate of Don Allado, Mark Telan and Willy Wilson at La Salle.
Asked about the mayoralty race, Zamora bared he is fighting for his city.
"Hindi naman pwede na habambuhay na lang eh sila ang mananatiling may hawak ng aming lungsod. Sa apatnaput anim na taon ang gusto nila eh sa lahat ng posisyon sa San Juan, mayor, vice mayor, congressman sa kanila na rin?" he said.
"May San Juan na sila, may Maynila pa eh. Kaya nag-desisyon na kami na tumayo at lumaban para sa kalayaan ng San Juan," he said.
See interview with Francis Zamora: