One peso can go a long way, or so we’re often told by an adage often used to emphasize the value of smart spending. But the humble piso can really take you places.
Just ask Mac Belo.
Many know Belo now as one of the best amateur players in the land after his stint with Far Eastern University. It’s one of the more memorable collegiate stories in recent history — carved by an unknown left with large shoes to fill after FEU lost stars Terrence Romeo and RR Garcia to the PBA.
Years later, the shy probinsiyano has become one of the top prospects in the coming PBA rookie draft after an amateur career studded by a UAAP championship with the Tamaraws, a Finals MVP trophy, two gold medals from the Southeast Asian Games and, just recently, a Collegiate Player of the Year award.
Impressive really, but did you know that all these were made possible by a peso worth of cellphone load.
The amazing basketball journey all began for the reticent, lanky kid from Midsayap, North Cotabato when he played well enough in the CHED National Games held at the Philsports Arena years ago to catch the attention of many scouts, including then-FEU coach Bert Flores.
“Malaki na tumitira ng three points. Potential na 3 at 4, tapos 19 lang,” said Flores, when asked what he saw in Belo at that time. “Bihira naman sa Mindanao ‘yung malalaki. ‘Yung nakita ko sa kanya, mabilis na athletic. Sabi ko, puwede ‘to.”
Flores would scout a few more games by Belo and was convinced enough to give his calling card to the young cager.
“Sinabi ko sa kanya, 'Kung kursunada mo FEU, text o tawagan mo lang ako.' Kinausap ko rin ‘yung coach. Bisaya," Flores recalled. "Siyempre kantsawan ‘yung mga teammates niya, sabi, ‘FEU na siya.’”
But it wasn’t just FEU which was interested in recruiting Belo at that time. In fact, he had already been approached by Jose Rizal University before Flores made his pitch. And on his way back to the province, Belo was already awaiting a call from JRU officials.
“Naghihintay ako ng tawag, hindi tumawag,” the 6-foot-3 forward recalled.
It was at that point when Belo remembered Flores’ calling card. It had been some time since he last met the FEU coach, and he was curious if the Tamaraws would still be interested in him.
He had a choice whether to contact JRU or FEU at the time. Unfortunately for Belo, he could only choose one, forced in the situation by the lone peso worth of load left in his mobile phone.
He chose to text Flores, writing: ‘Coach, ako ‘yung naglaro sa CHED National Games, ‘yung number 15.”
Belo recalled that fateful moment: “Nung papunta ako sa school (Notre Dame of Midsayap), piso na lang load ko. Tinake ko na ‘yung opportunity. Binigyan kasi ako ng calling card ni coach Bert. Nagpakilala na lang ako.”
To his surprise, Belo immediately got a response from the then FEU coach.
“Nagulat ako tumawag agad si coach Bert. Nasa tricycle ako nun, hindi ko masyadong narinig. Pagdating ko sa school, doon ko siya nakausap ng maayos. Sabi niya, ‘O, padalhan na kita ng ticket?’ Sabi ko, ‘Coach, wait lang, kausapin ko muna parents ko,’” he added.
The 22-year-old King Tamaraw said his parents were supportive of his decision to try his luck with FEU, especially after he laid out his plans.
“Sabi ko sa parents ko, try ko. Kapag walang nangyari, uwi ako. Pumayag naman sila,” he shared.
As his outstanding college career came to a close, Belo expressed his gratitude to FEU, which gave him the chance to become the best basketball player he can be. And he's excited to move on to the next stage of his career — the PBA.
Regardless of what happens from hereon, he'll be forever grateful to FEU - and thankful for that one text that changed his life forever.
“Nag-enjoy ako sa FEU. Kahit mahirap nung umpisa, na-achieve ko ‘yung gusto ko. Sobrang pasalamat ko sa kanila. Kaya continue ko pa rin ‘yung pagtatrabaho ko at pagbubutihan ko pa,” Belo said.