AS had been his routine each time he stepped on to the hardwood, Nikki Monteclaro would glance at the stands and look for his mother, Sylvia, who always occupied the same seat in the same area of The Arena in San Juan.
Thursday night was different, though. She wasn't there. His mother passed away the night before due to cardiac arrest aged 53.
“Pag nasa court ako, umuupo siya dun sa entrance. Ngayon hindi ko na siya nakikita. Pero alam ko proud siya sa akin,” said Monteclaro, who admit to being a mama’s boy.
Obviously affected by the untimely death, Emilio Aguinaldo College’s starting shooting guard ended up with just two points on 1-of-8 shooting in 14 minutes of play in the Generals’ 49-69 loss to University of Perpetual Help in the NCAA men’s basketball tournament.
“Kaya wala ako sa huwisyo (the last few days),” admitted the 21-year-old shooting guard, who could have opted to sit out the Generals’ opening game in the league, but decided not to.
“Pero sabi ng tatay ko, 'Gugustuhin ba ng mama mo na hindi ka maglaro'?”
The native of Surigao, brother of Adamson point guard Ryan, recalls his fondest memories of his late mother, who had been Monteclaro's top booster and critic, rolled into one.
“Kahit anong mangyari nanonood siya, lagi siyang present. Good game or bad game, sasabihin niya mga mali ko. Yun ang gusto ko sa kanya. Never siya nagkulang sa akin.
“Siya `yung nag-introduce sa amin ng basketball,” Monteclaro added. “Nung high school, hindi ko inexpect na makakapaglaro ako ng college pero pinush niya kami. Kung hindi man ako umabot ng PBA, basta ang importante mapakita ko sa kanya na proud siya sa akin."
The death of his mother was totally unexpected, according to the EAC shooting guard. There had been no signs of illness until last Saturday when she was confined in a hospital in Pasig, where doctors diagnosed a raft of ailments, including pneumonia.
No wonder the pain is so deep.
“Mahirap man pero kailangan maging strong kami. Maging strong sa sarili ko kasi wala na akong maaasahan na mama. Mga decision ko, pag-iisipan ko talaga.”
“Sa ibang tao, hangga’t malakas pa ang magulang niyo, wag niyong pababayaan kasi mahirap mawalan ng magulang,” Monteclaro said.
Now, he’s dedicating the rest of his games to his mother.
“Kahit mapuyat pa ako, maglalaro pa rin ako para sa mama ko.”