Loss of one arm won't stop this guy from standing out in the sport he loves
Sammy Matias lost his left arm in a car accident in 2014, but that hasn't stopped him from competing - and doing well - in open bowling tournaments. Rhoel Fernandez 

AFTER Samuel 'Sammy' Matias lost his left arm in a car accident 12 years ago, one of the first things he did after leaving the hospital was to visit a bowling alley.

“’Lord, kinuha mo na ba 'yung bowling talent ko?’" the 55-year old real estate broker remembered praying at that time. "Nagsintaas ako, parang hindi ko na kaya lahat. Parang ang bigat na ng bola kasi nga isang kamay ko na lang."

A bowler since he was 18, Matias, who is right-handed, got his answer a week later.

"After one week, naglaro na ako. Six games. Naka-200 pa ako. So hindi niya kinuha.”

Matias was in top form again last weekend during the Open Center Monthly Finals of the SM Millionaires Cup at SM Southmall when he momentarily crashed the Top Four before eventually finishing 12th overall in a field of 36 participants on Sunday.

Unlike other para-bowlers, Sammy competes in the open division. He said there are other physically-challenged bowlers but they are not active in open tournaments and instead prefer to compete in leagues.

“Ang nakikita ko lang naa-amaze sila dahil nga lumalaban ako sa mga abled," said Sammy, who considers bowling not just his “only hobby” but his true passion. “Actually ako lang ang nakikita ko na sumasali sa open.” 

Another reason the Olongapo City native takes part in open tourneys is the training it provides him as a member of the Philippine Para tenpin bowling team.

“I compete internationally so these tournaments are a big thing for me. So I won’t be intimidated,” said Sammy, who has already seen action in South Korea and Singapore as part of the Asian and Asean Para Games since being recruited for the team in 2013.

Born and raised in Olongapo City where he resides with his family, Sammy has been bowling since he was 18 years old, saying the sport made him a better person.

“Marami. Hindi lang skill ang mapo-produce mo. Patience, calmness, kailangan relaxed ka and yung attitude mo mababago. Sa behavior and attitude marami kang mage-gain.”

The civil engineering graduate from Columban College considers the mental aspect of the game as the most important.

“Part yung luck kasi 'yun 'yung tawag na breaks. Pero 'yung skill mas marami kang iko-consider - physical, mental at emotional. Pinakamabigat yung mental, doon nagkakatalo.”

It’s this mental fortitude that allowed Sammy to bounce back from that horrific day back in 2014.

He said he was behind the wheel of a Mitsubishi Delica van in the slow lane of NLEX with balikbayan relatives as passengers when they were bumped by another vehicle from behind. The collision caused the van to turn on its side and Sammy bore the brunt of the impact.


“Ang sabi ko, ‘Lord kinuha mo yata yung kamay ko, kukunin mo na ba ako?’" he remembered thinking. "Siguro hindi pa kasi meron pa akong bunso (na pinag-aaral).”

Bowling played a part in his recovery. Despite his left arm being amputated above the elbow, Sammy insisted on going with his family to a bowling alley.    

“After paglabas ko ng hospital nag-bowling na ako. Recovery process? Recovered kaagad ako,” he pointed out. Aside from playing the sport he loves, he was driving a vehicle with a stick shift just three months after the accident.

He admitted the loss of one arm affected his balance but did not totally diminish the skills he needed to compete. Now, he bowls five times a week at the Crystal Lanes in Olongapo City and is also a member of the Playdium bowling club in his home city aside from para bowlers of the Philippine team.

Proof that the loss of one limb won't stop this guy from leaving a mark in the sport he loves.

Follow the writer on Twitter: @rhoelfernandez