RONNIE Matias was expecting to sign a new contract with MPBL team Manila Stars when the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic hit.
Now he's left holding an empty bag.
“Sayang. Pipirma na sana ko ng bagong contract kaso nag lockdown, tapos yun nga mukhang cancelled ang next season ng MPBL kaya nganga,” said the 36-year old forward, a three-time PBA champion with Rain or Shine and San Mig.
From receiving a basic monthly salary, Matias found himself without any income during the quarantine period, forcing the veteran pro and his wife to start selling different products both online and to friends just to make ends meet.
"Napakalabo talaga ng future namin. Kaya need mo humanap ibang paraan para maka-survive,” said Matias, who now sells home-made bagoong, rice, tapang Taal, longganisang Taal and steak.
"Kahit ligang labas na pwede kami rumaket. Wala rin ngayon,” said Matias. "Hanggang kelan kami walang trabaho, yun ang di namin alam."
Fortunately for him, Matias bared that he can count on a steady list of clients that includes his former PBA teammates Ryan Arana, Beau Belga, Carlo Lastimosa, JR Quinahan, Mike Tolomia, Raymond Almazan, and Paul Lee.
He claims to deliver orders to as far as Laguna and Bataan using his SUV.
“Wala, sayang talaga yung Montero ko bugbog, kaso uunahin mo pa ba isipin yan kesa sa pamilya mo?” said Matias, who has always been business-minded, having run Bulaluhan ni Matias in Sampaloc, Manila for some time.
“Nagpapasalamat nga ako sa mga kaibigan ko kasi supportive pa rin sila. Pero di naman sila nagsisisi sa mga tinda ko kasi masarap naman talaga,” he said in between laughs.
“Minsan nga pag nagde-deliver ako ng bigas, napapagkamalan ng tao na ako daw si Francis Leo Marcos. Sabi ko na lang ako sa Francis Leo Matias,” he joked while fixing his hair to mimic the controversial social media personality.
Matias is not alone. A number of MPBL players have also turned into entrepreneurs during the crisis.
Matias said Billy Robles (Davao Tigers) is selling dried fish like pusit, danggit and tuyo, Richard Albo (Davao Tigers) is selling dinakdakan and other cooked meals, Axel Inigo (Pasay) samgyupsal ingredients, Marvin Lee (Manila Stars) seafoods and Joseph Terso (Davao Tigers) is selling Lucban-made longganisa.
"Madami kaming mga players ng MPBL ang nagtitinda na,” Matias said.
The former Rain or Shine mainstay has six children and his parents to support. That is his priority right now, he added.
“Wala eh, gustuhin ko man mahiya minsan kasi nga sinasabi ng iba dati napapanood kami sa TV na naglalaro basketball tapos ngayon tindero kami," he said. "Mahihiya ka pa ba kung magugutom ka naman at magkakanda utang-utang?”
Matias can only hope the hard times are at an end, but he isn't too optimistic. The league has already cancelled its 2020-2021 season and plans to resume the stalled Lakan Season playoffs are still up in the air.
Commissioner Kenneth Duremdes said in a memorandum that no team will be allowed to take a leave of absence during the break, and "advised' ballclubs to give players under contract 20 percent of their monthly salary as allowance.
Sources also bared that MPBL employees have not been receiving their salaries since March 15.
“Sana matapos na agad ito, kasi kawawa talaga mga players saka yung mga trabahador ng MPBL na sa liga at mga laro lang umaasa. Di ka naman pwedeng maghintay ka na lang lagi ng ayuda, pano kung walang dumating?” he said.
“Sana may mahanap na tulong sa ibang players, hindi na bale ako. Kahit kailangan ko rin ng tulong, may kaunting kita naman na ako kasi may mga suki na ko, yun na lang iba na talagang hikahos. Nganga kasi talaga,” he said.