CHRISTOPHER Juliano is the man behind the booming voice that reverberates in stadiums around the country during MPBL and ABL games.
These days, the man they call 'Top' is in the frontline in the fight against the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
With Luzon island under an enhanced community quarantine, the coliseum barker has returned to his roots to serve as a registered nurse in his hometown of Los Baños, Laguna to help in containing the spread of COVID-19 in the city.
Although his MPBL chores kept him busy, Juliano was still a practicing nurse as a reliever at the Los Baños Doctors Hospital and Medical Center, reporting for duty at least once a month. But when the number of COVID-19 cases rose in the country, Juliano was asked to go back on a regular basis.
He didn't once hesitate.
“Nag-request ‘yung supervisor namin kung puwede mag-duty uli ako,” said Juliano. “Dati regular ako dito pero ngayon, reliever na lang sa ER department. Ngayon, understaff so after kong ma-quarantine, na-clear nila ako, duty na muna ako para makatulong.”
Before the ECQ was declared, Juliano was calling games of the MPBL Southern Division finals between Davao Occidental and Basilan, travelling from Davao City to Lamitan via Zamboanga for the first two games of the series.
When the MPBL was forced to suspend its games due to the coronavirus, Juliano and the rest of the MPBL contingent from Basilan arrived in Manila only a few days after President Duterte announced the ECQ on March 16.
Juliano admitted he had to undergo self-quarantine first before reporting for duty.
“Muntik na ako mag-duty agad eh, pero sinabihan ako ng infection control nurse namin na hindi pa puwede dahil sa travel history, so quarantine ka muna,” he said.
Juliano was recently cleared and has reported to the hospital on Wednesday. Being a reliever, Juliano doesn’t have a regular shift. He worked from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. in his first day back, but that could change anytime.
For now, Juliano said he monitors patients with possible COVID-19 cases, classifying those who could be persons under investigation (PUI) or persons under monitoring (PUM). Juliano also helps out in non-COVID cases but under a strict protocol.
“Ngayon, screen muna namin bago pumasok sa ospital. Walang pumapasok nang basta basta. Follow the protocol muna,” said Juliano.
A Biology graduate from De La Salle-Dasmariñas, Juliano completed his nursing course at St. John and Paul College in Calamba.
“Hilig ko dati ‘yung mga rescue rescue din, ‘yung mga emergency response kaya pinilit ko talaga sa ER. Sa maaksyon. Parang may adrenaline rush,” said Juliano.
But his love for basketball led to a shift in career.
While still a full-time nurse, he became a part-time barker in 2009 beginning with smaller leagues including Liga Pilipinas where he began by trying out as a barker for the Trace Laguna Stallions. Later he also called minor collegiate leagues including the UCAA at a time when PBA star Vic Manuel was still playing for the Philippine School of Business Adminstration (PSBA).
He finally got a break in the ABL where he finally became a barker after sending out several resumes to the league’s website. Juliano even became a reliever to the late Rolly Manlapaz during that time. He has since become a full-time barker, and even coined the call “Ba-ba-ba-Balkman” for Alab Pilipinas import Renaldo Balkman.
He also got the job in the MPBL since its first season, while still calling other collegiate leagues like the UCBL and the NCRAA.
“Nabaligtad nga eh,” said Juliano when asked about the shift in career. “Dati, nag-apply ako abroad sa UK. Siguro 0.5 percent na lang, dumerecho na ako. Hindi ko nakuha pero sunud-sunod naman ‘yung opportunity ko sa basketball.
“Eh since basketball lover ako, sign na rin siguro na i-follow ko muna ‘yung path tutal matagal ko nang gusto maging barker at maging involved sa basketball.”
Even as a barker, there was one incident in the MPBL during the league’s tour in Canada last year where his nursing background came in handy.
“Last time ko nagamit ‘yung pagka-nurse ko ‘yung sa MPBL Canada. Sa eroplano, nagkaroon ng medical emergency. Since puwede naman tayong tumulong, parang nag-monitor lang ako ng pasyente ng mga ilang oras. Nasa may Japan na kami at tinanong na ako if we need to turn around or is it safe to go straight to Vancouver. Critical question na sa akin natapat.
“At that point, (sabi ko) upon assessment, (I told them na) kakayanin na we go straight,” he said.
With sports taking a back seat, Juliano said he never hesitated to help out even though it comes with a great risk on his own health. Currently, he is living in the hospital’s quarters, also for the safety of his family.
“At the back of my mind, meron,” said Juliano, when asked about the fear of acquiring the virus. “Pero ngayon, ‘yung service lang ‘yung una ko munang iniisip. Kailangan lang talaga pumunta sa ospital na protektado na tipong alam mo dapat kung paano makipag-interact sa pasyente na iha-handle mo para safety first. Maaawa ka rin sa mga kapwa nurses mo na pagod na pagod na rin.”
Juliano said the only thing in his mind is answering the call of duty in the country's battle against an invisible enemy.
“Per game kami (as barker), hindi kami monthly. Parang freelance. Hindi mo naman iisipin suweldo dito (as nurse) kasi sa private hospital lalo na sa Pilipinas, mababa lang ang salary," he said.
"More on ‘yung sinumpaan talaga naming oath at tulong na rin para matapos ang pandemic.”