This PBA player and his family's triumph from great adversity is all the inspiration you need in this time of pandemic.
BEFORE he made it to the PBA, Allein Maliksi had to rise from the dead. You'll know why in a while.
Even after he found out that he was good enough at basketball to go to school and eventually earn a living from it, Maliksi faced so much adversity that he had to get back on his feet not once, not twice, but so many times that he lost count.
Maliksi isn't ashamed to admit that he grew up dirt poor. Their family lived in a shanty right next to La Loma Cemetery. In fact, long before he played in the PBA, Maliksi said the tombs in the vast cemetery in Manila served as his playground.
"Mama ko walang trabaho, papa ko tricycle driver,” he tells SPIN LIFE. “Nakatira lang kami sa squatters area, sa likod ng La Loma Cemetery. ‘Yung bahay namin, pinagtagpi-tagping plywood. Laro ko nung bata ako, talon-talon sa mga nitso."
When he was around six years old, their humble home had to be torn down to make way for the contruction of the C-3 road, forcing the family to resettle in a relative's house somewhere in Caloocan.
“’Nung gagawin na ‘yung C3, dinemolish ‘yung sa amin kaya nag-transfer kami sa tita ko sa may Caloocan," Maliksi says. "'Yung bahay namin don, sobrang lapit na sa sapa. Tapos lumipat naman kami sa lola ko, ganon din, sahig namin lupa, may mga kahoy lang.”
He can still vividly remember how his father struggled each day to put food on the table. But they got by with the help of friends. Basketball also became his refuge.
“Aral lang ako tapos every tanghali, naglalaro-laro lang kami ng mga kaibigan ko, shoot lang tapos nood sa mga matatanda ‘pag hapon. ‘Yung tito ko dati, gumawa siya ng ring gamit 'yung bakal na hawakan ng balde tapos pinukpok lang sa board. Bola namin, yung Milo pa, lalaro kami mga naka-paa,” he says.
By the time he reached high school, he tried his luck in basketball by trying out for Camarin High School’s varsity team. He missed the cut, so he decided to just join his friends and became a CAT officer instead until his graduation.
His parents, although poor, strived to give him a good education. They enrolled him at University of Manila and, on his parents' advice, he took up a Criminology course.
Maliksi had his first taste of competitive basketball during their college intrams, playing well enough to be elevated to the school's varsity team. That's when he first entertained thoughts of playing in the PBA someday.
There's just one problem: it was so damn hard.
“Natanggap ako sa varsity sa UM, pero sa Camarin pa rin ako nakatira, [kaya] ang layo. Papasok ako ng 7 a.m. na klase hanggang 12 noon, tapos abang ng 6 to 8 p.m. na practice," he recalls. "Ang hirap, hindi ako nakakain ng enough kaya warm-up pa lang pagod na ako, hilo na ako."
Quitting came to mind, but it was never an option for the wiry forward, who soon was able to convince his coach to let him stay in a dorm.
When he finally got to play in the NAASCU, his performance wasn't impressive but he persevered. He was a bench player that was only handed an opportunity to play from time to time. Nevertheless, he was grateful.
But just when things were finally looking up, his mother was diagnosed with a Stage 3 cervical cancer. Trips to the hospital in between classes and practices became his routine, but that didn’t dampen his dreams.
Once when he was invited to Alex Wang’s basketball clinic, he was given a few words of wisdom by the players he considered his kuyas. That's when he realized that to reach his dream, he had to move elsewhere.
“Napansin ko sa UM, magagaling pero hindi sila nakakapag-PBA, so naisip ko baka kulang sa exposure at connections ang players dito,” Maliksi says.
“Kay coach Alex, kasama ko sila Jerwin Gaco, Vergel Meneses, kine-kwento nila sa akin kung paano sila nakalipat, kaya dun ko din naisipan na mag-transfer sa ibang school na may opportunity,” he adds.
When he succeeded in joining a top UAAP school in University of Santo Tomas, eveything was good again in Allein's world. But the reprieve was brief as the player tore an ACL just months into the college season. Worse, his father suffered stroke.
Maliksi was beaten but unbowed.
“Sobrang hirap, naisip ko, hindi ata talaga para sa akin tong dream na to. Pero maraming tumulong sa akin, mga coaches ko, inaabutan kahit papaano,” he says. “Ginagawa kong motivation at pampalakas ng loob ‘yung sitwasyon ng pamilya ko kaya na-e-enjoy ko pa rin. At ‘yung team ko nagpapatatag pa ng loob ko.”
He got to play for the Tigers in the UAAP. After that he moved to the ABL where he mostly rode the bench. Maliksi finally broke out in the PBA D-League where he won MVP honors with the Cebuana Lhuillier Gems, earning enough attention to be made the eighth pick overall by Barako Bull in the 2011 PBA Rookie Draft.
Maliksi says he was an emotional wreck during draft day. “Sobrang kabado ako nung tinawag ako, tapos nung kasama ko na sa stage sila Willie Miller, dun ako naiyak," says Maliksi. "Sabi ko, ‘Ito na ‘yon, ito na ‘yung start ng dream ko.'”
It didn't get any easier from there, no thanks to another serious injury. Story of Allein' life, really.
“First three games ko, masaya, starting five pa ko. Maganda laro ko talaga. Biglang fourth game, na-injure na naman same tuhod from ACL," he says. "Na-trade rin ako papuntang Ginebra, pero bangko ako, ‘yun yung prime days nila kuya Mark Caguioa."
After a few months of rehab, the 6-foot-3 was back on his feet - and determined more than ever. His star turn came during his stint with San Mig (now Magnolia) and he continued to improve as he moved to the Blackwater Elite and to the Meralco Bolts just last year.
In eight PBA seasons, he has won four championships and became an All-Star twice. He also became a three-point shootout champion and earned a call-up from Gilas Pilipinas. Just recently, he signed a new contract with the Bolts.
From his earnings, Maliksi was able to provide a nice, comfortable home to his parents. He has also started his own family, celebrating the arrival of their first baby last January with a wife who he credits for bringing him closer to God.
A success story like no other? You bet. If you ever need an inspiration during this pandemic, you need only to look at Maliksi's triumph against great adversity.
Maliksi says he owes everything to basketball.
“Kung anong meron ako ngayon, sobrang big part yung inoffer ng basketball doon," he says. "Hindi ko actually inexpect na ‘yon ang magiging career ko but being here right now changed my whole life."