PHOTO: Golden-City Missionaries on Facebook

THE female missionaries behind the viral video of them sharing their faith in a basketball setting was overwhelmed with the response it got, happy that the message they were relaying also got across in a very unique way.

The two missionaries from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints – Sister Estioco and Sister Soriano – were very surprised that the video was able to reach one million views when it went viral on Facebook a month ago.

“Masaya po kami sa naging result ng video,” said Sister Soriano in an interview with SPIN.ph that was facilitated by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. “Marami pong comments. Sobrang thankful po kami na maraming nakapanood. Hindi po namin inexpect na magiging viral. We are grateful na maraming na-inspire sa video namin.”

The viral video showed Sister Soriano encouraging to have a closer relationship with Jesus Christ but under a basketball context, converting a wide array of difficult shots in the process.

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In the video, Sister Soriano was converting three-pointers from everywhere, even from halfcourt. She also shot the ball with her back behind the basket, and seated near the free throw line.

Sister Estioco shared they got the idea from a similar video made by the elders of their church abroad.

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“Ngayon po, we live in an advanced world na lahat ng tao, may technology talaga. Ngayon po, dahil sa pandemic, we were allowed to preach on video call and phone call. Dahil doon, naisip namin na si Sister Soriano, sobrang magaling siya mag-basketball. Nagkaroon ako ng thought na why don’t we use basketball to share the Gospel while also sharing din ‘yung talent or skills na meron kami,” she said.

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Sister Soriano said: “Meron po kaming video na nakita na idea na galing sa mga elders na Amerikano po. Ginaya po namin ‘yung sinabi nila, tinranslate namin sa Tagalog. Kung mapapansin kayo sa video, nakalagay po doon, Tagalog version. ‘Yun din po ‘yung mga scenes, doon din po namin kinuha. May mga pinalitan lang kami kasi ‘yung ibang scenes doon, hindi ko na po kaya.”

Sister Estioco and Sister Soriano said they shot the scenes for one and a half hours, some of the attempts had at least five to 10 takes.

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Sister Estioco’s passion for missionary work

sister estioco, missionary

Currently, Sister Estioco and Sister Soriano are under an 18-month missionary work in Cavite where they preach the Gospel in nearby areas as well as other parts of the country.

“Sa 18 months na ‘yun, mainly ang ginagawa po namin is to teach people about the Gospel po ni Hesukristo. Every morning, meron kaming mga routine. Nagpepray kami. We also do exercise. We study the scriptures and we study as a companion so that ‘yung mga tinuturo namin is really coming from us that’s why we study it and apply it sa buhay namin,” said Sister Estioco, 21.

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Sister Estioco, or Kai to her friends and family, admitted missionary work also has its challenges especially now with the pandemic and COVID-19 still very much a threat. Fortunately, through the help of technology, they continue to reach out to the people. With some restrictions now relaxed, the two missionaries can already go out four times a week, but being careful still in mind.

“Ang missionary work, naglalakad kami sa labas, pumupunta sa mga bahay bahay. Pero gawa ng pandemic, limited po ‘yun dahil social distancing. Kaya sobrang astig po talaga ng Diyos na hindi niya hahayaan na ‘yung gawain po niya ang mag-iistop dahil sa pandemic.”

“Ngayon po na medyo maluwag-luwag na especially sa Cavite, puwede na po kami magpunta sa mga bahay bahay pero set appointment lang po at alam po namin na willing ‘yung pupuntahan namin at safe po doon,” said Sister Estioco, who is on her 17th month of missionary work.

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Sister Estioco finds fulfillment in her work that she had been wanting to do ever since she was young. As she enjoyed learning the Gospel, so was sharing it to others which is why she also decided to do missionary work.

This even as the 18-month missionary work will mean that she will have to leave behind her family for the meantime.

“Ako po talaga, I grew up po talaga sa The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. Habang lumalaki po ako na naiintindihan ko po ‘yung mga doctrines and Gospel na nakapaloob po sa simbahan. As I applied po eto sa buhay ko, nakita ko kung paano ako nito nabibiyayaan at paano ako natutulungan na magkaroon ng mga tamang desisyon sa buhay ko. Mas nakikilala ko ang sarili ko.

“I felt happiness, joy, peace, and hope po talaga sa pag-share or nalalaman ko mismo ang Gospel ni Jesus Christ. At dahil po doon, nagkaroon ako ng desire to share it to other people because I want them to feel happiness po. I want them to feel na may hope. Kahit minsan ngayon po, ang daming problema sa buhay especially sa pandemic. We want them to know that there is hope through the Gospel of Jesus Christ… Sabi nga po sa video namin, dahil kay Kristo, lahat ay posible. Pinapatohanan po talaga namin ‘yun,” said Sister Estioco.

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“We will leave po anything behind… Stop with studies, leave ‘yung family namin, no relationship, bawal po ‘yun and we are going to focus on serving the Lord and his children in teaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ,” she added.

Basketball career of Sister Soriano

female missionary basketball skills sister Soriano

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Sister Soriano’s father couldn’t be prouder by the way she chose to serve the Lord more so since he had a similar path. Oscar Soriano was on his way to actually become a member of the Far Eastern University basketball team alongside Johnny Abarrientos and Vic Pablo, but chose to serve the church.

“Sa totoo lang, ganyan na ganyan ang sitwasyon ko noon,” said Sister Soriano’s father Oscar. “Nung nasa peak ako ng career ko sa pagbabasketball, nai-scout na ako to join FEU. Nakasabay ko sila Johnny Abarrientos at Victor Pablo. Mga almost 50 players ang nag-tryout and every day, maraming tinatanggal and I was one of the few na magiging backup sana ni Johnny Abarrientos… Pero dumating ‘yung mission call to serve the Lord… ‘Yun ang nararamdaman mo sa anak mo na nagseserve siya, naramdaman ko rin siya,” said Oscar.

Does he have regrets on his decision to leave a possible UAAP career?

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“Nagkaroon po tayo ng ganung feeling. Pero alam mo, mas matimbang pa rin ‘yung pagmamahal natin sa ating Panginoon. Nandoon siya. Masaya ako dahil sa nangyari, nakilala ko ‘yung kasama ko sa habambuhay na napakabait at eto, naaruga po sila, sila Sister Soriano, nailagay sila sa tamang landas,” said Oscar, a father of four.

Sister Soriano is Jerzel to her friends and family, and to those who know her, they know she would excel in basketball. Ever since she was young, Oscar said her daughter played nothing but a ball – no surprise that she got involved in sports including basketball.

“Baby pa ‘yan, nung three years old, mahilig talaga siya sa bola,” said Soriano’s father Oscar. “Tinry naming siya sa mga baby dolls tsaka bola, mas bola ang pinipili niya.”

“Si Jerzel, si Sister Soriano, nakita ko na rin potential niya sa basketball kasi meron kaming halfcourt sa street namin. Laging nakikipag-one-on-one sa lalaki na ka-edad niya. Minsan malaki pa sa kanya. Hindi nananalo. Dinevelop ko na siya especially ‘yung shooting ability niya.”

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Sister Soriano said she doesn’t have memories of her playing ball when she was very young.

“Nung bata po ako, sabi nila especially si Daddy ko, naghahawak na talaga ako ng bola at nagdi-dribble. Pero sa memory ko, wala po akong naaalala na ganun. Ako po, sporty po talaga. Varsity po ako sa volleyball, track and field, tapos napunta po ako sa basketball,” said Sister Soriano, 19.

At first, she wasn’t good at all in basketball, Sister Soriano admitted. When she played along with her brothers and friends at a court in their village, she would sometimes be laughed at when she commits mistakes. Her desire to learn grew after that, and Sister Soriano began watching videos on TV and YouTube to improve on her skills.

“Nagulat na lang po ako na marunong na ako mag-basketball at gusto ko siyang i-try sa pagiging varsity. Blessing po ang YouTube at marami akong natutunan,” said Sister Soriano.

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A Kobe Bryant fan, Sister Soriano went to play varsity basketball for her school, and eventually represented Imus, Cavite in provincial meets. So good was Sister Soriano that even though her team lost in the provincial meet, Dasmariñas, the champion team, recruited her to beef up the Cavite selection for the Calabarzon regional competition. Unfortunately, Cavite lost to Batangas in the championship game for the right to represent the region in the Palarong Pambansa in 2019.

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Following her play, Sister Soriano admitted her performance attracted basketball scouts and tried to recruit her for their college programs. But she had a higher calling.

“Noon po, merong nagiiscout pero hindi ko muna binigyan ng pansin dahil I want to serve the Lord po,” said Sister Soriano, who started missionary work just last April.

Sister Soriano said she is also enjoying the learnings and discoveries that have come.

“Sa akin naman po, parehas kami ni Sister (Estioco). I grew up in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints din po. Mga parents ko, member din sila. ‘Yung family ko, tinulungan nila ako na lumaki to always choose the right decision. Lagi nilang pinapaalala sa akin kung gaano kaimportant ‘yung Gospel.”

“As I grew up, I studied the Gospel at inaalam ko talaga kung ano ang kailangan kong gawin dito sa mundong ito. As I pray and read ‘yung mga scriptures, I receive an answer. Mismo sa sarili ko, naramdaman ko rin po ‘yung happiness, peace, and joy na meron sa Gospel ni Jesus Christ.

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On her desire to do missionary work, Sister Soriano said: “Gusto ko siya i-share sa ibang tao at gusto ko rin po maramdaman nila ‘yung peace and happiness and joy na meron sa Gospel. Si Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ na nandiyan po lagi na ginaguide tayo at binebless. Mahal po namin ang Diyos. At isang pagpapakita namin sa pagmamahal po namin sa Diyos ay mag-serve sa kapwa tao po namin.”

What’s next for Sister Soriano

The viral video drew raves from fans, and most likely, the skills of Sister Soriano have already caught the eyes of scouts. When this interview was conducted days after the video went viral, Sister Soriano said she wasn’t aware of any scouts inquiring since their missionary work only allows them to do personal stuff such as checking on their social media accounts every Monday.

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    Following the viral video, Sister Soriano admitted she has thoughts about pursuing a basketball career after her missionary work is done and go to college. With a lot of time in her hands, Sister Soriano said she will leave it up to the Jesus Christ on where He takes her.

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    “Nagdedebate sa utak ko ‘yung career ko po sa basketball at sa course na kukunin ko sa college. Dito po sa mission, fini-figure out ko pa po kung ano po ‘yung best decision po na gagawin ko. Three months pa lang po ako sa mission so mahaba haba ang oras or time na pagiisipan ko mabuti kung ano ‘yung gusto ni Heavenly Father kung ano po ‘yung will niya sa akin,” said Sister Soriano.

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    PHOTO: Golden-City Missionaries on Facebook
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