ARWIND Santos is grateful for how basketball has changed his life from a pedicab driver to one of the best players in the PBA.
The 37-year-old Santos has enjoyed a fruitful 13-year PBA career following a stellar collegiate stint with Far Eastern University in the UAAP. He has won eight championships with San Miguel with two Finals MVP awards. He has also been named PBA MVP in 2013.
Arwind Santos' humble beginnings
Back in his younger days, though, Santos had to stop schooling for a year to help his father, who was a security guard, augment the family income. At the time, Santos was already a promising basketball player who'd be hired to play as an import in different leagues in Pampanga.
“In 1999, naglalaro na ako pero nahinto ako sa pag-aaral ng isang taon kasi hirap kami konti," he relates. "Pinili ko muna mag-padyak, magpa-ending. At the same time, ginagawa ko ‘yung basketball.”
One time, Santos played as an import using the surname Basilio in Pampanga. At that game, he was spotted by longtime Pampanga coach Alan Trinidad, who knew of Santos’ ability to play.
"Kilala niya ako," recalls Santos. "Napapanood na niya ako sa ibang lugar. Namukhaan ko na siya. Pero hindi niya ako pinrotesta."
Trinidad approached Santos after the game and asked why he was carrying the Basilio name on his back. Santos admitted he was hired as an import for P500. "Malaki na sa akin 'yun. Sabi niya, 'Ganito, eto number ko. Si Delta Pineda naghahanap siya ng player na bubuoin niya.’ Sixteen years old pa lang ako nun.”
Delta Pineda referred to basketball patron and then-Vice Governor Dennis Pineda, currently the governor-elect of Pampanga, who has supported a stable of basketball players for several years.
“Nakapunta ako after a year na kasi namatay tatay ko 2000. Sabi ko kay Delta Pineda, hinatid lang ako ng tatay ko sa inyo,” says Santos. “Ang kinagandahan nito, ako ‘yung isang player na nagningning sa mata ni Vice Gov Delta Pineda. ‘Yung mga anak niya, para ko na ring kapatid."
From the get-go, Santos was honest about his situation as family breadwinner. “Sa akin nakadepende nanay ko at mga kapatid ko. Sabi niya sa akin, 'Pagbutihin mo ang. Susuportahan ko mga pangangailangan mo.'”
Santos would play in different leagues in Pampanga under the Delta squad. His talents were so apparent that he was nearly recruited to play for the Dragons in the defunct Metropolitan Basketball Association (MBA).
“Dapat MBA na ako, inofferan ako P40,000," Santos says. "Humingi ako advice kay Vice Gov. Sabi niya, 'Kung ako sa'yo, wag ka muna magmadali. Puwede ka muna mag-UAAP. Makukuha mo rin ‘yan.' Hindi ako nasilaw sa pera. Natutulungan naman ako at nabibigyan naman ako ng mga pangangailangan ko.”
Santos tried out with different schools in La Salle, Ateneo, and University of the East before landing at FEU.
The rest is history as Santos won three titles with the Tamaraws and became one of the best FEU players in history. He turned pro in 2006 and was selected second overall by Air21.
Arwind Santos' PBA career
Santos was later shipped to San Miguel in 2009 and has been a Beerman since.
He has also proudly worn the country's colors as a member of the national team.
The amazing turnaround in the San Miguel star's life keeps him humbled and well-grounded.
“Wala akong dahilan para ipagmalaki at magyabang kung nasaan ako ngayon," Santos says. "Nakikita lang nila ako maangas sa laro, pero dahil gusto ko manalo. Tactics lang tawag natin diyan. Pero kung sa labas, kikilalanin mo ako, magugustuhan mo ako.”
Because he wants his life to be an inspiration to others, Santos makes it a point to share his story with other people whenever he gets invited to different events.
“’Yun ang mga ginagawa ko, kapag naiimbita ako sa ibang okasyon, fiesta, speaking engagements, hindi nawawala sa isip ko ‘yung mga magagandang bagay na binibigay ng Diyos na akala ko imposible pero naging posible. Nag-iba pananaw ko. Akala ko, hanggang ganun na lang buhay ko. Pedicab hanggang ending. Hindi pala."
He added: “Walang imposible basta magdadasal at manalig ka lang. Kung gugustuhin, pagpapaguran at pagsakripisyuhan mo lang, makukuha mo anuman gusto mo."