Inspired by dad Noli Banate's story, EmEm longs to pursue own dream in Big City
Cudia 'EmEm' Banate, youngest daughter of former PBA player Noli, has long dreamed of a career in volleyball but rues the few opportunities to play in their hometown of Digos City.

FORMER PBA player Noli Banate's pro career took an unexpected but inspiring path, choosing to live a simple, quiet and decent life as a jeepney driver in his hometown of Digos City at the end of his playing years.

Now another member of his family, his youngest daughter, longs to do exactly the opposite.

Inspired by Banate's life after basketball story which SPIN.ph revisited recently, his daughter Cudia expressed a desire to travel to the Big City and pursue a career in sports, or volleyball to be exact.

[See Former PBA player Noli Banate takes pride in getting four kids through college as jeepney driver]

Now 25 years old, the younger Banate has not given up on her dream of playing in semi-pro volleyball leagues such as the Shakey’s V-League or the Philippine Super Liga. Inheriting her father's height, the 5-foot-9 ‘EmEm’ said she is willing to try out for any team willing to give her a chance.

“Siguro po para sa akin yung lakas ng loob ko po. Hindi naman po kasi masasabi na malakas po ako kasi hindi naman po talaga, pero gagawin ko po lahat para makatulong sa team,” Banate said.

“Magsisikap po ako kasi sayang din naman po ang height kung hindi magagamit po,” she added.

The Human Resource Development Management graduate from Cor Jesu College in Digos City has played organized volleyball before settling down to work as an administrative aide in the city government office of the Department of Public Works.

But naturally, having a pro baller for a father, her first love was basketball.

 “Naglalaro lang po kasi tinuturuan ako ni Papa pero sa school hindi po. High school naglalaro na din po pero laro-laro lang,” said Banate, who took pointers from her father on playing the game.

“Then sa college intramurals, sumasali din po sa basketball. Tapos dati binubuhat niya po ako para maka dunk,” she added. “Sa basketball daw po, dapat hindi palamya-lamya. Dapat matigas katawan, hindi basta-basta nadadala.”

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It was only during college that she was introduced to volleyball with the help of her older brother, and she quickly had a change of heart.

“Actually hindi po ako marunong dati (mag-volleyball) kasi basketball at softball laro ko po, pero mas na love ko na po ang volleyball at tinuruan lang po ako ng kuya ko,” she said.

Banate has played the middle blocker position in competitive leagues in the province as well as for the Cor Jesu alumni team. 

Banate looks up to Alyssa Valdez and the Ateneo Lady Eagles. She also follows the Air Force and RC Cola teams in the PSL and Bali Pure in the V-League. She even recalls playing with Air Force’s Jocemer Tapic and Ange Antiupuesto when they were studying in Davao.

And in 2013, she also went to Lingayen, Pangasinan for the National PRISAA tournament as a member of University of Davao squad that represented Mindanao.

But that was as far as EmEm got in volleyball as she rued the scarce opportunities for an aspiring volleybell player like her in her city.

“Wala na po masyado liga dito sa Digos. Yung college days, marami po pero ngayon wala na masyado. Sa Davao po marami,” she said.

Even so, EmEm keeps training, staying ready for her opportunity as she practices every Tuesday and Thursday at their office and plays tune-up games at her old school with the varsity team.

Much like her workhorse father, she makes up for her lack of refined skills with her solid work ethic and her indomitable will to achieve her dream. 

“Four years po akong naglalaro but until now naglalaro pa rin kung may nag-iinvite [lang] sa amin po,” she said.

 “Sa totoo lang po, malaki po talaga ang natulong ng sports sa akin. Kahit hindi po ako masyadong magaling pero naiisip ko minsan na kaya nga ng iba, dapat kaya ko rin,” Banate added.

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Banate credits her dad for inspiring her to lead a career in sports, considering him as a shining example that a kid from a far-flung province can fulfill a dream if he or she works hard for it.

“Kay Papa naman po idol ko po talaga pagdating sa sports, lalong-lalo na sa basketball kasi kahit sandali lang siya sa PBA pero hanggang ngayon naglalaro pa siya at kayang-kaya pa niya maglaro,” she said.

“Kahit 60 years old na, kaya pa. Kay Papa ko pong nakuhang nag-pursigi kahit hindi ako magaling pero practice lang ng practice,” she added.

What also drives her to hold on to her dreams is the sage advice of her father, which she lives by to this day.     

“Sinabi ni Papa sa amin na dapat mag-pursigi, mag-practice para gumaling at kung tamad kang mag-practice, useless ang lahat ng pinag-hirapan ng kasamahan mo kung ikaw hindi dumaan sa hirap,” she said.

“Hindi ka mag-iimprove kung relax ka lang.” 

Follow the writer on Twitter: @rhoelfernandez