Birthday Boy!

by on March 7th, 2015
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I’ll be 35 tomorrow. Before my birthday, I always get sentimental. Nights before the big day, which I sometimes plan to ignore but end up celebrating anyway, I am left in silence, with mixed feelings.

My birthday is always a reflective time for me, a chance to look back at the turning points in my life with a magnified feeling of gratitude for having been, in sequence, a beneficiary, a participant, an eyewitness and a storyteller of the enduring grandeur and transcendence of sports.

I was a skinny, sickly child. I had all the factory defects: migraines, scoliosis, asthma, flat feet. And my kindergarten teacher said I was also poor in school. Not a good start. But my Mom believed there was something in me that could be more. So she sat me down, and tutored me for a full year, until I picked my grades up on my own. There isn’t enough concrete and brick in the world to build a monument big enough to pay tribute to her.

Outside the classroom, I swam every day for two whole years, did painful calisthenics, then played any sport I could break a sweat in. Anything to be better. And as an unexpected side effect of flat feet, it was uncomfortable to stand around. So I ran. A lot.

At 9, I learned the game of basketball from an uncle, and fell in love with it. Of course, I realized that he also brought me along because he wanted to use my ball. But I didn’t mind.

I also became a student of boxing, because I found out my great grandfather, Donato Pangilinan, was a bantam weight champion. But I was just too skinny to indulge in it. Besides, there was already a lot of fisticuffs in basketball, anyway. I loved Ginebra . And Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant are still my favorite NBA players. In our clubhouse in Filinvest, I used to imagine myself, like many kids did, that I was Rudy Distrito, with his layup in the winning basket in Game 7 of the Finals.

In my career in and out of sports, I’ve been in mortal danger at least twice, seen the worst in humanity, and been exposed to things that change one as a person, and not always in a good way. But that also made me stronger, and wiser, and a better man.

I have been privileged to witness greatness unfold, see extraordinary moments take place, and mark the ordinary becoming extraordinary. I have the best job in the world as PR manager, consultant, image builder, cook , waiter, massage therapist, responsible father, a contributor writer for lifestyle and sports, and a production assistant in church.

I have been to many places in and out of the country and have kept many memories from them. I fell in love with the Land of the Rising Sun when I lived there with my mom and sisters from 2001 to 2008. Another country I like is Morocco. I went there in 1999 with my best friend Victor Valbuena. I never thought a desert could look so good, until I saw the Sahara. It is unbelievably breathtaking with literally golden sand and a stunning backdrop of the Atlas Mountains.

The sports lover in me is definitely attracted to Las Vegas, Nevada- the Entertainment Capital of the World popular for its casinos and hotels. Another Nevada city I have visited is Reno, “The Biggest Little City in the World” also known for its casinos. I went to Dallas, Texas for the Pacquiao-Clotty coverage. I was awestruck, like many other boxing fans, by the magnificent $1.15 billion Cowboys Stadium, the largest domed stadium in the world with a full 100,000 seating capacity.

San Francisco is another place I love. I love the climate in SF which is ideal for outdoor sports. But the climate I like best is in sunny Los Angeles. LA has an average of 320 sunshine days and only 35 days with rain, making it summer all year. I have also been to Frankfurt, the financial and transportation center of Germany. Frankfurt is one of the 10 most livable cities in the world. In Asia, I have visited Malaysia and Singapore. Of course, I also went around the places in our beautiful country. Nothing beats home sweet home.

There’s so much to be grateful for. Firstly, for my mother “Nene,” the greatest symbol of enduring love in my life. Thanks, Mom, for keeping me. I know it wasn’t easy. And to my Dad, Jovenal , for giving me a name and a family to be part of. In return, I’ve helped pass his name on to my own offspring.

My mentors – Uncle Anthony Pangilinan, Grand Uncle Manny V. Pangilinan, Pastor Joey Rafael, Pricilla Lopez, Eddie Alinea, my godfather in sports, and Senator Nikki Coseteng. My best friends Dr. Manny Calayan, Pia Macan, Reira Mallari, Rey Fortaleza, Alex Vidal, Maridol Bismark and Jay Lacnit, who are always there to support me. My text and chat buddy Jake Uichico, celebrity friends Amir Agassi, James Yap, Janet Jamora, Tessa Prieto – Valdes, Rufami and Mae Balbuena. Friends who are always around – Mother Isabel De Leon, Giana Maniego, Che Francisco, Isah Red, Tito Ricky Lo, Coach Norman Black, Michael Marley, Injap Sia, Henry Sy Jr. and Raymund Ang.

The beautiful people who make me look and feel good – Ms. Pin Antonio of Salon de Manila, Fem Mariano and Ryan George of F- Salon, Dra. Jean Marquez of the Skin Specialist Clinic. My basketball group, the PMC Pamplona Morning Club, colleagues in Sports Communicators Organization of the Philippines (SCOOOP) and PBA Press. My church – Alabang New Life Christian Fellowship and my New Life Cell group, as well as GFCF in Tokyo, Japan for being part of my family and for changing my life.

I also want to thank those who did not believe or agree with me, since that makes this a free country, where ideas are always welcome.

Thanks for sharing the ride. It’s always a celebration. #

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