MANILA, Philippines — His mother, whom he calls his biggest fan, would have wanted him to play — so Nikki Monteclaro did.
Merely hours after his mom Sylvia passed away, Monteclaro mustered enough strength to wear his jersey and step on the court for Emilio Aguinaldo on Thursday in the NCAA men’s basketball tournament.
“Gusto niya kasi na lagi ako nakikita maglaro. Sabi niya sakin lagi, ‘kahit anong mangyari, may sakit ka man o ano, laruin mo,'” Monteclaro said after the Generals’ 49-69 setback to Perpetual.
But a familiar sight on the crowd was gone.
“Naiyak nga ako bago mag-start yung game eh. Kasi lagi ko siya nakikita pag sa bench ako at sa court. Ngayon wala na siya. Pero alam ko proud siya sa akin,” he said.
Sylvia, also the mom of Adamson Falcons’ guard Ryan, succumbed to cardiac arrest at the age of 53 on Wednesday night after days of hospitalization at Medical City.
He said it came as a shock to the Monteclaros, especially to Nikki, who even asked his mother on when she plans to watch his game before she was rushed to the hospital last Saturday.
“Tinanong ko pa siya kung manunuod siya ng opening [ng NCAA] or sa game na lang, malakas pa siya nun, sabi niya sa game na lang daw,” he shared.
But Monteclaro, admittedly a “mama’s boy,” said it took every fiber to be able to suit up for Thursday’s game.
“Sobrang ayaw ko talaga maglaro. Puyat ako at wala sa huwisyo. Pero kailangan ko ito laruin para sa Mama ko,” he said.
Lacking sleep all week, Monteclaro finished with just two points in 14 minutes, missing all but one of six attempts from the field. He also had two rebounds and two miscues.
“Lagi siyang present para sa amin ng Kuya ko, good game or bad game… Never siyang nagkulang sa akin, lalo na sa basketball,” Monteclaro said.
“Siya naging inspiration ko sa basketball. Hindi talaga ako makakapaglaro nung college kung di niya ako pinupush. Pinakilala niya sa akin ang basketball.”
Sylvia Monteclaro’s remains lie at Evergreen Chapels and Crematory (formerly Arlington) in Pasig.