Energen U18 squad gets stranded amid floodsBy Jasmine W. Payo
Philippine Daily Inquirer
This youth team batch that already made many sacrifices faced another challenge of an unexpected sort.
As heavy rains pounded Metro Manila on Monday night, the Energen Pilipinas under-18 team continued to practice in preparation for the Fiba Asia U18 men’s basketball tournament set in Mongolia next week.
But such dedication got the young Nationals stranded for 21 hours at SGS gym on Araneta Avenue in Quezon City, one of the worst-hit areas in Metro Manila.
“We don’t usually get to practice complete [due to the players’ school commitments], so we were trying to catch up on practice,” said national youth coach Olsen Racela.
More than just the scheduling conflicts, this youth squad also didn’t enjoy the perks that the previous batches had—from the simple post-game recovery meals to the calendared international training.
They also paid for their own drinks during practice because no one was there to provide them allowance. All they knew was they were doing this for flag and country.
Yet even without corporate backing, this batch of dedicated young men completed a title sweep of the 8th Southeast Asian Basketball Association (Seaba) U18 Championship in Singapore last June.
Energen eventually returned to bankroll the squad for the next two months.
But nothing prepared the team for the last two days when heavy rains stranded them in the gym and forced them to sleep on the basketball court.
As floods continued to rise in the gym’s vicinity the next day, the team had to be rescued in rubber boats.
“Our gym was on the third floor so we felt we were not in danger,” said Racela. “The gym owners were very helpful, they had food delivered. The kids were also shooting around until 12 a.m. Everyone was relaxed. But we saw the flood rising, so we knew we had to be rescued.”
Smart Gilas men’s national team coach Chot Reyes relayed the youth team’s location to Rescue5 PH, which rescued the team in five batches yesterday afternoon.
Racela’s wife, Melissa, also helped in sending out distress calls via the social networking site Twitter.
With Racela were players Jay Alejandro, Isaac Go, Jay Javelosa, Prince Rivero, Kris Porter, Gideon Babilonia, Nick Dalafu, Remy Morada, Rey Nambatac, Mark Olayon, Kyle Suarez, Kent Lao and Mario Bonleon.
Racela also had his five assistants with him, including his brother Nash. Other team staff and some of the players’ family members were also in the 30-man group rescued.
“What an experience for us,” said Racela. “Now that’s what you call team building.”