PBA heroes honor wounded soldiers
MANILA, Philippines –They have fought their battles on separate fields. They have won some and lost. But in every war they’ve battled, both have become stronger. It is no wonder that when these warriors met Tuesday, they felt they were of kindred spirits.
“There are battles and wars on the basketball court, but these men fight the real battles, the real wars,” said a teary-eyed Alvin Patrimonio when he and the newly crowned PBA Commissioner’s Cup champion San Mig Coffee Mixers visited the wounded soldiers at the Armed Forces of the Philippines Medical Center in Quezon City courtesy of the Help Raise and Rear and Orphan (Hero) foundation.
“What they’ve done for us, it’ll just make you cry,” said the Philippine Basketball Association’s four-time Most Valuable Player, whose leadership on and off the court has earned him the monicker “The Captain”.
“The sacrifice they’ve made for us, it should be honored,” said Patrimonio.
A big day
Mixers head coach Tim Cone said that their visit was a big day for them, and that every one of their games would be offered to the soldiers – wounded or not.
“This is a big day for us, a big day to tell you that we support you and we always got your back,” said Cone, himself a veteran of many hard fought games.
James Yap, Marc Pingris, Justine Melston, Marc Barroca, Peter June Simon, and import Marcus Blakely were also on hand to boost the morale of the soldiers who seemed to have momentarily forgotten their pain and injuries on seeing their hardcourt heroes.
“It’s definitely a confidence booster for them,” said Brigadier General Normando Santa Ana, AFPMC Commander.
“They could always tell when they come back in action that their favorite players paid a visit to them,” said Santa Ana.
The soldiers, who turned into eager fans, asked for autographs on whatever their idols could write on – paper, shirts and even their bodies.
“Because in war, the soldiers don’t only get physical injuries, they also sustain emotional, mental injuries, and the with the players’ visit, it sure helps them in their confidence,” Santa Ana said.
But it wasn’t all about the players as they too were treated to stories of bravery by the soldiers themselves.
Retired Master Sergeant Emiliano Hemongala, MSgt. Carlos Coberto, and Technical Sergeant Elias Baladjay recounted how physical injuries would never derail them in life.
Hemongala said that during one mission against the combined forces of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front and the Abu Sayyaf, four rocket-propelled grenades took out his group.
“Everywhere around me, my comrades, they were burning, asking for help, I was the only one alive,” Hemongala said.
Hemongala said that he once attempted to take his own life when he was confined at AFPMC but thought otherwise when a captain pulled him back from the second floor window and told him to think about his family.
The real war
“We’d like to know what you’ve been through,” Cone said when he reflected upon the heroism of the soldiers.
Cone said while they fought wars on the parquet floor, the brave men of the military battled to protect the country.
Blakely, the Mixers’ import for the conference, said that their basketball games were easy compared to what the soldiers did on the battlefield.
“What we do is easy compared to what the soldiers went through,” Blakely said. “It’s humbling what they do for us, they are fighting for our safety.”
“Them so excited to see us, I don’t have words for it, it’s the best giving back situation I’ve ever been in,” he said.