MANILA, Philippines - Recent Manila visitors Miami Heat coach Erik Spoelstra and sister Monica plan to come back next year, maybe with their Filipina mother Elisa, said his uncle Tony Celino the other day.
Spoelstra and Monica were in town for a week. He came to promote the NBA Fit program. It was the third straight year that Spoelstra has visited here during the offseason. Monica hadn’t been over since she was 7 in 1973. They are the only children of Jon Spoelstra, an American of Irish-Dutch descent, and Elisa Celino of San Pablo.
Spoelstra’s mother, a UP graduate and former Marawi State University professor, hasn’t returned here since her last visit in 1986. She has a sister Esperanza, 73, and two brothers Tony, 68, and Dr. Cecilio, 64, living in the country.
Spoelstra and Monica spent half a day in Los Baños where Tony lives during their visit. Spoelstra conducted a basketball clinic for some 300 players in the 8-18 age range for about two hours at the UP Los Baños gym then met with relatives before heading back to Manila at 9 p.m.
“It was too little time to be with family,” said Tony who used to live in the US. “We’re glad that Erik and Monica reconnected with UP Los Baños where their grandfather was a professor. My sister Esperanza and I finished at UP Los Baños. We are grateful to UP Los Baños chancellor (Luis Rey) Velasco for allowing the use of the school gym for Erik’s clinic.”
Spoelstra and his sister are proud of their Filipino heritage. “They identify closely with their Filipino roots,” said Tony. “They were brought up the Filipino way. That’s why they’re a close-knit family. Erik loves lumpiang shanghai and pansit. He eats in moderation. Monica and he live a healthy lifestyle. We served lechon, puto and other Filipino food when they came. Patikim-tikim lang sila. I think they’d rather eat fruits and vegetables.”
Tony said next year, Monica hopes to visit with her husband Peter Metz and their 4-year-old son Alonzo. “We’re trying to get Elisa to come, too, although she doesn’t like to take long trips,” he went on. “Jon and Elisa live in Portland and she hasn’t been to their Hawaii beachhouse lately. I told Erik when he comes back, to reserve a day for the family. We’ll bring him to a beach where he can rest and relax.”
Tony said Spoelstra, 40, didn’t talk about the NBA. “They’re not allowed to talk about the league because of the lockout,” he said. “With family, it was all catching up with relatives.”
In a STAR interview, Monica said her brother worked hard to get to where he is. “We’re really proud of Erik,” she added. “Even when he was a boy, Erik was always driven. During the NBA Finals, I was so proud of the way he behaved under pressure. He showed a lot of poise. As a family, we support him all the way. Sports is our life. My grandfather was a sportswriter and my father worked with the Portland Trail Blazers.” Monica herself has worked with the Blazers, the Professional Golfers Association of America, the hockey team Mighty Ducks of Anaheim, the Portland Timbers A League soccer team and Nike.
Monica is involved in communications, marketing, public relations and advertising. She is a University of Notre Dame graduate and has a Master of Fine Arts degree in Fiction Writing from the Vermont College of Fine Arts. In the media industry, she is known as a creative communicator with extensive experience in public relations strategizing, key message development, day-to-day media relations, events management and copywriting.Asked if she had a specific itinerary in visiting Manila, Monica said she came to follow her brother wherever he went as their mother’s proxy. A highlight of the trip was meeting relatives in Los Baños. Another highlight was participating in a fun run with Spoelstra to promote physical fitness at the Bonifacio Global City. Several relatives, including Tony, joined in the 3k and 10k runs.
“Erik’s parents are also into the NBA Fit program,” said Tony. “My sister does yoga and aerobic exercises. She and Jon are early risers. They start the day with exercises. They’re a special couple. Every Thursday night, they still go for a dinner date at their favorite corner spot in a Beaverton restaurant they’ve been going to for years.”