Graduation, a year of wonder

THE GAME OF MY LIFE - Bill Velasco - The Philippine Star

Yesterday, this writer had the distinct privilege and honor to witness the traditional rite of passage of not just one, but two fine young men from a hallowed institution. My sons Vincent and Daniel both graduated from the Ateneo de Manila University, mirroring my own passing through in 1986. It has been a tumultuous ride for the three of us, filled with challenges and obstacles. Looking back, it’s hard to fathom how we did it, if not for the help of the Almighty.

Again, sports helped to lay the proper foundation for these two young men their Mom and I are beamingly proud to call sons. It was through sport that they were able to mold their habits, seek their identity, be with the right friends, ignore vices and forge enduring values. I had very few non-negotiables for them when they were growing up. One of them was “You must have a sport, any sport.” Having survived formative years after being born with asthma, scoliosis, flat feet and migraines, I was praying they would not suffer what I had to go through.

They tried quite a few sports: swimming, running, tennis, aikido. Daniel was a wall-climber from age 9 to 11, displaying a superhuman determination even then. Vince (as he now prefers to be called, I still call him Vincent) was the more artistic, dreamy elder brother, the biggest kid in grade school, the kuya to everyone else. Some parents at the Manila Waldorf School even confessed that they instructed their younger kids to befriend my son the gentle giant so that they would have a protector in school. I even taught PE (basketball, naturally) for a while to be able to keep a close eye on them.

Their transition to high school was made easy by the offer of a basketball scholarship to Benedictine International School. Of course, I stressed that their academics would come first, and never pushed them to excel in sports. I had given up my dream of professional basketball in college knowing I had to search for my biological father at a time when dual citizenship was not yet allowed. So it was my dream, and I could only wait and see if it would became theirs. I also recruited them to host segments on my defunct program “The Basketball Show” in their early teen years. They refused to let me direct or even watch them, knowing fully welI we would watch the footage being edited, anyway. Kids.

For college, they were adamant about entering Ateneo. Being a parent facing double the tuition which was 10 times what my own matriculation cost to begin with, I tried to show them the option of playing basketball for more economical UAAP schools. But no, they had inherited single-mindedness of purpose. They wanted to be Ateneans. I sat down and took a deep breath. Two simultaneous tuitions. Lab fees. Books. School supplies. Extra-curriculars. Wow.

Happily, they pursued the sport we all loved the most, and suited up for Ateneo’s Team B. The Blue Eagles had recruited abundantly, so there was a surplus of players. On the one hand, I was happy they were winning championships. Silently, I prayed that one of my boys would set foot on the court in a UAAP game, and I would move heaven and earth to be commentating that game, one of the dreams I have yet to be fulfilled. But the experience was more relaxed and fun for them with much less pressure, and they enjoyed it for a while, until it was time to do something else. They were actively seeking their passions.

But it was also in my colleague Rick Olivares’ class that I discovered what a brilliant writer Vincent is. Rick was kind enough to share with me my eldest son’s musings about life on Team B, where some of the greatest battles you would ever see on the basketball court would never be televised, and would be played in empty gyms with only a few people lustily cheering on. Truthfully, he is a much better writer than I was at that age, and that is a great thing. Sports was still giving back to me and my family, both through a fellow sports writer and through the game of basketball itself.

Having taught them about Robert Kiyosaki’s concept of residual income, I was not surprised that they also tried their hands at being entrepreneurs, and seeking work even while they were studying to help with personal expenses. Vincent had been doing TV ads since age 5, and started acting in his last year of college, landing a small supporting role on the GMA blockbuster “My Husband’s Lover”. Daniel has likewise done a slew of commercials. Curiously, many of them have required him to take his shirt off. That six-pack must have something to do with it. I guess that’s what being in the gym every day can do. I really should pick up the habit again.

It is a tremendous blessing and relief to see these two incredible men march into greatness, and as both a witness and parent, it is a unique fulfillment to have somehow contributed to their growth as people. We have been through so many trials, yet have managed to weather them all. All we can really do as parents is give our best to provide them what they want most. It can be a heart-breaking experience on both ends, or the deepest fulfillment of all. I learned that you don’t do it for their gratitude and appreciation. Whether or not that comes, it doesn’t matter. You do it because it’s the right thing to do, and because they deserve it.

Congratulations, Vincent and Daniel. You will always be God’s gift to me. And whatever happens, Dad will be here for you. I love you.











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