Surprise reunion for Ayo

Michael Punongbayan - The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines - La Salle senior men’s basketball team coach Aldin Ayo hadn’t seen Fr. Lino Juta or Fr. Javier San Jose since they parted ways in Sorsogon five years ago so when the priests showed up before the Archers game against FEU at the Filoil Flying V league in San Juan last Tuesday, the reunion was emotional.

Fr. Lino gave Ayo his first coaching job at the helm of the junior and senior varsity teams of Aemilianum College in Sorsogon in 2010. Ayo delivered championships for both teams then went to Manila to seek greener pastures. He joined the Jr. NBA program and earned Best Coach honors then was brought by former pro Glenn Capacio to Kia in the PBA. Ayo was Kia’s fourth assistant coach and video coordinator. Eventually, he landed the head coaching job at Letran and took the Knights to the NCAA title. This year, Ayo moved to La Salle.

“Aldin is a popular figure in Sorsogon,” said Fr. Lino. “He’s humble, quiet and loved by everyone. In barangay leagues, he used to score 50 points in a game. He comes from a well-to-do family. He’s an only child and a three-term Councilor. His family owns large tracts of rice land and a rice mill in Sorsogon and a poultry and piggery in Batangas. His father has passed away. Aldin and his mother share their rice land with tenant farmers. The Ayo and Yuzon families own the biggest rice lands in barangay Basud in Sorsogon. A portion of the rice mill was converted into a gym.”

Ayo was only four months old when he lost his father, a soldier who was killed in an ambush during a military operation in Mindanao. His widowed mother took care of him as a single parent and never re-remarried. She grew the family business on her own and later with Ayo’s help.

Ayo, 38, attended elementary school at St. Louise de Marillac which is supervised by the Daughters of Charity then finished high school at Our Lady of Penafrancia seminary. He enrolled for a semester at Aemilianum then transferred to Letran to explore playing basketball at the NCAA level. Ayo played on two Letran NCAA title teams in 1998 and 1999 with teammates Kerby Raymundo, Jason Misolas and Chris Calaguio.

Back in Sorsogon, Ayo became involved in sports development programs, particularly with the youth. Fr. Javier said Ayo trained kids at Casa Miani, an orphanage run by the Somascan priests. “Aldin rented a house across the street from the orphanage so he could stay close to the kids,” said Fr. Javier. “His dream was to develop kids in the U10, U12 and U15 levels so there would be a succession of players. Since I was in charge of Casa Miani, I became close with Aldin whom I found to be hard-working, dedicated and down-to-earth. He loved the orphans and enjoyed playing basketball with them. He has a big heart for kids.”

Fr. Lino said Ayo is a simple man. “No airs,” he said. “During the Sorsogon thanksgiving festival of Kasanggayahan in October, he would cook barbecue, kaldereta, sisig and pulutan for the people. He would donate turkeys, rabbits and chickens to the Church. When he coached at Aemilianum, he would bring the team to eat at his house after every game, win or lose. He’s a strict disciplinarian and very demanding as a coach. If you’re late for practice, you’ll run laps around the school quadrangle. Once, after a hard practice, he took the team to Mang Inasal and gave a turkey as a prize for the player who could eat the most unlimited rice servings. Someone had seven. He’s very generous. I used to watch Aldin play basketball in barangay games and we became buddies. I saw how people gravitate towards him because of his charisma and good looks so when I became director of Aemilianum, I invited him to be the coach of our varsity which is called the Knights just like Letran.”

Fr. Lino said Ayo set an example to his players by never failing to jog at 5 in the morning with his mentor, former PBA player Dante Gonzalgo and always being punctual. Ayo pointed to Gonzalgo, who played for Magnolia and Ginebra in the PBA from 1984 to 1993, as the biggest influence in his basketball career. He also singled out Letran coaches Binky Favis, Louie Alas and Mollet Pineda for expanding his knowledge of the game.

When Ayo left Aemilianum in 2011, Fr. Lino said it was tearful goodbye. “He asked me to pray for him,” said Fr. Lino. “Of course, I will always pray for Aldin especially since when he left, he gave me his Nike black size 11 shoes, a bottle of red wine and five basketballs. Aldin told me he wants to pursue a coaching career and I gave my blessing. When he coached Letran, I became a Letran fan. Now that he’s coaching La Salle, I’m a La Salle fan.”






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