Samboy on stage
SPORTING CHANCE - Joaquin M. Henson (The Philippine Star) - June 30, 2019 - 12:00am

The spotlight wasn’t on PBA superstar Samboy Lim this time. Yesterday afternoon, Samboy’s only child Jamie walked up the stage thrice during the graduation ceremonies at the UP Amphitheater. Samboy, strapped in a wheelchair, and lawyer Darlene (Lelen) Berberabe were over the moon as their daughter was called on stage thrice – to receive her award as class valedictorian of the UP College of Science and the Joker Arroyo medal for outstanding graduate in math and to deliver a speech in behalf of her co-graduates.

There were 5,050 graduates and 55 finished with summa cum laude honors, including Jamie. A karate black belter, Jaime has made a name for herself even as her parents are widely known as achievers in their professions. Samboy, 57, was a three-time NCAA and nine-time PBA champion. He was on the Philippine team that took the gold medal at the FIBA Asia Champions Cup in Ipoh, Malaysia in 1984 and the FIBA Asia Cup in Kuala Lumpur in 1985. Samboy was a PBA star from 1986 to 1998.

 It was in November 2014 when Samboy collapsed on the bench after starting and playing briefly in an exhibition game at the Ynares Center in Pasig. He was rushed to Medical City in a state of unconsciousness and admitted in emergency without a pulse. Samboy was revived, placed on therapeutic hypothermia for 48 hours and confined for nearly two months. Samboy eventually slipped out of a coma but has remained wheelchair-bound, paralyzed, unable to see and speak. There has been little change since Samboy was brought home over four years ago but his family and loved ones continue to pray that someday soon, he will defy the odds and skywalk back to recovery. For the moment, Lelen and Jamie make sure he is comfortable, cared for and given all their love.

While his brain was adversely affected by lack of oxygen when he suffered cardiac arrest, Samboy occasionally shows signs of emotion and recognition. He smiles, tears and manages a slight laugh. Samboy and Lelen often used to joke whom Jamie took after. The joke was her athletic ability came from Samboy and her intelligence from Lelen who was a summa cum laude graduate and valedictorian herself from UP. Today, Lelen and Jamie still joke Samboy about it and he never fails to smile when they kid him.

Lelen, 50, is president and CEO of Philab Industries and was formerly president and CEO of Pag-IBIG Fund (Home Development Mutual Fund). She earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in philosophy and a Bachelor of Laws degree at UP.

In her valedictory speech, Jamie encouraged her co-graduates “to pay it forward” by continuing to improve themselves, maintaining the core values of science, staying connected “so we can work together,” engaging government leaders or be leaders themselves and keeping a grateful heart. “Kapag isinapuso natin ang utang na loob sa magulang at sa bayan, hindi tayo maliligaw ng landas,” she said.

According to a UP press release, Jamie plans to pursue post-graduate studies in Data Science. She has been accepted as faculty of the UP Institute of Mathematics and will also teach. But Jamie hasn’t given up on her dream of representing the country in the Olympics where karate will be introduced as a regular sport in Tokyo in 2020.

Lelen said an ambulance was on call in case there was a need while Samboy attended the graduation. “He knew how important it was for him to be at Jamie’s graduation,” she said. “We’re both very proud parents. I noticed Samboy shut his eyes tightly during the occasion. I suspect he was trying to hold back his tears. I think he was overcome by emotion. We were at UP since 1:30 p.m. and the affair ended about 5 p.m.” Samboy went with a nurse and a physical therapist.

Lelen said Samboy’s condition is stable but unchanged. “We brought Samboy to the hospital about three weeks ago to correct a fluid imbalance,” she said. “We also had him checked up. He is back to his regular routine and has been cleared. Samboy still undergoes physical therapy thrice a week and occupational therapy once a week.” Lelen and Jamie are calling on Samboy’s friends and fans to continue storming the heavens with prayers for his recovery.

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