I am lucky I guess that my column date this week falls on Christmas eve, giving me a chance to share my personal thoughts on what this season has become for me.
So for this piece, allow me not to dwell on sports, but rather talk on how people can look at Christmas. When I was a kid, I would eagerly look forward to this season for the gifts and some cash I expected to receive, the more, the better.
But for so many years now, the meaning of Christmas has changed completely for me. I have come to realize that this is the time to share one’s blessings in life, instead of how I would describe boxing as a give-and-take affair.
It was in the early 1990s when I first set foot in mystical Mt. Banahaw in Quezon City for a real management team-building conducted by my good friend and psychic Frank Regis. I was with Victoria Court then as VP of Operations, and it was a real eye- and mind-opening experience for me.
Since that time, I have been returning to the place with my family, friends, and other people to share the same experience, more so at the turn of the century when I retired from full time work,
I started doing similar team building, leadership and values formation workshops there.
Truth is, I have done sports team-building for the women’s basketball teams of the University of the East, Centro Escolar University, and last year, the Foton volleyball team, described by Dindin Santiago-Manabat as the best one she has experienced.
Seventeen years ago, I started a small Christmas gift-giving to indigent kids there in Barangay Sta. Lucia, with just 30 kids. The number has grown to a hundred as a lot of people I had brought to Banahaw extended a helping hand. This was my way of giving back to the place that had changed my life.
There was even a time Pilipinas Superliga import and Foton player Katie Messing joined me there, bringing her own gifts for kids. Being white, tall, pretty, and friendly, she was a big hit with the kids.
Unfortunately, with the corona pandemic and all of its travel restrictions, I was forced to forego for the first time this annual Christmas event, a big disappointment for me definitely, but it has not stopped me from continuing with other gift-giving activities.
You see every year for the past many years, every December, together with former students from the Young Journalists Association (YJAM), who I brought to Banahaw, too, we make the rounds of the streets in Makati and Manila, distributing Christmas family packs and toys to street dwellers and kids. A few years ago, I also included the Missionaries of the Poor, a shelter for special kids and abandoned seniors.
Last December 13, together with our newly started sports vlog The SWAB (Sports World And Beyond) team and UE coach Ai Lebornio, we turned over a lot of basic goods to the shelter, plus gifts for the residents.
Then a week later, we were at the NAG center in Addition Hills in Mandaluyong, turning over family packs to homeless people, who were given temporary shelter by the city government. The remaining packs and toys we turned over to a DSWD facility for abused kids, also in Mandaluyong. Proud to say my son JM and his family, Joy and Eunice, were with me there.
On December 30, we will make the rounds of the streets along the South Super Highway and Roxas Blvd. to give out more family Christmas packs and toys to kids.
Please do not think I wrote this to brag about what we do. I did this hoping more people could join me. This is also to acknowledge the many kind-hearted individuals who have been helping out in the past, including ex-PBA players Mike Advani, Fritz Gaston, Estong Ballesteros, Jean Henri Lhuillier and his foundation, Alex Wang, Ai Lebornio, Michael Yulo, Dilip Budhrani and Shan Bommiah, Nisha from SupportOne Manpower Services, my batchmates from Paco Catholic School, Batch ‘72, YJAM, Atty. Rob Avenida and his frat brods, and many others.
Their continued support has enabled me to do this year after year. Thanks to you people.