Labagala's guardian angel

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Labagala's guardian angel

Post by Ginebra Tambayan on Wed Dec 28, 2011 3:39 am

Labagala's guardian angel
SPORTING CHANCE By Joaquin Henson The Philippine Star Updated December 28, 2011 12:00 AM

It’s a little-known fact that Barangay Ginebra point guard Rob Labagala had a sister who was bedridden in a state of paralysis for 15 years before passing away at the age of 18 in 1999. Labagala, 27, is one of only two children born to Edgardo, an engineer, and Hylconida, a housewife, in Cebu City.

“Our daughter Edhylgrace was born healthy but when she was three years old, she got sick,” said Labagala’s father. “Doctors drained fluid from her spinal column and she was never the same again. We signed a waiver before the procedure so we couldn’t accuse anyone of malpractice. We never knew what she was sick of. The hospital we took her to is one of the best in Cebu City. Edhylgrace would’ve been 30 today.”

Growing up virtually an only child while his older sister lay in bed, Labagala vowed to make something out of his life, to make his parents proud. And when Edhylgrace died, Labagala knew he had a guardian angel in heaven.

This season, Labagala has emerged as Ginebra’s starting quarterback. Despite standing only 5-9, he plays bigger than his height. Before breaking into the PBA last season, Labagala saw action in the PBL and Liga Pilipinas under coaches Jerry Codinera, Jun Noel, Lawrence Chongson, Carlo Tan and Oliver Bunyi, among others. In every stop, he picked up lessons that built the foundation of his basketball career.

Early next year, Labagala and his long-time girlfriend Marie Alonzo are expecting their first child, a boy. They plan to get married towards the end of the year. “They’ve known each other for seven years,” said his father. “They’re both very dedicated in their careers. They’ve been saving up to start a family. My wife and I live in an apartment about 20 meters from their home in Navotas.”

The tragedy that befell the family has been somewhat assuaged by Labagala’s rise as a basketball star. Labagala knows adversity, hardship and pain. Throughout his career, he has faced daunting odds. There was lingering doubt on his ability to play in a big man’s game because of his size. But Labagala was resolute. Now, he starts at point guard for a team that is loaded with backcourt talent.

Labagala scored eight points in Ginebra’s 106-91 loss to Rain Or Shine in Game 2 of their best-of-three quarterfinal series in the PBA Philippine cup last Dec. 21. That turned out to be the Kings’ farewell game this conference. Labagala scored a career-high 14 points in Ginebra’s 88-83 win over Barako Bull in the eliminations last Dec. 8 – no doubt, with his sister watching from above.

Labagala went to Camp Lapu Lapu Elementary School and finished high school at the University of Visayas before enrolling at the University of the East where he played five years in the UAAP seniors. He labored in the PBL and Liga Pilipinas before applying for the PBA draft last year. Labagala was the Kings’ second round pick. He sat out the first conference of his rookie season then was activated to the regular roster.

* * * *

PBA vice-chairman, Powerade representative to the Board of Governors and Coca-Cola Export vice president for communication and public affairs J. B. Baylon fulfilled a promise recently after the Tigers overcame a twice-to-beat disadvantage to eliminate top-seeded B-Meg in the quarterfinals of the Philippine Cup.

Baylon walked on his knees in an eight-minute midnight journey at the Redemptorist Church in Baclaran. He had vowed to do it if Powerade managed to advance to the semifinals past B-Meg, a highly unlikely proposition at the time.

It all came about when Baylon and Maynilad senior vice president Patrick (Pato) Gregorio, Talk ‘N’ Text representative in the PBA Board, made a wager before the Tigers survived a pair of harrowing do-or-die contests to send the Llamados to an early vacation.

“In one of our sporadic ‘usapang peyups’ text exchanges, Pato and I began discussing the odds of the Tigers, seeded eighth, upsetting league leader B-Meg and being only the third eighth-seed in PBA history, since 1975, to accomplish such a feat,” related Baylon, a UP graduate like Gregorio.

“’I am willing to walk on my knees in Baclaran just for that to happen,’ I texted Pato. Sunday, on God’s day, He delivered His side of the bargain, handing me a victory far more meaningful than most anyone can ever think of. And then He delivered a message – again through Pato, who sent a congratulatory text saying, ‘Boss J. B., I recall your message the other day that you’re willing to walk on your knees in Baclaran …’

“Wow, for someone who is admittedly allergic to many practices of many believers in the Roman Catholic Church, the thought of walking the length of a church central aisle, on my knees, was a romantic notion at best, something ‘kilig’ to think about but nothing more. Yet, here was Pato – maybe a messenger for someone somewhere, with a simple unspoken message: ‘I lived up to my side of the deal – will you?’

“And so, at midnight, accompanied by my friend Jon whom I wanted around as witness, I began what became an eight-minute trek on my knees from the last pew at the rear of the Redemptorist Church to its first. And as I began my slow journey, I was talking in my head: ‘God, I said, You know me, You know that part of me thinks this whole thing is silly but You delivered and now, here I am delivering my part. Thank You.’ It was one of the best eight minutes of my life. Thank you, Pato.”

Gregorio, for his part, sent this text to highlight Baylon’s story: “Ganyan po ka significant ang sports, ang basketbol, ang PBA sa buhay ng bawa’t Pilipino. The game we love touches our heart. God will always find a way to erase the pain, the sorrow and the trials we face in life, in our country. It will teach us to be strong. To have faith. To believe.”

In a word, Gregorio described Baylon’s story as “inspiring.”

Source: The Philippine Star
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