His close friend Rey Nambatac was one of the first to give him a call

By Klyde Manansala | Photo by Tristan Tamayo

Upon receiving news that Jerrick Balanza was diagnosed with a brain tumor, Rey Nambatac was quick to give his former teammate a call to lift his spirits amid the disheartening news.

Nambatac knew he had to stay hopeful while assuring the 22-year-old that better days are coming.

Kinausap ko siya kagabi, sabi ko sa kanya pagsubok lang yan, wag kang masyadong mag-overthink, kailangan mas manaig pa din yung pagiging positive mo kasi pag nagpadala ka sa frustration mo, siyempre mawawalan ka ng gana maglaro,” Nambatac said about Balanza.

While it has always been a quality of the Rain or Shine Elasto Painter gunner to keep a positive attitude on tough situations, Nambatac just couldn’t hold his emotions.

Siyempre malungkot. Kilala ko talaga si Jerrick eh, since high school kami magkasama na kami, alam ko ‘yung hirap na pinagdaanan niya bago niya unti-unti naabot yung mga pangarap niya,” Nambatac said.

Of course, it wasn’t just Nambatac who cheered up Balanza. Letran’s captain ball, Bong Quinto, was the first in the team to learn of Balanza’s condition.

Ine-encourage ko siya, sinasabi ko na, Kaya mo yan. Wag mo ipakita sa asawa mo at sa mga anak mo na ikaw mismo yung nanghihina. Siyempre ikaw pinaghuhugutan nila ng lakas,’” said Quinto after their impressive win yesterday against the Arellano Chiefs.

Quinto also shared how the whole team became emotional after hearing the news, especially head coach Jeff Napa who got teary-eyed while opening up about his player who celebrated his birthday yesterday in the hospital.

“Right now naka-admit na siya. Hindi ko nga alam kung saang posisyon nanood ang loko na yunNaka-monitor naman yun ehNagre-request, birthday niya kasi, na dedicate sa kanya to. ‘Yun naman ang gagawin namin sa kanya e. Dagdag motivation din talaga sa amin para magtrabaho lalo,” said Napa during the post-game interview yesterday at San Juan Arena.

After Letran’s inspired victory yesterday over the Chiefs, the team went straight to the hospital where Balanza was confined to celebrate his birthday.

Letran team pays Jerrick Balanza a visit after their win yesterday against Arellano to celebrate his birthday. Photo/Gelay Davocol

Today, Balanza will undergo brain surgery, and the whole Letran team, whom he had always treated as family, are hoping for his successful operation.

Hindi naman nawala si Jerrick sa team. He’s still part of the team. Kailangan intindihin namin ang health niya, bago ang lahat,” Napa added.

Ang importante dito yung kalusugan niya. Hindi na namin iniisip na wala siya sa court eh. Nakadagdag ng encouragement sa team,” Quinto agrees.

Nambatac also added, “Bago siya operahan magdasal siya ng mabuti, kami nagdadasal din kami na mapabilis ‘yung recovery niya and of course maging successful ‘yung recovery niya.”

Several NCAA players and coaches also expressed on Twitter their support for Balanza.

(For those who are willing to offer cash donations for Jerrick’s operation, you can deposit at: BDO Intramuros with the account name: Colegio de San Juan de Letran, Inc., and account number: 4500003129)