Forget the rivalry. This is about brotherhood.
Coach Frankie Lim said as much on the way to the Letran Knights’ dugout today. Lim was a fierce competitor against the Knights back when he coached the San Beda Red Lions to multiple championships and an unblemished season, and is still a fiery rival now that he’s with the Perpetual Altas. But when he faced Letran’s Coach Jeff Napa, Lim wasn’t there to talk about basketball, but to simply hand over an envelope for Jerrick Balanza, whose NCAA season was cut short after being diagnosed with a brain tumor. Inside the package? Cash donated by Lim’s former coaching staff and players from San Beda to help with Balanza’s medical bills.
“What happens on the court, that’s just basketball. This is about helping a guy, a brother out,” Lim said.
The idea sprang from Lim’s online chat group with coaches and athletes he worked with in San Beda. “Sa Viber group namin unang napag-usapan,” Lim added. “We just got to talking and felt that we could help.”
The TV crew covering the game wanted to shoot the turnover of the donation for broadcast, but Lim waved them away, saying he would rather keep it a private affair. We were, however, able to obtain a copy of the letter the Red Lions wrote from Borgie Hermida, who joined Lim in meeting Napa. It reads:
“We, the former San Beda Red Lions who played under head coach Frankie Lim and team manager Mike Advani with Borgie Hermida as team captain, express our solidarity with you during your most challenging time. We join an army of your supportive family, friends, teammates, and fellow ballers who are all behind you as you embark on this major battle against a brain tumor. Please accept this humble assistance from the former San Beda Red Lions. We are one with you, brother! Animo San Beda! Arriba Letran!”
The letter was signed by Mike Advani, coaches Lim, JB Sison, Mark Jomaleza, Ed Cordero, Boni Garcia and Mike Sunga; Yousi Aljamal, Chico Tirona, Bambam Gamalinda, Shaq Taganas, Garvo Lanete, Jake Pascual, Jerome Villanueva, Dave Marcelo, Anjo Caram, Ryusei Koga, Baser Amer, Jaypee Mendoza, Kyle Pascual, Melo Lim, Rome Dela Rosa, James Chua and Hermida.
Napa, meanwhile, shared that Balanza is resting at home after undergoing surgery and that they’re all happy the biopsy was negative for cancer. “Sa bahay lang muna siya kasi iniiwasan ‘yung magka-infection pagkatapos ng surgery, pero we’re all hoping he gets better soon,” Napa shared. “May playing years pa si Jerrick, pinagdadasal namin na makakabalik pa siya.”
“Ang rivalry, sa loob lang naman ‘yan ng court. It’s good to know na sa ganitong panahon, we’re united as one community in the league,” he added with a smile. The Knights would go on to best the EAC Generals, with point guard JP Calvo saying: “Nagte-text kami ni Jerrick. Kahit daw nasa bahay lang siya, nanonood siya ng lahat ng mga laro. Sabi namin, para sa kanya ang season na ito,” Calvo added. “Bawat panalo namin, para sa kanya.”
Lim, meanwhile, said his goodbyes and walk back to his dugout. “We just hope Jerrick gets better,” he said. “That he can go back to competing—back to playing the sport he loves.”