SHE'S not just an ordinary mother. Her connection to sports development -- especially basketball -- was deep and legendary that hoop talents around the country are still in a state of shock they're painstakingly grieving the untimely demise of Tagoloan first lady Rita May Roa Sabio.

The wife of Gomer "Enan" Sabio, concurrent mayor of Tagoloan town in Misamis Oriental province, passed away on November 26 due to cardiac arrest.

Rita May, 50, whom celebrity players used to call as "mom" or "tita," will be laid to rest on December 3 at the Golden Haven cemetery in Barangay Bulua, Cagayan de Oro City.

"Panalay" hoopers, particularly those coming from Cebu, will never forget the woman who was so kind, generous and great source of advices whenever they would come and play in the basketball-craze town of Tagoloan for a week during special occasions like fiesta and Christmas celebrations.

In fact, more than a couple of young and impoverished student-athletes of African roots will forever be grateful for having been adopted by Sabio's family so they could continue to study and prosper as varsity players in top universities in Cebu and Manila.

"Yes, tita May was more than a coach and manager sa mga players naa s'ya permi unsay kinahanglanon s'ya ang mag provide. Kon adunay problema s'ya dayon ang mosulbad mao na mga sikat na players walay dli maka ila niya kay grabe mo-atiman. Even ang mga pobreng langyaw (foreign players) like Bassieru Sackor nakahuman eskwela tungod niya," shared Tagoloan sports-in-charge Van Halen Parmis.

"E message ka niya pangumustahon kon oks raba ka. Sobra pa sa inahan ang pag treat nya sa akong mga players. She's part of the planning and was so excited for Tagoloan's impending participation in the coming VisMin Super Cup amateur basketball league. She's thankful nga mahatagan exposure ang mga grassroots talents and was planning gani magpalit isa ka bus na dako sa mga players para sa nindot ug comfort sa pagbiyahe," added Parmis, who is also closely working with the sports program of Tagoloan Community College (TCC).

Known in the community as a down-to-earth woman, Kagawad Rita May Sabio's passing has deeply affected her so-called foreign athlete sons.

"We could only cry and grief. Thank you for being a good mother," sobbed Frederick Elumbi of the University of Cebu (UC) Webmasters in the Cesafi League.

"A good mama of advice. It's so hard especially in this time of pandemic coz she's been there for everyone," wrote Steve Wollas C. Akomo of the UAAP's UST Tigers.

The more heartbroken Sackor of the University of Visayas (UV) Green Lancers Cesafi literally cried a river in his own tribute. "I'll miss you the rest of my life and won't stop loving you for what you've done for me mom. You.. showing me greatness in life. You are my whole world. I love you."

PBA's Mark Andaya, Rey Suerte and Mark Yee were equally devastated.

Andaya in his message via social media account said: "Tita May, isa ako sa nalulungkot at nagulat sa nangyari. Ang kabaitan at tulong mo sa akin. You're in my prayers as well as your family."

Gilas mainstay Suerte sent condolences in behalf of the University of Visayas where he came from.

"Kadtong panahon gikuha 'mi nila aron malipay ang mga tao sa Tagoloan dakong pasalamat nga nahimo 'ming part sa ilang kinabuhi. She's a very good tita."

Mark Yee could not forget the good times.

"Tita May, grabeng heart nga tabang sa amo. Daghan kaayo natabangan. Salamat di ka namo malimtan."