LONDON -- Today, 43 years ago, I was born in Victorias Negros Occidental to a single mom who could not face the responsibility of raising an illegitimate son. After she gave birth she gave me to her father's sister and returned to Cebu to enjoy her life as a single woman.
There in Negros I grew up with my adopted family, where my Lola Viring and Lolo Berting Biantan became my instant Nanay and Tatay. Their children auntie Bebet and auntie Inday became my instant sisters.
I grew up full of love. Loved by my adopted family and even by their relatives. I also grew up knowing my real mom as my cousin and my granddad as my uncle.
My Tatay Berting worked in the world famous sugar mill the Victorias Milling Company (VMC) in the 70's when there was a sugar boom in the island of Negros.
Life was so good in that company that we had free housing, hospitalization, electricity and water, free rice and free basic education.
VMC provided everything for us including good private schools. I was so privileged that I studied in the sports mad Don Bosco Technical Institute where we were encouraged to excel in not one but all sports.
From grade 3 until I left the school in grade 5, the Salesians priests and brothers taught me to play basketball, football, baseball, table tennis, chess, athletics, and many more. They taught me the importance of sports in life.
My adopted family was also sports crazy. My Tatay Berting was into body building. He brought home rusting and old train wheels and all kinds of heavy junk just to use for his exercise. At forty then and even during his 50's he was all muscle. Not a single ounce of fat in his body.
My two adopted sisters were also into basketball. They were taller than your average Filipinas.
They were varsity players of their school, the Victorias National High School. My second sister Elizabeth at 5ft10 was the center of the team while elder sister Inday who was 5ft6, was power forward. I used to tag along with them when they represented VMC in the Inter-Sugar Mill Women's basketball summer tournament.
It was also during that time when the Crispa-Toyota rivalry in the PBA existed. The entire family was an all out Crispa supporter. We loved Atoy Co, Philip Cesar, Abet Guidaben, Bogs Adrnado and hated Jawo, Arnaiz and all the Toyota players.
My Nanay Viring and Tatay Berto were also very religious. Nanay grew up in a convent in Cavite before she came to work at the office of her brother in Cebu. It was where she met my Tatay Berto.
I was also a very religious boy and even wanted to become a priest in my teens. During high school, I excelled in sports, being the star center of our varsity team. Aside from wanting to become a priest I also dreamed of becoming a professional basketball player.
But fate was not on my side at 16 years old, I was about to enter the major seminary when my Tatay Berting revealed to my superiors that I was not their true son. He said that he had to reveal this because there is a Canon Law that bars illegitimate sons from becoming priests. I was devastated but my tears of frustration disappeared when my Tatay Berting hugged me and told me that, I remain his son and forever will be.
There and then I decided to be a journalist. But it was the worst time to study college. My Tatay Berting had retired from VMC, He supported me for a year at the University of Negros Occidental-Recoletos and after that I was on my own.
I went back to Cebu and sought the help of my real mom and my granddad. My granddad did not treat me well and my real mom showed no concern.
After a year I left his house and I was on my own. Luckily I ended up at Don Bosco Boys Home in Banilad where I volunteered to care for the orphans at the Home.
The head of the Home then Fr. Leonard Macmanus, took care of me and sent me to college while I was helping them.
It was also at Boys Home where I fell in love with football and my wife Virma. Fr. Mac was half Indian and half English. Just like most Brits, Fr. Mac was football mad. He forced us to play football and coach the children. It was also there that I started to think of sports journalism as a career.
When I finished my Masscom course at the University of San Jose-Recoletos, I was determined to become a sports journalist. Then in 1991, I went to Sun.Star Daily Cebu office to introduce myself to then sports editor Orlando Sanchez. Since the sports section was undermanned, he did not ask much questions and accepted me. And that started my career in sports journalism. And the rest, as they say, is history. God Bless.