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Forthsky Padrigao’s eyes dart downwards while the tips of his fingers lightly touch, looking much like a humbled child in a position of prayer, asking for absolution.
Following months of deafening silence amid public scrutiny, the now former Ateneo Blue Eagles star shares his side of a controversy involving private videos – past actions, which he admitted, directly and indirectly traumatized some people.
In the last UAAP men’s basketball season, when Padrigao’s name got called on court, it evoked uproar in unprecedented ways.
A sports broadcaster even won’t mention his name, just referring to him as “the Ateneo point guard” as he became online fodder.
“Itong move na ginawa ko is beyond basketball. Gusto kong ayusin yung sarili ko,” said Padrigao after agreeing to an exclusive interview with Rappler.
(This move I’m doing now is beyond basketball. I want to make myself better.)
Padrigao knows he made bad decisions as a teen with some friends, so he isn’t expecting that his words will quickly cast him under a new light.
But his desire to correct past mistakes – which the rising basketball star thought back then was “cool” – will hopefully, he says, help him take concrete steps moving forward, and shape him into someone he himself, can respect as a person.
At the end of July, Padrigao announced his decision to leave Ateneo, where he played for both the juniors and seniors teams, helping lead the latter to a fourth championship in the Tab Baldwin era, in his first campaign as a starter.
The move came following the university’s announcement that Padrigao would be ineligible this upcoming season for failing to meet by a slim margin the university’s required Quality Point Index (QPI) for student-athletes to compete in the UAAP.
The incoming junior was already inactive for a handful of the Blue Eagles’ offseason games, providing an early glimpse of what his future might be.
A former student in Ateneo de Zamboanga, Padrigao’s dream growing up was to finish his studies in Loyola Heights, but that changed when, according to him, he “didn’t feel at home anymore.”
“I left because I wanted a new beginning for me, a new environment kung saan ako pwedeng mas maging maayos na tao, kung saan mas pwedeng tumulong sa akin kung sino pwede tumulong sa akin as a person,” he said.
(I left because I wanted a new beginning for me, a new environment where I can be a better person, where people who wanted to help me become a better person can also help.)
Padrigao admitted that without UAAP training to focus on, the public criticism affected him to a point where he didn’t feel comfortable going to school and purposely missed classes so that he could be by himself.
“I had no problems with my coaches and teammates,” said the 21-year-old standout.
He now spends most days training with local basketball developmental program True Focus to stay in shape.
There has been interest from other collegiate programs for his services as a transferee. A professional basketball team in Asia, for instance, even considered offering him a contract but withdrew their interest after doing further research on his stature.
“Gusto ko muna ayusin sarili ko bago ako makapag-commit kung saan ako mag co-commit,” he explained. “Yun yung importante for me – na matuto sa mga mistakes and from there, try to build again.”
(I want to make myself better first before committing to anything else. That’s what’s important for me – to learn from my mistakes and from there, try to build again.)
Padrigao said he made the mistake of not deleting private videos that a friend had sent him, unsolicited.
The friend later asked Padrigao to send him copies of the videos and it eventually spread online, but according to Padrigao, not by his own doing.
“Yes, I know it was explicit,” he answered when asked about the content. “That was really one of my mistakes. Looking back, I should’ve deleted it right away.”
But he also admitted sending an edited copy of the video, where the people were unidentifiable, to another friend. It was a decision he know regrets.
“Honestly, siguro feel ko noon cool ako. Seryosong diretsuahan lang,” he said. “Never ko naisip before kung ano pwede mangyari years after that.”
(Honestly, I guess I felt back then that I was cool. If I would be straightforward about it. I never thought what could happen years after that.)
Padrigao added: “I’m not justifying it. I know it’s wrong and hindi ko dapat ginawa yun (I shouldn’t have done it).”
There has been speculation if Padrigao sent the videos to others because he was the one in it.
“I want to clarify that I’m not the guy in the video that’s spreading,” he said.
Aside from those two instances, Padrigao denies sharing videos to anyone else or spreading them online.
“Very remorseful,” Padrigao said, reflecting on how he feels about what he did.
“Ayaw ko i-justify na bata kasi ako noon, pero nagkamali talaga ako. I was careless. I didn’t think if tama ginagawa ko or hindi. I’m very remorseful sa ginawa ko.”
(I don’t want to justify what I did just because I was young, but I really made a mistake. I was careless. I didn’t think if what I was doing was right or not. I’m very remorseful for what I did.)
Padrigao also feels remorse for hurting an ex-girlfriend by betraying her trust, saying, “come to think of it, it was putting other people in a certain situation that they don’t deserve,” he said.
“If I ever did cross some boundaries that I wasn’t aware during that time, I’d be more than willing to listen to the other party and ask for forgiveness.”
When asked if it’s true that Padrigao also harassed other women, he denied this, but admitted to behaving inappropriately with his choice of words.
“I know it’s false. May nakausap akong mga girls before during the pandemic, appropriately and inappropriately, but from my understanding, hindi nangyari yung pag ha-harass,” he said.
(I talked to some girls during the pandemic, appropriately and inappropriately, but from my understanding, no harassment happened.)
What happens now?
Padrigao can utter different words to explain his guilt on what has transpired, but concrete actions to follow up on his intentions are arguably more significant.
“For me, counseling is important.That’s the priority,” he said, noting how he immediately plans to seek help.
“But ako mismo, to spark a little bit of change, I’m open to be present sa mga young athletes, young basketball players, or anyone, to share paano yung naging experience ko, ano pwede nila matutunan sa akin, ano yung ginawa ko na hindi dapat nila ma-experience, at hindi dapat nila gagawin.”
(But I, myself, to spark a little bit of change, I’m open to be present among young athletes, young basketball players, or anyone, to share my experience, what they can learn, what I did that they shouldn’t experience and do.)
Padrigao also acknowledges the presence of locker-room talk culture which has been prevalent in Philippine basketball and often includes unjustifiable disrespect towards women.
“I don’t want to say it’s normal because it’s not right, the locker-room talk where we’re talking about women, and I want to do something to change it,” Padrigao stated.
“I don’t have concrete plans. I’m willing to accept help, so if anyone has an idea, I’m open to those type of conversations.”
Whether it’s fair or not is relative to each person’s perspective and experiences, but there will be those who look at Padrigao as unforgivable for the acts he already committed, regardless of the steps he plans to take to make up for his errors – a caveat he accepts.
“I would really understand kung hindi man ako mapatawad ng mga tao, kasi linagay ko sa situation na hindi nila deserve,” he said.
“I don’t even know kung paano nila hinarap yun,” he said about those affected by his actions, “ano pinagdaan nila during that time, so I can’t take it away from them na porke’t nag sorry ako, kailangan patawarin nila ako.”
(I would really understand if people could never forgive me because I put them in a situation that they don’t deserve. I don’t even know how they faced that, what they went through that time, so I can’t take it away from them, that just because I said sorry, they should forgive me.)
Padrigao will also face similar public contempt if he transfers to another university to continue his collegiate career, rendering the prospect of attending classes just as difficult – if not more – than it was in Ateneo, right before his departure.
“We can’t force everyone to be pleased. Yung experience sa Ateneo made me realize kailangan ko tumibay as a person (What I experienced in Ateneo made me realize I should be stronger as a person),” he said.
“Normal sa tao magka-problema. It made me stronger mentally kasi it plays with your mind, yung experience na yun. It’s a learning experience.”
(It’s normal for people to have problems. It made me stronger mentally because it plays with your mind, that experience. It’s a learning experience.)
Does he feel any level of bitterness on how everything has unfolded?
“No bitterness. Kasi nagkamali talaga ako. Part ako ng pagkakamali na yun. Hindi entirely na ako lang, pero nagkamali pa rin ako.”
(I really made a mistake. I was part of that mistake. It wasn’t just me, but still, I made a mistake.)
Padrigao now claims to be on a journey of self-discovery, vocalizing that he’s “discovering how I can be a better man and better person.”
That journey includes resuming his studies, which he feels is even more integral than his athletic career, given its importance; mentorship to become a person his future children can be proud of; and the prospect of doing what he loves, which is to perform on the basketball court.
The emergence of this redefined individual, indelibly marked and shaped by imprints of past events, shall be unveiled by the passage of time. Among those seeking a second chance, a nurturing community becomes the bedrock on which transformation becomes possible. – Rappler.com