CAGAYAN DE ORO, Philippines – His place in UAAP history already secured, the newly crowned UP Maroons‘ finals game hero Joel Diomar “JD” Cagulangan humbly looked back and acknowledged his former mentor who was largely instrumental in bringing him to where he is now.
“Coach thankful kaayo ko sa inyo. Dili nako ni maabot kon wala ko ninyo gitabangan. Salamat kaayo sa tanan,” Cagulangan said in a message to Paul Andrew “Andy” Calingin, his former mentor in Cagayan de Oro City during his equally fruitful years in elementary with the Corpus Christi Grade School.
(I’m very thankful for everything you did for me. I will not be able to reach this success without your help. I’m very grateful for all your efforts).
While the 21-year-old Cagulangan’s heroics ended the UP’s 36-year title drought one memorable Friday the 13th in May – his step-back triple sealing the Fighting Maroons of Diliman’s 72-69 overtime Game 3 triumph over the three-time defending champion Ateneo Blue Eagles – he also readily dedicated it to a fallen comrade.
“Yes, I know. That winning basket was also for Pao-pao. And it’s very comforting that he never forgot their friendship on and off the court,” said Calingin of his son Paulo Antonio Ceasar “Pao-pao” Calingin.
Pao-pao was also 21 when he died last year after a week-long battle with arteriovenous malformation (AVM) in his brain.
Together, JD and Pao-pao spearheaded the Corpus Christi Baby Knights-powered Northern Mindanao team’s first ever gold finish in the 2013 Palarong Pambansa basketball in Dumaguete City.
“Cagayan de Oro needed just the arrival of a little kid from Butuan we fondly called with his nickname ‘Mai-mai’ to end Northern Mindanao’s nearly seven-decade misery in Palaro basketball,” said Calingin’s bench assistant Carlomagno Dagalea.
Calingin told Rappler that Cagulangan used to score 40 to 50 points in the small basketeers’ league in Butuan and helped untangle the trapping defense of their main rival in Cagayan de Oro, the Sacred Heart of Jesus Montessori School, owing to the dribbling skills of the latest UP stalwart.
Their Palaro dominance catapulted the guards tandem of Cagulangan and Calingin to make the cut of the La Salle Green Hills juniors squad in Manila.
While Pao-pao refused to endure the tough grind and the hard time with La Salle’s Team B that saw him rejoin the Corpus Christi Knights, JD managed to persevere and went on to become NCAA juniors Finals MVP.
But it was a different case in college where Cagulangan languished in the La Salle bench, prompting him to have a change of heart and wear instead the maroon jersey.
Along with the UAAP’s Northern Mindanao hoop fans, the former National Basketball Conference (NBC) coach Calingin said what Cagulangan did in the UAAP championship is indeed one for the books.
“Those moments in UAAP basketball will not be forgotten until we die… it seems Pao-pao had a hand from above in helping his court buddy convert all those Hail Mary baskets,” said Calingin. – Rappler.com