CJ Cansino left University of the Philippines a hero.
In four years spent in Diliman, he overcame a full anterior cruciate ligament tear, delivering a clutch blow to Ateneo in UP’s Season 84 title conquest.
Though sitting out Season 85, Cansino still served as a leader on the sidelines, delivering pep talks and helping break the rookies in.
This season, Cansino balled like he was never gone, leading the Fighting Maroons to the top seed and a third straight Finals.
However, a storybook ending was not meant to be after UP’s hopes for a second crown in three years were dashed by De La Salle University in an all-time classic Game 3 last Wednesday.
“Una sa lahat, nagpapasalamat ako kasi nung pagpunta ko dun, buo na sila,” said the Fighting Maroons skipper to reporters after Game 3.
“Sobrang happy ko na nakabigay ako ng isang championship.”
But for every hero, there’s a villain.
In this case, Cansino was also a villain in the eyes of some members of the University of Santo Tomas community.
The canceled UAAP Season 83 was supposed to be Cansino’s third year with the Growling Tigers.
Though the season was abandoned, the Growling Tigers, after signing a waiver from the school, went to Sorsogon to continue training under then-head coach Aldin Ayo.
It led to a massive exodus that saw nine players transfer to other schools.
Cansino’s act drew the ire of Thomasians who have called him “Boy Mantika” over the last three years.
Of course, Cansino has read the social media comments on him, but chooses to ignore them.
“Sa akin, hindi. Para sa akin, nandun lang ako sa mga bagay na kaya kong kontrolin. Hindi ko kayang kontrolin ang mga sinasabi ng tao. Ang kaya ko lang kontrolin yung emosyon ko. Wala kasi ako masyado paki kung anuman ang sabihin ng mga tao. Dun lang ako sa kaya kong kontrolin,” he said.
“Puwedeng na-silence ko sila, puwedeng hindi. Kita naman natin sa social media, nagbabago ang opinyon ng tao. Minsan coach, minsan player. Kung ano man nasa isip nila, sasabihin nila. Hindi ko naman masabi na na silence ko pero sana na-inspire sila sa pinagdaanan ko.”
The core of the UAAP Season 82 UST team that won silver was able to find success in the schools they landed in.
Rhenz Abando was part of the Letran squad that won the title in NCAA Season 98 which led him to sign with KBL team Anyang KGC.
Brent Paraiso, on the other hand, has two NCAA titles under his belt and is now in the PBA.
Meanwhile, Mark Nonoy ended his career with UAAP gold as he was part of the La Salle team that beat UP.
Had the ‘Sorsogon Bubble’ not happened, Cansino believes that they would have been the batch that ended UST’s long drought in UAAP Men’s Basketball.
“Una sa lahat, sobrang saya ko na naka-experience kaming magkakaibigan ng championship pero sa kabilang side, sobrang sad ko kasi yun yung goal namin nung nasa UST kami. Sobrang sad lang na naging champion kami sa iba-ibang school,” he expressed.
“Well, sa akin oo, kaya namin mag-champion. Alam ko yung bonding naming teammates at magkakapatid, kapag nag-uusap alam namin na kaya rin namin.”
The aftermath of the ‘Sorsogon Bubble,’ though, was not the biggest test Cansino experienced in his collegiate years.
Early this year, his mom Rowena passed away after a long battle with a disease.
But just like how his mom fought on for two years, he vows to fight on.
“Sa akin, pinaka-toughest yung namatay yung mom ko. After nun, naging blangko ang lahat at hindi ko na alam ang gagawin ko. Buti na lang, nandun yung basketball,” he reflected.
“Lagi kong sinasabi, gagawin ko na lang ito at bahala na kung san ako aabot. Sobrang laking tulong tong mga pinagdaanan ko. Tinuruan ako kung paano maging tough.”