He may be living a life others could only wish for, but it doesn’t mean Mike Tolomia has stopped chasing dreams.
Just last week, the Meralco Bolts point guard proudly marched along with many other graduates in PICC, as he finally earned his Bachelor of Science in Sports and Recreational Management degree in Far Eastern University.
“Siyempre dream come true.
“Kasi simula pagkabata yun yung pangarap ng mga magulang natin para sa’tin eh,” he told Tiebreaker Times. “Yung pinangako ko sa kanila na tatapusin ko pagaaral ko, ginawa ko at natupad ko.”
The three-year pro had actually wanted to finish his studies right after his last UAAP stint with the Tamaraws in 2015, but he was not able to do so as his schedule turned hectic due to the career opportunities that came in his way.
In 2016, while playing for the Phoenix Accelerators in the PBA D-League, Tolomia was named to the new Gilas Pilipinas that was also known as Gilas 5.0 — a talent pool that consisted of the top amateur players in the country then.
That particular group would see action in the FIBA Asia Challenge Cup in Tehran, Iran about a month later, so that made Tolomia attend practices twice in a day — one with the Accelerators, and the other with the national team.
His national team duties would continue even if he had gone pro already. In 2017, Tolomia was part of the Gilas Cadets squad that saw action in both the William Jones Cup in Taiwan and the Southeast Asian Games in Malaysia.
“Kaya medyo tumagal kasi nahirapan ako ma-balance yung oras.
“Kahit nung after college, nag-Cadets pa ‘ko, so dalawang beses ako nagpa-practice sa isang araw,” Tolomia said. “So, hindi ako nakakapasok, kaya medyo tumagal.”
But he really wanted to pursue it. So around last year, with a bit of time on his side, he decided to enroll again.
It hadn’t still been easy, though. He had to juggle his time between academics and his duties with the Orangemen. But here is now, standing proud that he finally finished his studies despite the long journey he had taken.
“Kahit matagal, at least natapos ko,” said Tolomia, who will forever have his name etched in FEU’s history books as he helped the school end its decade-old title drought in the UAAP in 2015.
“Kahit nasa PBA na ‘ko, tinapos ko pa rin.”
With this recent success, everybody who knows Tolomia is proud of him. Count Meralco head coach Norman Black in.
“Una kong nasabihan si coach Norman, kasi magpapaalam ako kasi baka mag-miss ako ng practice sa graduation ko,” the 26-year-old shared with a chuckle.
“Nung una, parang ‘di pa siya makapaniwala na gagraduate ako.
“Pero pinakitaan ko siya ng picture ko na nagpa-grad pic ako, yun, naniwala na siya. Sabi niya sobrang proud siya sa’kin na nakagraduate ako,” added Tolomia, who’s been playing under the Grand Slam coach in Meralco since 2017.
Stories of professional athletes finishing their studies despite their lofty status will never get old. Ever. So for Tolomia, he hopes that his fellow pros who are thinking of earning their degrees will push through with their plans.
“Talagang kung may panahon sila, sana tapusin nila. Kasi yun yung magiging fallback mo eh,” the proud son of Zamboanga City said. “Siyempre lagi naman natin naririnig na hindi forever ang basketball, so dapat talaga nakapag-tapos ka or may diploma ka.
“Para kung sakaling matapos ng maaga yung career mo, may fallback ka.”