De La Salle University has been a hotbed for blue-chip recruits in the UAAP for almost three decades.
And it’s because of one man — Ambassador Danding Cojuangco, who passed away Tuesday at the age of 85.
Cojuangco, who has been in and out as main booster of the team for the last four decades, was very hands-on with the operations of the team, even with his health on a decline during the 2010s. Legend has it that Cojuangco would even attend the high school graduation of the student-athletes he wanted to recruit to La Salle just to prove that he would support them.
Kib Montalbo and Aljun Melecio were two of the recruits Cojuangco went to great lengths just to bring to Taft.
“If it wasn’t for him, my journey would have led me to another place,” said Montalbo, a native of Bacolod who almost went to Ateneo.
“ECJ opened the doors for me to be able to become who I am today. He’s really a big part of my life and career. He really changed my life and my career and really helped my family.”
“A true leader and a great boss who has inspired me and bring out the best in me as a basketball player on the court; and has mentored me in fulfilling my dreams and be the best person I can be off the court,” added Melecio, who grew up in Bukidnon but went to De La Salle-Zobel in high school.
Cojuangco also made sure that once they were at La Salle, the Green Archers would not worry about anything else — just training and studies.
According to numerous former Green Archers, the team’s dormitory, located in the middle of the De La Salle University-Taft campus, has a household staff that works 24 hours. The pantry is always filled-up as well. Cojuangco has funded this for the past three decades.
But it’s not just the Green Archers whom Cojuangco took care of. The billionaire sports patron also attends to the families of the players.
“Sobrang laking tulong ni Boss ECJ sa akin. Hanggang ngayon, malaki pa rin ang tulong ni Boss hindi lang sa akin, kung hindi sa buong pamilya ko,” said Santi Santillan, who transferred from University of Visayas to La Salle four years ago.
“”Dahil sa kanya, may stable na trabaho ang papa ko na dati ay hirap pa sila sa pang araw-araw na gastusin. Malaking utang na loob ko sa kanya, and forever grateful ako na nakilala ko siya at sa lahat ng naitulong niya sa amin.”
“He was a leader in so many ways, always trying to help others, and he left such a huge print in the Philippines. He took me in when I got to DLSU and treated me like a son,” added two-time UAAP MVP Ben Mbala, who transferred from SWU to La Salle. During his final year, Cojuangco also flew Mbala’s family to Manila for them to see their son play live.
“I can’t never be thankful enough.”
Truly, the lives of these young athletes were changed for the better thanks to Ambassador Cojuangco.
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