Jacob Lao made sure to pay tribute to every coach and student-athlete in Ateneo during his final day as a Blue Eagle.
During the Thanksgiving Mass of Ateneo for its men’s basketball team in the early hours of Tuesday, the 22-year-old floor general expressed his gratitude to the school that helped groom him into the man that he is today.
“Six months ago, I was on the verge of quitting because I didn’t feel like basketball was a thing for me after I lost my grandma,” recalled Lao. “But I had a great set of guys who supported me and always checked up on me. With all my heart, maraming salamat sa inyo. I owe you a lot at ang sarap maging Atenista lalo na’t champion ako.
“This championship is for her. Sabi nga ni Coach Sandy [Arespacochaga], ‘Para sa kanya talaga ito.'”
After graduating from La Salle Green Hills in 2018, Lao went to Ateneo to study in college.
Despite being just 5-foot-6, Lao’s dream of making it to Team A never wavered.
He trained with world-class skills coaches while playing in Yuri Escueta’s Glory B.
In UAAP Season 84, Lao made it as a COVID reserve. A season later, he was part of the team itself.
Lao played in seven games for Ateneo this season.
“Sandro [Soriano], brother, I owe you everything. Sinamahan mo ko in this journey — your my skills coach, my brother, my captain, my rock, my friend, and most importantly, ikaw na rin ang next coach ko. Maraming salamat brother, mahal kita!” said Lao as he will play for PSL team Pampanga Royce Hotel.
“Coach Yurs! To everybody who doesn’t know, he was my first coach in Ateneo and we would hold secret workouts on Tuesday and Thursday and he would always make me puke early in the morning. It was a fun ride, sayang wala ka na dito, champion ka na rin sana. But Coach Yurs, I owe you everything. You taught me how to be a good teammate to everyone,” he continued about Escueta.
“Can I call you Tab [Baldwin] now coach? Lolo? I owe you everything. You took a chance on a 5-6 guard who only brought his heart and his intelligence. You taught me how to work hard, treat my teammates right, and, most importantly, you taught me about life. I will cherish all the memories I have with you. I know what we have is only something both of us will understand,” he quipped about Baldwin.
“I just want to thank every one of you. I almost spent more than 280 days this year with you, more than my family. You guys became my second family. We were even locked up in a bubble. I love each and every one of you.”
Seeing the plight of the Ateneo athlete and coach, Lao is giving back to them
For the last four years, Lao has been saving his salary from his work with the JF Group — the umbrella company of Gloria Maris, Choi Garden, and Century Seafood Restaurant, his allowance from Ateneo, and the allowance he got from his parents and gave it to the school.
“Just like my idol Boss MVP [Manny V. Pangilinan], four or five years ago, I told myself that I wanted to help the Ateneo not because they accepted me but because I saw how hard it is to be part of something special. So, right here, in my back pocket, I have a check. This came from my allowance from my parents, my earnings from work, my savings, and all the allowances we got from our out-of-town trips and bonuses, I put it all together and I want to give the school something from me,” he shared.
“I know it’s small but half of this amount, I want to give it to the coaches. You guys work hard. I can pretty much say that I have all the best coaches here in the Philippines. I want to give the other half to my fellow Ateneo athletes. I know that sometimes, the life of being an athlete in Ateneo is hard. Now may emergency funds para makatulong,” he cotninued.
“I’m privileged enough to live under a roof and now I want to share my blessings. I just want to give and help other people too. I hope this small doing of mine can go a long way and I call on other athletes to look back and help the community when they can.”
To close, the former Greenie shared that he will forever be proud to be an Atenean.
“Everyone that’s in here at sumusuporta sa team, you have a special place in my heart.”