A young Troy Rosario badly wanted to return home to Cagayan the moment he learned his mother got diagnosed with cancer.
“Talagang gusto ko na umuwi nung nalaman kong may sakit ‘yung nanay ko,” he recalled in the 2OT podcast, presented by SMART Saturday.
The diagnosis only worsened his situation, since he was also dealing with problems of his own.
That time, he was seeking a way out of Technological Institute of the Philippines, as his stint with the Nokia RP Youth team didn’t sit well with the school.
“Nagkasabay-sabay pa,” he said. “Medyo nagka-problema kasi naglaro ako ng national team. Medyo hindi nila nagustuhan kasi hindi ako nag-paalam na nag-tryout ako. So nakuha ako sa national team. Nung una, ayaw nila na mag laro ako kasi nga baka masilip or ma-recruit ako ng ibang school.”
But he knew he couldn’t turn back. Otherwise, all the sacrifices his family had made to send him to Manila would go to waste.
“Sobrang hirap ng buhay sa probinsiya. Naalala ko pa nga ‘yung pagpunta ko ng Manila, talagang pinilit lang talaga ng magulang ko,” he remembered.
“‘Yung natitirang binhi namin, talagang binenta para lang may pamasahe ako. Naalala ko, dalawang-libo ‘yun.”
And if he went back, then he would be unable to fulfill the promise he made to himself — get his family out of poverty.
“Minsan din akong hindi kumain — grade school, high school yata ako nun. Isang beses lang akong kumain,” he said.
“Sinabi ko sa sarili ko sawa na ako maghirap, gusto ko umangat. ‘Yun talaga ‘yung motivation ko.“
And so he did not return. Instead, he stayed.
Eventually, his mother came to Manila, and her arrival even helped Troy solve a problem.
“Dinala ko pa nga nanay ko sa TIP para magmakaawa na i-release ‘yung papers ko kasi talagang ayaw i-release e.
“Okay sa may-ari ng school kung nakausap ko lang, kaso hindi ko nakausap. Pero ‘yun nga, nung pumunta nanay ko, dun mukhang medyo lumambot ‘yung puso nila. Ni-release ‘yung papel,” he recalled.
Rosario then went on to play for RP Youth. And it was during one of the team’s practices where coach Eric Altamirano, the youth team’s chief mentor at the time, learned about his player’s situation, so he did what he could to help.
“Nalaman nina coach Eric na may sakit ‘yung nanay ko. Nangyari kasi ‘yun, nagpunta akong practice, pero umeskapo ako kalagitnaan kasi nga dinala sa ospital ‘yung nanay ko,” he said. “Tapos tumawag sila, ‘ano nangyari?’ ”Yung nanay ko kasi may cancer.’ So dun nila nalaman.
“Tapos si Coach E, consultant na ng NU. So sinabi niya kay Mr. Hans [Sy] na ganun nga ‘yung sitwasyon. Tapos si sir Hans, binigyan ako ng condo, tapos pinagamot niya ‘yung nanay ko. Medyo hindi naging maganda kasi nawala nanay ko. Pero hindi nila ako pinabayaan.”
Rosario cannota be grateful enough for the help he received, so when the time came that he had to find a new school, he tried out with National University first and foremost despite many offers from various schools.
For him, it was his way of expressing his gratitude, especially to the Sy family, who had bought the school from the Paguia/Jhocson family in 2006.
“So nung wala akong school, talagang ang una kong pinuntahan NU kahit may mga offers sa ibang school. Talagang sabi ko mag-walk-in ako rito para ipakita sa kanila na tatanawin ko ‘yung utang na loob na tinulong nila.
“So nung nakita ko na maganda naman ‘yung pamamalakad nila kasi under SM na ‘yung National U nun e, sa Sy family na. Tapos si coach Eric pa pala ‘yung naka-linya para maging coach, talagang nag-stay na ako roon,” added Rosario, who found a father figure in Altamirano.
Eventually, his life changed — for the better, of course.
At NU, he went from a mere role player hounded by injuries to one of its leaders, in a stint capped off by a historic conquest of Season 77, which gave the school its first UAAP gold medal in 60 years.
Then in 2015, he was the second overall pick of the 2015 PBA Rookie Draft. He was taken by Mahindra Enforcer but was traded to Talk N Text days later, and he has since become one of the proud franchise’s pillars.
Rosario has also become a mainstay of the Gilas Pilipinas program, having won two gold medals in the Southeast Asian Games since turning pro. He also played in the 2019 FIBA World Cup in China.
Being with the Bulldogs definitely turned things around for him. But really, it was his decision to stay in Manila and keep himself locked on his goals — despite the obstacles — that brought him to where he is right now.
“Kaya ang laking pasasalamat ko talaga sa Panginoon kasi kahit mag-isa ako rito, sa mga desisyon ko, talagang ginuide Niya ‘ko,” he said.
There’s no doubt that Rosario deserves all the success that has come his way. And that is why he’s making it a point to share his blessings to those in need.
During this pandemic, Rosario and his family have given relief packs to those badly affected by the crisis, since he knows how it’s like having nothing.
“‘Pag nakakakita nga ako ng tulad niyan, ‘yung homeless, parang naalala ko ‘yung sarili ko e,” he said.
“Alam ko ‘yung pakiramdam ng wala.”