It has been one year since you passed on. I wasn’t ready for you to go, but it happened anyway. We all miss you, and I wish we could’ve had you for a little bit longer. I understand that either way, it would’ve hurt no matter when you died but the selfish part of me always wishes that I had more time with you. You had such a big impact on my life and I wish you could see that impact grow into what is becoming my drive in life.
Faith, family, and friends aside my life this past year has become centered around sports. Then again, what’s new? One of my first memories was going to the pool at Oak Point Recreation Center. Going to the pool was one of my favorite memories as a kid because it would simply be scorching hot during those Texas summers. Once I grew old enough, you did your best to put me into as many extracurricular activities that I can do. It started with swimming lessons and progressed into other things like chess, fencing, and basketball. No matter what I was doing I had fun, and nothing made me happier than when you came to watch me.
Eventually, we couldn’t do those extracurricular activities either because we simply couldn’t financially, or the time wasn’t there. I was a little too young to understand this at the time, but I definitely missed doing all those things. You had Gene start teaching me personally how to play basketball, box, and so forth as a replacement for those things we couldn’t do anymore. Honestly, I knew he was my older brother but I hated it sometimes whenever we went out and did all that training. It wasn’t that I hated him, but I hated not being able to play/train with other kids besides my brothers. In the long run, it helped me more than playing in a league with some friends. There were some things I learned that didn’t necessarily help me skill-wise but did wonders for me mindset wise. Even though I hated going out to the Thomas park and doing football/basketball drills, I did it because I wanted to be really good once I could try out for middle school football. Over time, I learned that I didn’t need a lot of friends to achieve greatness. Family was all I needed, and I always knew that if I had somebody watching my back, then reaching greatness would be easy if I put in the work.
As cheesy as all that just sounded, it was something I legitimately believed in from the 3rd grade all the way into high school. I don’t remember exactly, but around the 4th grade or the summer before, you had to get serious heart surgery. As a kid, I automatically assumed that it would be okay and that you’d easily get through it. It confused me when so many people said they were praying and were obviously taking it more seriously than I was. Of course, you survived it, and as a kid, I thought it was just a normal procedure that just left you with a scar down your chest. I didn’t know the details of the surgery until literally last year, but you had surgery on 7 clogged arteries in your heart before going back to work a month later. That’s something that will always inspire me. I knew you’d be back from that complicated surgery as a kid, but even then, I used it as a motivator to work hard when I trained with Joel and Gene. Although I didn’t take your surgery serious, as a kid I wanted to show you how much I improved by the time you were able to come back and watch our training again. So I worked hard that summer during your surgery and recovery, and whenever the thought of you not making it through floated through my head I pushed it out because it just didn’t make sense to me. To me, you were like Superman, and as a naive kid, I thought it was simply not possible for a parent to die.
After that whole ordeal, middle school finally came for me. Middle school meant free sports that I can participate for and I was all for it. I was a shy kid, and I did have a hard time making friends. Sports would change that for me though because I was a lot like you when it came to social things. I let my actions speak volumes over my words. Even when I made the 7th grade B football team instead of A team, I was determined to not let it define me. Dad, you told me to make the most of my situation, and not be discouraged by not being in the higher tier. So I did. In practice and in game I took every rep possible. I was determined to build my reputation as not only a good football player but a good teammate. If I remember correctly, my whole 7th-grade year I was never taken out of a game. I played every single down in every game, and in practice, I was selfish and held onto every single rep. If I played bad, I took responsibility and took it personally. I didn’t make excuses for myself. Football soon became my obsession, and I loved it.
1 year later, I made the 8th grade A team easily. My determination inspired by you carried over into the offseason, and then into my 8th-grade year. Just like last year, I kept an iron grip onto my spot. I was definitely undersized, and nowhere near as athletic as some guys in Texas but I made the most of what I had. What I lost in athleticism and height I gained in being an intellectual of the game. I played smarter while continuing to keep up my intensity. You didn’t get to see any of my games that year in person though.
That year was the year you went to Colorado to start bible college and begin to prepare us to move there. I missed you being at my games because I loved having my whole family just being there. Everyone else on the team had family and a lot of friends who rooted for them, but I simply didn’t. Although football helped me make more friends, those friends were all playing with me on that field. Nobody else knew my number on the field beside you, mom, Joel, and Gene. I knew it wasn’t true, but it felt like nobody really cared about me besides my family and my team. I missed you that year, but you always asked about my games.
I remember the one time you were able to watch a live stream of my game, I had one of the worst football games ever. We smashed the poor team we played and won by 40, but I had a very bad game. I felt terrible that the one game you saw I played in was the worst one ever. Yeah, we won, but I did get benched for the first time ever. Yes, we were up by 20 but I wanted to redeem myself for my bad plays. Yet through it all, when I was talking to you on the phone you still found a way to encourage me and ground me.
I don’t want to talk too much about the past, but it’s vital to where I am now 1 year after you passed. When we moved to Colorado, I honestly hated it. I hated the weather, I hated the people, and I hated how the football players at my school acted. I never told you this, but they bullied me. The bullying led me to depression, and suicidal thoughts. What makes it worse is that they weren’t even better than me. At that point in time, I was a better football player and person than any of those guys will ever be in their sorry life. Even when I joined the team in spring training and I proved myself to be better, those players and even some coaches still chose to put me down. I should’ve told you this then. Moving to Colorado messed with my head.
I was still shy, and making friends was really hard. Yeah, I met some people, but I didn’t have an instant connection with any of them. I left the place I called home for 15 years to come to some mountain town where I was mentally, verbally, and physically abused for my whole freshmen year if not arguably longer. It wasn’t your fault though, it was mine. If I did tell you about these things, then maybe certain events would’ve never happened. Events like transferring to The Classical Academy: College Pathways to finish out high school.
I wanted to stay at Doherty, but you and mom encouraged me to move on to pursue a better education. I hesitantly agreed, not even knowing how great it would be for me even today. How could have I known though? There are some things I regretted, but agreeing to transfer was not one of them.
At TCA I was put in a great environment. For once in my entire life, I was not worried about making friends. The friends I made then are still with me today and helped me through everything this past year. Sophie Aldinger is just one friend out of many friends who have helped this past year. The day after you passed, I was the only one who went to the church you loved. Mom, Joel, and Gene understandably had a tough couple days before so they couldn’t go. So I don’t blame them, but that place was not the best place for me to be. Ironically I still went, because I didn’t have any other church to go to. Sophie would go with me, and at the time I wouldn’t have wanted anybody else. It’s people like her that supported me when I needed them most, and not when it was just expected. Two other TCA friends of mine also drove me down from college just before you passed, and would drive me back a day after you passed. Altogether it was a 4-hour drive. This past summer a whole group of my old high school friends got together, and we simply had the best summer I can remember in a while. I consider them some of my closest friends ever. Going to TCA provided me not only with friends but a family.
Before I go into what happened in the year you’ve been gone, I gotta start with how you impacted my collegiate life. It was April of 2017 when we found out there were multiple health complications that were beginning to spell out the end. After we visited you, I realized it’d be a moment I never forgot. For the sake of privacy, I’ll keep that moment between us, but something changed in my head. I realized that you sacrificed everything coming here to America. It wasn’t an easy process, but you still did it. At that moment in the hospital, I realized that I was one of the many products of your sacrifice when you immigrated here from the Philippines. I’m a first-generation college student. More specifically, I’m the first American born child to ever go to college in America out of our whole family. Your sacrifices were supposed to set up the success your family will continue to have even after you passed. This gave us the freedom to pursue what we wanted to do in a country of opportunity. I was going to go to the University of Colorado, and study business. I wanted to support our family, as Gene has. It was all planned out too. Sophie and I even had plans when we were supposed to go to Boulder together. Not only would I have my best friend with me, but I’d also be pursuing a better education so that I can ultimately help provide more stability for us.
It all sounded good in my head until that night in April. All I could think about were your sacrifices, and how hard of a worker/fighter you were. I soon realized that being your son meant that I had that fighter mentality. It also meant that Gene, Joel, and mom also had it too. Having a fighter mentality means fighting until the very end. Not just the end of the round or minute, but the end of the fight. It means making the most out of what you have, taking advantage of opportunities, and always working to be better. Yes being a business major would eventually set me up well in life, but I really didn’t buy into it. I didn’t see myself fighting to graduate with a simple marketing degree. I just didn’t buy into it. On the other hand, I did see myself buying into become a future educator and coach.
I feared just being a teacher and coach. I know you worried too when I told you later that I wanted to become a Physical Education major and coaching minor at the University of Northern Colorado. You wanted me to pursue sports administration instead, but I was dead set on Physical Education and coaching. I believed in UNC and its PE/coaching programs. I do even more today. I believed that if I was truly doing something that I wanted to do, that I will find a way to make the money, future family, and everything else work out. I believed in my fighter mentality, and in God to guide me through everything. Living a healthy life, and being involved in sports are things that I will gladly believe in until I see you again. From an early age you got me living a healthy life and involved in sports so technically it’s you who made me believe in these things initially. You may not have heard of this yet, but choosing UNC and PE/coaching meant that I was choosing to believe in something, even if it meant sacrificing everything.
I do realize that choosing to be a PE teacher and coach comes with its financial risks, but I simply don’t care. It’s what I love. Few things give me more joy than teaching a girl or boy how to perform a skill or play a sport, and then seeing them do just that. That satisfactory look that they give me, will always make me love my job. When I couldn’t play football anymore starting my junior year, it was that first coaching opportunity that made me realize I love teaching. It was there that I began to develop such a passion for teaching and helping.
Since you passed I’ve been pursuing my teaching and coaching career. A week after your funeral I joined a middle school 6th-grade football team initially to observe this group of kids and their coaches. It became a little bit more than that though. What was supposed to be a one practice observation turned into 3 weeks of watching their practices and games. Near the end, a lot of the players and coaches knew who I was and respected me when I gave my input. In those three weeks, we had to run the gauntlet basically. We were a good undefeated team, that had the biggest challenges ahead of us in those 3 weeks. There was one other Greeley team that could remotely challenge our spot in the championship, and we beat them after a 4th quarter rally coming from behind. Then we moved on to play the last two undefeated middle school teams in northern Colorado besides us. We had to beat 1 of those two teams to make it to the championship and luckily we had one of those teams as our last regular season game. I didn’t get a chance to watch that game, but I wasn’t surprised when we smashed them. After earning our berth in the championship game we found out we would be playing a very good Fort Morgan team who was the last undefeated team in our way. I learned a lot from observing those 3 weeks, but like I said I was able to contribute as well. I was on the sideline at all the games I was able to go to. So when we were down by 14-0 at the end of the half I made my contribution. Before the game, the team came in confident, but at halftime, it felt like that confidence was slowly being destroyed. Fort Morgan’s defense was simply dominant. All I had to say to those kids was to hang in there and fight to the end of the game. I specifically remember saying “If they can score 14 in the first half, then I know for a fact we can easily score 21 in this half. We’re a better offense.”. We didn’t score 21 in that half. We scored 14 in the last minutes of the 4th quarter before going into overtime.
In overtime, we played by college rules. So when they scored on us easily on the second play of overtime, the sideline fell silent. A kid simply missed a tackle, and they walked it in for a touchdown. I remember going up to the kid, and telling him to shrug it off and be ready for the next play. We took the ball and scored a touchdown to match them before going into double overtime. In double overtime, we scored a touchdown, and life was injected back into a team that was dead silent just a couple minutes earlier. All we had to do was not allow a touchdown and we win the championship. That kid who messed up would go back in the game, and make an amazing diving interception on a deep pass to seal the game for us. Winning that championship felt great to me, and I was only with the team for the last three weeks. Soon after I became a nationally registered coach at 19, and although I’m proud of that it doesn’t mean anything compared to what I’ve been dreaming about. Those close to me know that I ideally want to win a high school football state championship in Colorado before I consider moving out of state. Someday it’ll happen, and that first ring will be dedicated for you.