Already a breadwinner at age 13, nothing can bring down Encho Serrano

A breadwinner at 13, nothing can bring down Encho Serrano
GRIT N GRIND. Encho Serrano has been through tougher tests than what he went through in the recently-concluded season.

In a poll taken by the National Basketball Training Center, Encho Serrano rated as the top young talent in the Philippines.

NBTC polled coaches, scouts, scribes, and broadcasters and all of them had the Adamson High School standout among their top three – if not first overall.

Serrano topped the field that included the likes of John Lloyd Clemente of Nazareth School of National University, SJ Belangel of Ateneo de Manila High School, Juan Gomez de Liano of University of the Philippines Integrated School, and Jonas Tibayan of Chiang Kai Shek College.

Being regarded as the best of the best, a first in the decade-long history in the NBTC, has provided the youngster a much welcome solace from the turbulent past couple of months he had gone through.

The subject of a UAAP inquiry and then later a league decision, Serrano was forced to sit out the last two assignments of the Baby Falcons in the recently-concluded UAAP Season 79.

Moreover, he had to cede his status as frontrunner for MVP all while also seeing the Baby Falcons have to surrender their once league-leading record.

A little over a month since that league decision, however, the pride of Apalit, Pampanga is all smiles. In fact, the upbeat vibe surrounding him caught reporters by surprise when they interviewed him last Monday.

Serrano still isn’t one to grin from ear-to-ear and remain grinning from ear-to-ear, but any trace of probable disappointment is absent from his voice. “Iniisip ko na lang palagi, kung iisipin ko pa yun, lalo akong mada-down. Sinasabi ko na lang palagi, kasama sa buhay yun,” he shared.

He then continued, “Kailangang labanan para masubukan mo yung sarili mo kung gaano ka katatag.”

And finally, in his most confident tone yet, he said, “Basta ako, hindi ako magpapatalo. Nakuha na nila lahat, pero yung loob ko, hindi nila makukuha.”

Without a doubt, resolve, self-belief, and determination remain very much evident in the five-foot-11 forward once described by coach Goldwin Monteverde to be “all-heart.”

And why wouldn’t he have resolve, self-belief, and determination? After all, Serrano has been through worse.

As a 13-year-old, he was forced to find work to so that his older sister may finish her studies. “Nagtrabaho na ako noon para sa pamilya ko. Kailangan kasing mapaaral ko kapatid ko noong magse-second year college na siya,” he said.

According to Serrano himself, he had stints as a tricycle driver and a construction worker as an adolescent back home. Asked why he took it upon himself, the second of three siblings, he answered, “Ako lang po kasi yung lalaki. Alam kong mas kaya kong magtrabaho kesa sa kanya kasi babae siya.”

He then continued, “Sabi ko lang sa kanya noon, mag-aral lang siya mabuti. Sabi ko lang sa kanya, tutulungan ko siya sa pag-aaral niya.”

Along with that, Serrano grew up apart from his parents. With his mother and father separated and with their own families, it was his lola who raised him.

Faced with the realities of life at such a young age, when the ball came bouncing to Encho, he took it, ran with it, and never let it go. Talking about how his basketball career started a year after being forced to find work, he said, “May nagsabi sa akin na mag-tryout sa Manila kasi may chance daw ako. Ni-try ko po and nakuha naman ako.”

He then continued, “Tapos hanggang ngayon, sineseryoso ko na yung binigay sa aking opportunity.”

And when he finally retakes the floor in the NBTC All-Star Game on March 16 at the MOA Arena, the Adamson star wants nothing more than to reclaim his place among the best of the best. “Sobrang excited ko lang po talagang makalaro ulit,” he expressed.

As for what he has in store for all of us, however, Serrano is keeping that a surprise. “Dun na lang po. Magkita-kita na lang tayong lahat kung anong mangyayari,” he said.

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Follow this writer on Twitter, @riegogogo.

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