Calvin Oftana: Soaring from Siaton to San Beda
Anton Roxas on Aug 10, 2019 06:09 AM
“Nakatingala sa kisame. Tumutulo yung luha.” - Calvin Oftana on how he remembers his first week in Manila
“Nakatingala sa kisame. Tumutulo yung luha.”
This is how Calvin Oftana remembers his first week in Manila after being recruited all the way from Siaton, a small town by the sea in the province of Negros Oriental. But, Calvin wasn’t originally from there. He was born in Danao City, Cebu before having to transfer after his parents divorced. Calvin stayed with his mother, Vilma. In fact, Oftana is her maiden name. Together, they found a home in Siaton.
“Larong bata lang talaga. Nangingisda.”
Growing up in the province, Calvin’s exposure to organized sports was very limited. His childhood memories include fishing with his friends and winning a track and field competition in Grade 6.
When Calvin was in second year high school, he started playing volleyball because he was 6 feet tall. Although he only spiked the ball during the Carmel High School intramurals and not in actual tournaments, people started taking notice of his height. One person in particular envisioned that Calvin’s lanky frame would be perfect for his basketball team. That person was Mike Villahermosa, long-time coach of Asian College - Dumaguete.
“Si Coach Mike (Villahermosa), pinuntahan niya talaga ako sa bahay namin. Kinausap yung Nanay ko.”
It would be the break that set the course for Calvin’s new life. Under the tutelage of Coach Mike, Calvin learned the basics of basketball and would soon compete in various competitions in the region. Eventually, the team went to Cebu and played against the University of San Carlos which was being mentored by Britt Reroma, former coach of the San Beda Red Cubs.
Calvin’s potential was recognized and soon after, an invitation to try out for San Beda’s collegiate team presented itself. So, Coach Mike and Calvin took the flight to Manila and went straight to Mendiola. After five days, Coach Mike returned to Dumaguete, leaving his prodigy all alone and severely homesick. That was the moment Calvin found himself staring at the ceiling… crying.
Brave New World
More than four years after that fateful day inside his dorm room, Calvin has fully adjusted to his new life in Manila. He’s now a three-time NCAA champion and has travelled out of the country numerous times to places like Las Vegas and Dubai to train. The 23-year old has grown 6 feet 5 inches tall and is now the starting power forward of the San Beda Red Lions. He’s also enjoying the benefits of social media where he learned about the comparisons people have of him and former Ateneo Blue Eagle, JC Intal.
“Nakikita ko yun sa Twitter. Tapos yun nga, si JC (Intal). Tinitignan ko yung highlights niya when he was in college pa. Sobrang high flyer. Ngayon, sa PBA nakikita ko tumitira siya ng three-points pero more on penetration yung laro niya.”
Calvin admits though, that he only did his research on JC recently and never actually knew about him growing up because of the lack of technology back in his hometown. He didn’t even know about the NCAA until he was recruited. Now, Calvin knows all about the Red Lions and their long lineage of great power forwards who became part of the Mythical Team like Yousif Aljamal, Jake Pascual, Arth dela Cruz and his predecessor, Javee Mocon.
“Nakita ko kay Mocon yung work ethic niya. Lagi siya go hard sa training. Sobrang aga niya lagi sa ensayo. Kaya yun yung bagay na ginagawa ko ngayon sa sarili ko. Sinabi rin ni Coach Boyet (Fernandez) na ako na yung susunod na four man. Kailangan ko gampanan yung pagiging four at magkaroon lang ng confidence sa sarili ko.”
After four games in the ongoing NCAA Season 95 Men’s Basketball tournament, Calvin is averaging 11.8 points, 7.5 rebounds, 3 assists and 1.5 blocks per game. In his last game against San Sebastian, Calvin had a near triple-double, tallying 10 points, 10 rebounds and career-high 7 assists. Not bad for a guy who never saw basketball as a potential career. Nowadays, all Calvin thinks about is having a future in the game so that he can help his family back home.
“Nandyan na. Pag punta ko dito nakikita ko na nag-PPBA sila Baser (Amer). Sabi ko, ‘may papatunguhan din pala yung pagpunta ko dito. Pag babalik ako sa amin, wala din ako. Isang kahig, isang tuka din ako doon. Kahit sabihin na ma-ho-homesick ako dito, pinipilit ko talaga mag-trabaho pa rin.”
When you look at Calvin Oftana today, you would never imagine all the sacrifices he had to go through to be the person he has become. Gone are the moments of loneliness and the times he would stare at the ceiling with tears streaming down his face. When you look at Calvin Oftana today, you will see him soaring through the air for a highlight dunk and say that the simple boy from Siaton is now the premier power forward of the San Beda Red Lions.
Catch Calvin Oftana and the San Beda Red Lions in action today, August 10, 2019 as they take on the Colegio de San Juan de Letran Knights at 2:00 P.M. at the Cuneta Astrodome in Pasay City. The game will air LIVE on S+A and via livestream on iWant and sports.abs-cbn.com.