Para kay Mama -- Jovelyn Gonzaga

Mark Escarlote on Jul 01, 2016 02:34 PM
Para kay Mama -- Jovelyn Gonzaga
Ma na-continue ko pa rin ‘yung promise ko sa’yo kahit nahiwalay ka na sa akin -- Jovelyn Gonzaga

A young skinny kid with her skin kissed by the harsh sun picked up a volleyball that rolled in front of her while walking on the school ground of Sta. Teresa Elementary School in the island of Guimaras.

Varsity members of the school hollered at the fourth grader asking for the ball.

She whipped a wicked left-handed smack at the ball as it landed on the other side of the court.

She thought that was fun.

A young Jovelyn Gonzaga didn’t know that what she did would carve a path to realizing a dream only a select few will get a chance to realize.

Now 24-years old and standing 5 foot 8, Gonzaga’s body shivered as tears of joy drowned her eyes, trickling down her cheeks before eventually dropping down to the taraflex court.

She shifted her grip on a golden certificate with her name printed on black bold letters that moments ago she held above her head while jumping from the right hand to the left as Gonzaga was helped by Philippine Superliga president Ramon “Tats” Suzara put on a golden jacket.

Years of hard work finally paid off for a ‘probinsiyana’ whose only motivation is to dream big.

Gonzaga’s name was called as the first player to receive a once in a lifetime chance to play in the 2016 FIVB World Club Women’s Championship slated October 18 to 23 to be held in Manila.

The RC Cola-Army team captain together with teammate Rachel Anne Daquis were the first of seven local players selected Thursday to team up with seven foreign players that will compose the Philippine club team against seven of the world’s finest.       

“Natanggalan ako ng pressure. Actually iniisip ko siya I won’t deny it kasi I’m only human. Pangarap ko ito eh,” said Gonzaga.

“Hindi ko siya ma-set aside na “Ok lang na hindi ako matanggap, Ok lang.” Kinakalaban ko ang utak ko na Ok lang.  Pero deep inside hopeful ako na sana ako ang unang matawag, na first na matawag ako para matanggal na ang pressure,” added the product of Central Philippine University in Iloilo.         

Promise ko ito kay Mama

“Pumulot lang ako ng bola tapos nag-serve lang ako. Out of nowhere napasok ko siya. Without ever playing (the game), first time kong nakahawak ng bola,” Gonzaga recalled.

From there her interest with the sport grew.

“So that time nagka-interest na ako sa volleyball and that time I asked permission from my parents. Sabi nila, “OK good ‘yan,”” she added.

That simple conversation dug a revelation that Gonzaga’s inclination to volleyball is not a mere coincidence but by pedigree.  

“Nalaman ko na kasi before pala player din sila ng volleyball doon sa amin sa Guimaras,” Gonzaga said. “Tapos after nun nag-join na ako sa team and doon na nag-start ang journey ko sa volleyball.”

CPU recruited her entering third year high school where she continued to play until she graduated from college.

Gonzaga said that almost all UAAP teams tried to recruit her but unlike most athletes coming from the province who would immediately jump ship in any opportunity of recruitment from a Manila-based school, it was her choice to stay in Iloilo.

“Hindi talaga ako nanghihinayang (na di lumipat sa UAAP team),” she said. “Itinatak ko talaga sa isipan ko na kahit doon ako (sa CPU) nag-stay ipo-prove ko pa rin na dadalhin ako ng passion ko, ng pangarap ko.”

Indeed it brought her to greater heights.

Her first stint in Manila was back in 2009 as an 18-year-old opposite hitter who was recruited by University of St. La Salle-Bacolod coach Roger Banzuela as a guest player for his team which was then invited by the V-League.

Gonzaga was spotted by Philippine Army and was recruited to join the team that she eventually led to two V-League crowns and five PSL gold medal finishes.

She played internationally in the 2014 Asian Club Championship and was named team captain of the 2015 Singapore Southeast Asian Games squad. Gonzaga even shifted to beach volleyball a few years back where she won all the tournaments she joined.

The Army leader let her emotions flow as she recalled in her mind the hardships and battles fought to be able to stand at center court at that surreal moment.

She could see her mom, Evelyn, at the stands smiling, clapping her hands. 

But it was just Gonzaga imagining the image of her biggest fan and believer who passed away four years ago.     

“Para sa family ko ito, para talaga kay Mama,” she said fighting back a fresh well of tears forming in her eyes. “Kasi pangarap namin itong dalawa at kahit wala na siya ngayon, kahit na nasa heaven na siya ngayon, ito ‘yun Ma na-continue ko pa rin ‘yung promise ko sa’yo kahit nahiwalay ka na sa akin.”

From sending a volleyball back to a bunch of kids, Gonzaga will be serving for a point with the whole country behind her back against the finest club teams the world has to offer.

Guimaras won’t just be known for having the sweetest mangoes of export quality but also for a small town girl who fulfilled her dream to become a world-class athlete.  



Follow this writer on Twitter, @fromtheriles

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