One Last Ride: The Delightful Gian Mamuyac

Robert Gian Mamuyac, who?

By: By Carol Laforteza

It took me some time to put all these thoughts down as life usually gets in the way of all things good and before anything else, let me just say, I have nothing basketball in me – not the height, not the built, not the knowledge or skills, not even the keen interest that makes everyone become an expert when the team loses or wins. I am not any of those, neither am I a fan who follow the team avidly. I’m a fascinated spectator.

I am just one of those spectators who had the opportunity to teach one crazy class that happened to have one crazy boy who played (excellent) basketball. 

I met Mamu and his class, G2016, at a time when I just finished my stint in Office of Student Activities. I knew some of them because they worked with us in the office and the rest, I really didn’t know.  I didn’t know a Robert Gian Mamuyac and it was really hard to know what type of student he was because, one, he didn’t seem to be the most athletic person. In fact, he wasn’t the only athletic, sporty person in it. He wasn’t even as tall as his friend (alam mo na kung sino ka, Tall Friend).  Next, he wasn’t the usual student-athlete either whom I usually had. He never asked me to make academic accommodations for him because he was a basketball player.

No HW? Zero.

Not super participative? S for effort.

Maingay? B for conduct (I think he took issue with this very last item because he believed he was mabait).

So am I saying that he was that kind of a student? Not doing the work? Not being excellent?

Not at all.

The first email he ever gave me was an email that just had his homework attached to it and I hate emails with just an attachment on it and I let him (all of them) know it.  I guess that’s why his next email was

I think this was the start of why I found him to be unusual. MABAIT EH. Sensitive (char!)

He was also mindful that he was in a unique position. Not everyone in school can play a sport and those who do play a sport don’t necessarily represent our school and he was not only a good (feeling ko lang ha) player, but he was also the embodiment of things that are supposed to be good in school as a member of the Blue Eaglets (that’s how we were called, you know, baby raptors). Indeed, to whom much is given, much is expected, and he rose to that expectation as seen in this email:

Never mind that I’m on leave, right? If he must go, he will send the work.

And even towards the very end of HS, he continued to try. Mind you, people in their senior year just want their year to end. Athletes whose seasons have ended also are thinking more of concerns about making it to the Seniors team, but he kept at it.

There was this one time when a fight broke in the quad because some snarky student said something insulting after the Eaglets failed to reach the semis (ma’am, it was the finals. hahaha – ed).  After the mayhem, the seniors were being spoken to in the quad and I approached him and asked, “Dude, did you get in a fight?!”

“No, I didn’t lay a hand on him! I was stopping them pa nga!” and after two seconds, “Kung ako yan di lang kamay!” Well, siguro kasama siko and tuhod because he’s a boy with many edges.

There were other things we shared when he was in HS, like conversations about his family life and how he was raised by his Mom and how his sister was a cool sibling who graduated from UST (like me – go USTE!). I also saw his heart hurt before the Christmas break (don’t ask why but it’s not because of a girl, Denise, so don’t get mad).  That conversation showed me that he felt he was not entitled to anything even if I thought we owed him a lot.

I think that’s the feedback I gave when he was up for the Moro Lorenzo Award, an award given to our best student athlete. I said he put his heart and soul into everything he did even when things didn’t go his way and he cared deeply for the people around him, students, friends, moderators and teachers, just like Von Pessumal (I said that on record but that’s for another essay. I know they know how I feel about the two of them). Mamu was always kind to us.

A few days ago, I listened to Coach Tab roast the graduating players of the team and he talked about Mamu being the joy in the team, “you’re one of the best players I have ever coached.” 

Who am I to say that the great Coach Tab is wrong? I think Mamu may be one of the best ones ever.  But did he ever bring me joy?

Dismay, sometimes.

Anger, kulit kasi.

Joy? Naman.

It’s so easy to lose track of someone like Mamu who tends to put the spotlight on more people than on himself because that’s exactly the kind of person he is, and I don’t mean just in sports. Like when he blocked that shot of that famous NBA guy (some hooper named Stephen Curry – ed), I was like flabbergasted (galing pala nitong batang to) but he never said he was or made me feel he was. He was just the kid who kept doing his best inside my classroom including but not limited to stopping himself from making noise with his friends. He was that boy in the library gushing over a La Salle player whom he was guarding during training (Laki ng muscles nya ma’am!)

When my friends would say “galing defense ni Mamu sa game!” I remember his efforts in debate and how he tried to get himself out of failing it (as many people would do).  When my kids would say he was such a superstar, I would just remember how he would wave from the court when he would see me and my friends in the stands after a game. I was happy to witness his greatness and his greatness? I guess it’s kindness. I’m just one of the many who were fortunate to know him, but I got a wave, anyway. Wala naman akong ambag sa buhay niya.  I guess what I mean is that he wasn’t kind to me because he needed me to do something for him. He was just kind.

When my Mama passed, he sent me a message to assure me that he and his friends were just there for me even if there was no way he could ever get out of his bubble. When I saw him accidentally in school during the season, after his grueling practice, he kept harping on me to eat (Do you eat? Kumakain ka ba? Kumain ka nga! You’re too thin!) and though I was irked when he drank the remaining Coke Zero I had one time, I appreciated him for coming over to visit and say thank you to everyone who supported the team during the season. No arte.

This morning, I saw an article that he signed a contract for PBA and now I have two boys who play professionally. Big time na si Mamu namin.

I do not know when and if I will ever see him again, but I’m ok because he is. I think he’s all right and I think he will keep being that person I know him to be – a great uncle to his nieces (he still believes he needs a nephew), a good brother to his Gbois, a caring student to all his mods (o, sige most), the best (and only) son to his Mom (congratulations po, Ma’am!), a loving partner (naman, boss!) and my friend who happens to call me Mudra.

Does he really bring joy? Naman. He should be called Delightful Mamu but it’s too weird for basketball. 

Mamu, for all that you have given, for all you will offer, thank you. Never “go gentle into the good night”. Thank you for “raging against the dying of the light (D. Thomas)” – laforts

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