Jonash Dannug, Hannah Heramia
Photo by Angela Davocol/The LANCE.
The past few weeks have been difficult for the Letran Knights basketball team as their quest for the top standing was put to test after a devastating news broke earlier this month.
A biggest hurdle yet of his young life, fourth-year swingman Jerrick Balanza--who has been vital to the Knights’ campaign--was found to have a tumor in his temporal lobe of the brain hindering him from continuing to play for the rest of the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Season 94.
Balanza underwent a successful operation for the removal of the tumor in his brain, last September 7, which lasted for four and a half hours and is now recovering.
Plenty of pledges financed his medical assistance with the Letran community initiating donations, the Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) throwing in support through a benefit game, and NLEX Road Warriors star Kiefer Ravena holding a charity golf tournament for the Letran stalwart.
Despite all the challenges that came with the illness, the veteran guard still felt blessed with the massive outpour of support that he received. With this, Balanza continues to show tremendous strength, serving as an inspiration to his team even after missing the remainder of the season.
With a massive amount of money needed for the surgery, the Letran Student Council sought help from the Colegio’s student body to raise funds for the ill-stricken Knight.
LSC collected a total of P12,805 pesos as of September 7, by visiting classrooms and selling Mang George’s pastries.
“Yung collection, lahat ‘yon, lahat ng money ng turn-outs ‘non, i-au-audit namin. Tas isu-surrender naming sa finance. Sila yung magse-safe keep. Lahat ng gagawin natin dito, lahat ‘yon, lahat ng money na maco collect is diretso talaga sa recovery niya,” said LSC president Louis Jay Bisco.
With this unfortunate incident, Bisco urges his fellow Letranites to stand as one in helping the Letran star.
“Sana ‘yung mga students is willingly, hindi namin sila pipilitin na magbigay ng money pero sana mag-donate sila for a knight na nagre-represent sa atin,” he said.
As a student-athlete and a part of the student body, Bisco feels that it’s a necessity to help Balanza, as he represented the Letran community in countless of battles on the hardcourt.
The Letran Alumni Association held a fundraising lunch buffet last September 16, at Vikings SM Jazz for Balanza.
LAA collected a total of P109,500 pesos for Balanza in the event graced by 229 former Letranites.
“It will be given directly to Jerrick, very transparent ‘to, ilalabas ‘din namin lahat ‘to. Kaya nga ito, hindi pa nagsisimula ‘yung fundraising, actually, naka eighty-thousand na nga kaagad kami, sa board palang,” said LAA secretary Angelo Mendoza.
With bulk of the donation going to the surgery expenses, Mendoza bared that the LAA will be contributing for Balanza’s post-operational fees.
“Ang maganda, tapos na ‘yung operasyon ni Jerrick. So we will be giving it for the post-operation expenses. Malaki ‘rin expenses niyan eh, medicine, ‘di ba? Hindi siya pwede mag work o maglaro, he’ll need some money,” explained Mendoza.
“Sinagot nila ‘yung sa operasyon samin naman, post-operation,” he added.
Northport, Magnolia charity game Aside from members of the Colegio, the PBA community has also thrown their support for the ailing Letranite as the Northport Batang Pier faced the Magnolia Hotshots in a highly competitive tune-up game dedicated to Balanza, last September 13, at the Blessed Antonio Varona gymnasium.
Despite his team’s loss, Hotshots head coach Chito Victolero was glad to be part of a noble cause, especially in helping out a player in need.
“Ang maganda dito is we played for a cause, we played for Jerrick and also it’s a way of the Magnolia Hotshots of helping Jerrick also sa kung anumang pinagdadaanan niya ngayon,” the soft-spoken mentor told The LANCE.
“I’m very happy na nakapagshare kami for a cause like this,” he said, after his team’s 90-94 loss against the Batang Pier.
Meanwhile, Letran rector Fr. Clarence Victor Marquez OP, expressed his gratitude to both PBA teams for taking the time to help the ill Letran star.
“We are grateful to both teams, the PBA, and lahat ng dumalo kasi it’s not just watching a basketball game but it’s also for a cause which is to support our player in need. And we’re very happy kasi nakita namin na outside of Letran, the whole sports community is coming together and nagbibigay ng suporta nila for Jerrick,” Marquez said in an interview with Spin.PH
In celebration of his 24th birthday, NLEX Road Warriors and Gilas Pilipinas star Kiefer Ravena will be organizing a charity golf tournament in benefit of Balanza and veteran coliseum barker Rolly Manlapaz.
The Chooks-to-Go Phenom Cup will be held at the Valley Golf and Country Club in Antipolo city on October 24.
“It’s going to be for the benefit of Jerrick Balanza, a Letran Knight who suffered from a brain tumor and just had surgery, and our good friend Rolly Manlapaz who’s covered my games from the start,” said Ravena, in an article posted by ESPN5.
Walk-ins will be accommodated in the Phenom Cup for a green fee of 3,000 pesos.
Ravena guarantees that all proceeds will go directly to Balanza and Manlapaz, the PBA rookie will announce more details on how to join and donate soon.