Former fish vendor, lechon cook sees basketball as hope for family

LEGAZPI CITY, Philippines – At the tender age of 7, Joshua Cabilin Yerro started playing basketball. He decided to do well in the sport, seeing it as a way to help his family rise from poverty.

"Gusto ko makaduwa ug lain lain na commercial para makatabang sa pamilya (I want to be able to play in various commercial games so I can help my family)," said the 6-foot-tall shooting guard of the University of the Visayas (UV) Baby Lancers, now 15 years old.

Yerro, representing Central Visayas, is among the thousands of student-athletes competing in the ongoing 2016 Palarong Pambansa here in Albay. It is his first-ever Palaro.

No stranger to hard work

Yerro, the second of 4 children, hails from Ormoc, Leyte. His mother is a housewife while his father has been working as a security guard for 15 years now.

Like his parents, he is no stranger to hard work.

At just 10 years old, he worked as a fisherman and sold his catch in the market, earning as much as P500 a day.

At 12 years old, he worked at a store selling lechon (roasted pig) – not an easy job as he had to learn how to slaughter to get P250 per pig. He got an additional P80 per pig when he would help roast the lechon, contending with heat for two hours.

Asked why he decided to work when most kids would rather play and have fun, Yerro said, "para makatabang ko sa pamilya, ug di sad ko sige pangayo sa akong mama (so I can help my family and so I will also not keep asking for money from my mother)."

Getting into basketball

The 15-year-old said he first tried sports when he was 5 – baseball. He shifted to basketball after watching a game and decided he could be good at it, too.

His parents aren't athletic but all of his siblings are into basketball as they influenced each other. His 18-year-old brother plays for a college varsity team in Ormoc. His younger brothers are 14 and 10 years old.

A then 13-year-old Yerro was scouted by UV coach Van Parmis while he was playing in the Eastern Visayas Regional Athletic Association (EVRAA) Meet in 2014 as a varsity member of Linao National High School in Ormoc.

According to Parmis, all Yerro asked for when he first negotiated for the young cager to go with him to Cebu and try out for the UV Baby Lancers was a cellphone so he could call his family often. Unfortunately, the phone got stolen after a month.

Yerro found it difficult to be away from his family, admitting that after only 3 days in Cebu, he started crying.

It didn't get any easier for him as the days went by, as his longing for his family made it hard for him to adjust and focus on his game.

The incoming 4th year high school student said he overcame that by forcing himself not to miss his family too much and just focus on being a varsity player.

"Nalipay ko nga na scoutan ko ni coach Van kay daghan nako na experience nga lain-lain duwa, naabot ug lain lain na lugar (I am glad that coach Van scouted me because I have now experienced different kinds of games and have been to different places)," said Yerro.

PBA goal

He hopes to be able to play in the Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) someday, still with his family's welfare in mind.

"Gusto ko nga maabot sila ug laing lugar, makasuroysuroy sila, ug makatabang sad ko sa mga igsoon (I want my family to be able to visit other places, travel, as well as help my siblings)," said Yerro.

He also has this advice for young athletes like him.

"Go hard lang sila jud, nya dapat di jud magtinapulan, praktis pirmi, focus, skwela ug tarong (They just have to go hard, they should not be lazy, always practice, focus and do well in their studies)." – Rappler.com

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