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Mark Aguilar wishes to tell story of surviving bone cancer through wheelchair basketball

Through becoming a part of the national wheelchair team, Mark Aguilar expresses his success story of overcoming bone cancer.
By Ivan Saldajeno

PASIG—When sportscaster Patricia Hizon asked participants during the second round of the media relations training for athletes on Wednesday one question they wish the reporters would ask them, Mark Aguilar spoke up and said he wanted to be interviewed about how his untimely sacrifice brought him to a chance to bring glory to the Philippines in the sport that is arguably the Filipinos' national pastime.

Aguilar, when asked by Dugout Philippines during the break in the seminar done at the conference room of the PhilSports Complex here, bared that he actually wanted to excel in billiards.

"My first sport talaga is billiards, pero my family can't afford the materials for billiards," Aguilar said.

To further add to his family's financial problems then, Aguilar was diagnosed with bone cancer, and the doctor advised him to have his right leg amputated so the cancer cells would not spread further.

Aware that sacrificing his leg would alter the course of his life significantly, Aguilar decided that he would rather live cancer-free than keep his body whole with a lot of health risks.

"Dati, mahirap, pero as the day goes by na pinag-aaralan and pinagsisikapan ko na... gusto kong gumaling. Ayokong manatili sa hospital at doon ako mawawalan ng buhay. Gusto kong ipagpatuloy yung buhay ko kahit PWD (person with disability) ako. Hindi naman kawalan sa akin na nawalan ako ng paa. At least buhay ako," Aguilar further said.

But after hurdling one challenge, he admitted he thought about challenging himself more.

"Noong gumaling na ako, hindi pa ako kuntento na ganun lang ako. Para saan pang lumaban ako kung mabubuhay lang naman ako nang normal? So I want a challenge in my life," Aguilar further said.

And then he found himself playing basketball.

"I discovered basketball noong naputulan na ako," Aguilar bared.

He then added that he tried playing hoops with normal people, but he said, "It's hard for me to improve kasi hindi ako doon nararapat.

Then he was introduced to wheelchair basketball.

"From a patient to an athlete, mahirap sa simula kasi kailangan mong i-adapt yung sarili mo lalo na yung agility, speed, strength, yung mga traits ng pagiging athletic. Kailangan mong makuha yun. At the meantime, nakukuha ko naman," Aguilar bared how his wheelchair hoops career went at the start.

Good thing for him, he eventually made the Philippine wheelchair basketball team, and their wins have come in left and right.

Recently, the national team finished third in the IWBF Asia-Oceania Championships in Suphanburi, Thailand.

By making the podium, the Philippines will play wheelchair basketball in the Asian Para Games in Hangzhou, China.

Up next for Aguilar and the rest of the team is the ASEAN Para Games in Phnom Penh this June.

The national team looks to at least match the silver medal finish it had last year in Indonesia or better yet, go for the gold in Cambodia.

"We're still going to do our best na ilaban yung kaya naming i-perform. Andito naman yung dugo ng Pilipino na kahit bugbog ka na, lalaban ka pa rin. You will fight until your last breath kasi digmaan ito," Aguilar further said, adding that Thailand, the defending champion last year, remains the major threat for the Philippine team in its gold medal pursuit.

On his part, though, Aguilar looks to continue polishing his skills to continue championing his advocacy of being the voice of cancer survivors in Philippine wheelchair basketball.

"I'm expecting more sa sarili ko, be the best version of myself, and be able to achieve more achievements," he further said.

A repeat of the media relations training also organized by the Philippine Sports Commission, para-athletes called up for national team duty in the ASEAN Para Games were invited to learn the basics of handling media affairs like dealing with reporters.

Just like in the first round where female SEA Games competitors took part, Hizon and Lito Cinco served as resource speakers, and some reporters were also summoned to not just interview the para-athletes but also share what they could teach the ASEAN Para Games-bound players.

Follow him on Twitter: @IvanSaldajeno

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