A True Story
ten wisdoms 06


By Bernie Lopez
Excerpt from the book – Ten Wisdoms of the Lord’s Prayer.
Chapter 8 “And Forgive Us Our Sins”.
This has been blogged before as a separate article.


This anecdote is inspired by a true story, as told to the author by the coach himself of the Ateneo High School Varsity team. Dialogue has been reconstructed. It is a story of pride and humility.
chapter 8 on forgiveness teaches us
that when someone elbows you
and you smile in return
it is a powerful game changer
beyond your imagination


Tony (not his real name) was the basketball coach when the Ateneo High School Varsity won the championship. Now, he has shifted his attention from rich kids to squatter kids. He left Ateneo and taught in an unknown public school.


As he watches the squatter teens play on a dirt court, he sees how tough they are and how fantastic their raw talents are, crude but intuitive and with quick reflex. He sees their passion and skill. But he thinks it will be a waste if they do not have focus and spirit. To Tony, to be a champ, a basketball team has to be ‘spiritualized’. Morale fiber is the key ingredient of champions. He approaches their leader Bobby.


TONY – Hey, Bobby, help me get your friends into the basketball team.
BOBBY – They’re not interested. They play only to enjoy. Then they hang out at the billiard hall.
TONY – But the gang wars begin there.
BOBBY – I know. I keep telling them that’s a dead-end, but they just shrug their shoulders. They don’t care.
TONY – Tell you what. I buy you guys sneakers.
BOBBY – Really? Do we choose what sneakers we buy?
TONY – Sure, why not, as long as it’s within my budget.
BOBBY – No, you get the budget, we choose the brand. That way you get your team.
TONY – (Hesitating). Okay, deal.


The gang wants only one brand of sneakers, the expensive kind beyond the reach of Tony’s budget. He goes to Ateneo and talks to the varsity team, his former players, to get some help.


TONY – Hey guys, I need sneakers for my basketball team, ten squatter kids.
JOEY – Squatter kids? Wow. Nice. Can we play with them?
TONY – No, no. They’re amateurs. They’re not in your league. You’ll beat them black-and blue.
RESTI – You were our best varsity coach. You made us champions, remember?
TONY – Yeah but these kids are different. They drink a lot … troublesome … hopeless.
JOEY – We also drink a lot. Hey guys, can a good coach make players out of squatter kids? (Everyone says yes in unison.)
RESTI – Okay, coach, tell you what. We buy them shoes on one condition. When you’ve trained them, we play with them.


Everyone screams with approval. Before Tony can reply, donations pour in. These are rich kids. Resti collects and gives a thick wad of bills to Tony after counting it.


RESTI – Okay, that’s thirty two thousand.
JOEY – Here’s another sixty from me. Buy them uniforms. (He writes a cheque. Everyone boos).
TONY – Hey guys, this is too much. I can’t take these.
RESTI – That’s the challenge, coach. You make champions out of these kids the way you did for us. And the only way to prove they’re champions is for them to beat us. Right guys? (Everyone jeers with approval.)
TONY – I am not sure.
RESTI – Aw c’mon. Prove to us you haven’t lost your touch. Challenge the champion, coach, only way to go. And take the money. (Everyone screams).
TONY – Okay, challenge the champion, guys. Give me a year.
JOEY – Take two years. Take forever. (More jeers). Tell you what. If they beat us, we give you double, a cool hundred thousand, for the kids, not for you. Is that alright guys? (More jeers showing their approval).
RESTI – Squatter kids beating us? That’ll be the day.


Tony goes back to the squatter kids at the dirt court. He tells them they will get ten thousand each if they beat the Ateneo varsity. They are silent, hesitant, thinking Goliath is invincible. But the money makes them drool. They agree. They meet for practice at the dirt court.


TONY – Why are you all wearing beach sandals?
BOBBY – The sneakers are for parties and weddings. We don’t wear them for basketball.
TONY – What? I got you sneakers to play basketball.
BOBBY – We play better with slippers. Jessie and Loy play barefoot. They can’t play with slippers.
TONY – (Moaning). So I suppose, you also don’t want uniforms?
BOBBY – No need. Just give us the money.


Realizing how the pocket is connected to the heart, Tony gives in. He gets his squatter team all fired up. Not a single absence in six months. They work hard. Inspite of the slippers, Tony is euphoric. He can see the change in them. It is not just basketball. It is something deeper in their hearts, the spiritual factor. Tony does not care if they lose the game. This sudden spiritual transformation is all he wants.


TONY – I think you guys can beat Ateneo, but it is the attitude that worries me? What do you think of these Ateneans?
JESSIE – Well, they are champions.
TONY – That’s what I mean. You have to remove that from your minds. They are equals. They are not champions, not Ateneans, just players.
LOY – They are rich kids with cars. We’re poor squatters. They are educated, we are not.
TONY – So what? Does that matter? Are you be afraid to face them? (Silence). They will intimidate you. Can you look at them as equals eye ball to eye ball, even just on the court? That’s all I ask.
BOBBY – We will try. Guys, you heard the coach, okay? (Everyone groans).
TONY – Loy, stay behind.


When everyone is gone, Tony supervises Loy on 3-point shots until it was dark. He puts in 4 to 5 out of 10 shots. Twice a week, Tony supervises Loy on 3-pointers for 3 hours. Loy starts to squirm and complain. But Tony finds his weakness. When he treats Loy to fried chicken and rice, he says it is his first time to eat in a restaurant. From then on, it is fried chicken after practice. Loy never misses practice. In 2 weeks, he is making 9 to 10 out of 10 3-pointers.


LOY – Coach, I notice a change in everyone. I’ve never seen them all so happy. It is as if we’ve discovered something worth fighting for. Suddenly, life is no longer absurd or boring.
TONY – (Putting an arm around Loy). Yup, way to go, Loy.


The dreaded game with Ateneo comes. The squatter kids, shoeless and shirtless, face an Ateneo team in full battle gear – blue uniforms, air-cushioned rubber shoes. Problem no. 1 is they are used to sliding on sandy dirt court. They keep tripping on the sticky wooden floor of the Blue Eagle Gym. Ateneo is piling up a lead. During a time out …


BOBBY – It’s no good, coach. We are slowed down by the rubber slippers.
TONY – Jessie, how are you managing barefoot?
JESSIE – No problem, coach. Wood is like cushion if you are used to dirt ground.
TONY – Okay, everybody, play barefoot.


The entire team plays barefoot. Problem no. 1 is solved. Problem no. 2 is self-confidence and inferiority complex. Poor kids can never think of themselves as equal of rich kids. During a time out, Bobby complains how the Ateneans were laughing at their bare feet.


TONY – It’s a psyche war. If you react, they win psychologically. Just don’t show you’re pissed off. Smile to show it’s not affecting you. Concentrate on making points. Pass to Loy for 3- pointers. And listen, guys. Be aware of each of the four other players on the court, whom to pass to, who can make a rebound. That’s how champion teams are made. (The team gives a hoot).


Loy’s long hours of practices pays off. He makes 4 consecutive 3-pointers, reducing Ateneo’s lead to 4 points. After that, the Ateneans stopped laughing at them. This boostd the confidence of the squatter kids. They can beat Goliath if they want to. Problem no. 2 is solved. Loy is now double-guarded, so he starts passing to Jessie or Bobby deep in the goal area, who takes over making points. The squatter kids are now leading by 5. The toughness of squatter kids in their poverty amazes the Ateneans.
Problem no. 3 is avoiding a brawl. When they started losing, the Ateneans resort to rough tactics. When Loy has a hard fall after being elbowed, he stands up, and limps away as if nothing happened. A poor kid will challenge a rich kid in private, but never in public. Also, poor kids are too afraid to have a fist fight with rich kids. The Ateneans are shocked. They want Loy to fight back, but he just smiles. The rough tactics continue to the end, but it is not working. Problem no. 3 is solved. The Ateneans finally lose by 2 points. Trained in sportsmanship, they went over to the squatter kids and shook their hands.


The game taught the poor kids self-confidence, and the rich kids humility. They began to understand the meaning of the Ateneo Spirit. It also bridged the gap between rich and poor. They played more games and became close friends. One would win, then the other. The Ateneans wanted the shame of the first defeat to squatter kids kept secret. But when they became friends, they did not care. They were proud of their new friends. The Ateneo team was sharpened by the squatter kids and remained champions in the UAAP for two more years. The squatter kids attended all their games, wanting to play in the UAAP someday. Loy was recruited into the Ateneo team on scholarship.

To order the book, send email to author at

Check out another book by the author –
Wings and Wanderlust (The Art of Discovering Your Inner Self)
Read some excerpts first at –

in any game never play not to lose

always play to win
reach for the stars
too much effort you miss the shot
no effort you make the shot
spiritual transformation
is found in dim corners and bright places
they bridge the chasm among people
rich or poor, in quiet woods or noisy traffic
you just have to find a tiny open window
then the doors slam wide open
because the human spirit is boundless





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