MANILA - Not every dreamer is able to make it to the top in the world of boxing. Nathan Ballerda knew this, and so he also knew how important it was to have a Plan B for his career.
Ballerda, who hails from Digos City in Davao del Sur, was 17 and in high school when he first entered the world of amateur boxing with the hopes of becoming the next big name in the ring.
On his first try of sparring, he said he ended up getting beaten black and blue by his opponent. But this did not discourage him; rather, it even fueled him to train harder.
"Nung nasaktan ako, nagkaroon sa instinct ko na talagang balang araw magiging kapareha niya (opponent) rin ako. Mahihigitan ko pa siya," he said in an interview on ANC's "Mukha."
Ballerda saw boxing as a possible way out of poverty. He didn't mind spending hours training every day and going around towns for amateur boxing matches.
"Dahil malaking karangalan para sa amin na kahit sa amateur ay mananalo kami. Uuwi kami sa aming bahay na, 'O, kumusta ang laban mo?' 'Ito, panalo ako dun,'" he said.
In just about a year, Ballerda was able to prove his worth as an amateur boxer in Digos City.
However, due to his desire to become a well-known boxer in the country, he said: "Nawala sa aking isip yung ipagpatuloy yung aking pag-aaral (sa kolehiyo)."
When he entered the world of professional boxing, his first fight ended quickly with him losing.
But again, he did not give up. He trained harder and pushed himself to the limits. "At sa mga sumunod kong laban, yun, nananalo na ako."
He also had the opportunity to join bouts outside the country -- one in Bangkok, Thailand and another in Gwangju, South Korea.
"Narating ko yung mga lugar na hindi ko sukat akalain na mararating ko. Nakarating ako sa abroad, lumaban ako, na kahit sa pangarap hindi ko kayang abutin yun eh... Sinong mag-aakala na makakasakay ako ng airplane?"
VALUE OF EDUCATION
No matter how much he persevered, Ballerda did not become a world boxing champion.
At 30, he thought to himself it was already time to hang up his gloves and return to what he had left behind when he pursued boxing.
"Sa tingin ko kasi, habang tumatanda tayo lumiliit ang tiyansa natin sa boxing o nawawala. Dahil sa boxing ako nahinto sa pag-aaral, kaya kailangan makatapos ako (sa pag-aaral) dahil sa boxing," he said.
This meant going to college and still joining boxing matches every now and then to help pay for his tuition.
"Hindi pa huli ang lahat bagamat 30 years old na ko nag-aral ng college. Better late than never," he said.
And not long after that came his new-found passion: teaching.
Ballerda is now a full-time elementary school teacher. He also serves as a property school custodian, sports coordinator, boy scouts coordinator, and science coordinator.
"Mahirap ang maging teacher eh, maraming ginagawa... Pero pag isinapuso mo yun, pag love mo yung trabaho mo, eh kahit mahirap gagawin mo."
Although he was not able to fulfill his dream of becoming a world boxing champion, he said he is contended to have a happy family and a stable career.
Moreover, he still gets to bring out the boxer in him since he teaches young dreamers -- just like the 17-year-old Ballerda -- of the basics in boxing.
But not only that; he also teaches his boxing students the value of education.
"Ang boxing ay isang sports. Kung sa tingin mo may potential ka, i-grab mo ang opportunity at mag-focus ka talaga sa pag-eensayo. Pero kung hindi para sayo yan, hindi talaga mapapasayo. So mabuti na yung: Kung hindi ako sisikat dito, at least sa iba mag-eexcel ako."
"Ito ang pinakamagandang desisyon na ginawa ko sa aking buhay -- yung naisipan kong ipagpatuloy ang aking pagaaral," Ballerda said.