CHICAGO, Illinois (UPDATED) – When United States President Barack Obama told the nation that “the best is yet to come,” he also told the world why he will always bet on America.
“It doesn’t matter whether you’re black or white, Hispanic or Asian or Native American, young or old, or rich or poor, abled, disabled, gay or straight. You can make it here in America if you’re willing to try,” Obama said following his re-election as President.
Obama’s words resonated with a young Filipino basketball player, who tells himself every day that failure will never be an option.
Japeth Aguilar was only six years old when he told his parents about his lifelong dream.
“Sinabi ko, maglalaro ako sa NBA,” Aguilar said.
Aguilar said he did not know what he was thinking back then, but over the years, he made a conscious decision every day to make his dream come true.
Last week, Aguilar took a step closer to his dream when he became the first Filipino to make it to the NBA Development League, the official minor league of the prestigious basketball organization.
“Magandang experience doon, makikita mo sila kung paano sila mag-compete,” he said. “They’re not only talented but they work hard every day.”
“May tiwala naman ako sa Diyos na in every step of the way, hindi Niya ako pababayaan,” Aguilar added.
It’s been 10 years since his father, Peter, a professional basketball player in the Philippines, also tried to make it in America.
Peter is now fully supporting his son as he tries to make his own dream come true.
“Meron siyang height – 6-foot-9. Sukat ng basketball ‘yan eh,” he said. “Tapos... nakakatalon siya. Sa height niya, mabilis na siya. ‘Yun ang nakikita ng coach sa kanya.”
Father and son admit that weaving the American dream is not easy. Peter has been working in a grease factory, and according to Japeth, his father’s persistence and hard work inspires him.
“Kung mahirap ang ginagawa ko ngayon, siya na endure niya na 10 years siya dito, ‘yung dina-drive niya one hour away from here. Gumigising siya ng 3 a.m., umuuwi siya dito ng 6 p.m.,” the younger Aguilar said.
“So darating siya dito minsan, ma-grasa. Sila talaga ‘yung nagre-remind sa akin na kailangan ko talagang lumaban,” he added.
Next week, Aguilar will start training with the Santa Cruz Warriors, an affiliate team of the NBA’s Golden State Warriors.