MANILA, Philippines -- San Miguel head coach Leo Austria is hopeful that his home province of Quezon will soon produce more basketball talents who can eventually make it to the PBA.
Austria, the PBA Rookie of the Year in 1995, visited his hometown of Sariaya on Thursday to inaugurate the new facilities at the San Miguel-Christian Gayeta Homes, which include a covered and concrete basketball court, livelihood center, e-library, and children's learning center.
He was joined by PBA icon Alvin Patrimonio and local officials led by Mayor Marcelo Gayeta, as well as Quezon clergy led by Lucena Bishop Mel Rey Uy.
"Ang sabi ko nga sa mga bata, ako nga na tagarito sa Sariaya ay nagsikap at umabot sa PBA," said Austria. "Kaya't kaya rin nila, basta magsikap sila."
The simple ceremony evoked childhood memories for Austria, who played collegiate hoops in Lyceum of the Philippines University before playing for 14 years in the PBA. He went on to coach the Adamson University Falcons in the UAAP before being tapped to call the shots for the Beermen.
Austria has had great success in San Miguel, including a run of five consecutive All-Filipino championships, but he still recalls his humble beginnings.
"Nag-umpisa ako ng volleyball sa St. Francis High School but madalas na 'ko sa intrams (intramurals) noon bago ako napunta sa basketball nung junior at senior year," he said.
"May basketball court sa tapat ng simbahan na tawag ay parke kung saan madalas kami maglaro halos maghapon. Ang tawag nga sa akin ay batang parke," Austria revealed.
"Kung saan-saan nga kami nakakarating sa Quezon para maglaro ng mga kaibigan ko."
Austria now wants to help more Quezon-based players to make it to the professional leagues.
"Ang mga naalala ko ay sina Alex at Boy Clarino na taga-Pagbilao, si Gido Babilonia na taga-Alabat at 'yung bago sa PBA na si Jesper Ayaay na taga-Pagbilao rin. Sana marami pang umangat na player na taga Quezon in the future," he said.
The coach also expressed his gratitude to the San Miguel Corp. for the sustainable housing community, which saw 172 families relocate from risky coastal areas. While quarantine restrictions prohibit most sports activities and mass gatherings, Austria hopes that he can hold basketball clinics in the community when conditions improve.
"Maraming kabataan sa pinatayong subdivision ng San Miguel. Kapag nawala na siguro ang pandemya at meron nang vaccine ay puwede na tayong magkaroon ng mga clinics dito para sa sports development nila at ma-boost ulit 'yung basketball sa Sariaya," he said.
SMC is set to build a modern, state-of-the-art integrated agro-industrial complex in Sariaya, Quezon that will include a brewery, grains terminal and feedmill, a ready-to-eat food manufacturing plant, fuel tank farm, and port facilities.
Each housing unit in the community, built under Housing Land Use Regulatory Board (HLURB) standards, has a lot area of 54 square meters that can fit a bedroom, toilet and bathroom, kitchen, dining area, and loft capability. The community also has an overhead water tank with 136,000-liter capacity, a dedicated sewage treatment plant made of natural reed beds, park, daycare center, and playground garden.