Someone asked me how my blog and newspaper column came to be titled "Bleachers Brew". It's like this, it's an amalgam of sorts of two things: The bleachers area in the stadium/arena where I used to sit when I would watch baseball, football, and basketball games and Miles Davis' great jazz album Bitches Brew. That's how it got culled together. I originally planned on calling it "The View from the Big Chair" that is a nod to Tears For Fear's second album, Songs from the Big Chair. So there.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Bleachers' Brew #277 Big Mac hopes for a big comeback

This appears in the Monday September 19, 2011 edition of the Business Mirror.

Big Mac hopes for a big comeback
by rick olivares

“Ba-blankahin kita,” snarled Marlou Aquino to Mark Andaya. That was actually the kindest of the trash that “The Skyscraper” spewed at the younger player.

The two redwood centers, the former on the downside of his career and the latter trying to revive his own, were battling one another as their respective teams, the Meralco Bolts and Barako Bull Energy Boosters faced each other for the first time in the Philippine Cup of the 36th Season of the Philippine Basketball Association.

Andaya stepped onto the Araneta Coliseum Maplewood filled with eagerness and excitement. Wearing the colors of the Barako Bull, his fifth PBA team in five seasons, the 6’9” slotman looked forward to playing Aquino, his boyhood idol. Andaya remembered a lesson his college coach at Letran, Louie Alas, taught him while he was playing for the Knights in the NCAA: “respect them as a basketball player but fear no one.”

The native Manileño gamely battled Aquino all match long further drawing his ire.

It was tough for Andaya not just because he watched Aquino during his time with the Falcons but the Meralco player was a student of his mother’s (in Spanish class) during his time at Adamson.

Career. It’s something that means so much to Andaya.

He is the youngest of nine children and the only one who is over six feet tall and plays basketball. He never got to know his father who passed away at an early age. Raised by their mother in the Vito Cruz area of Manila, the Andaya children were accustomed to hardship. They didn’t have enough but their mother worked hard enough to put food on the table.

When he wasn’t in school, Mark would watch the neighborhood kids play basketball. He wasn’t tall back then. In fact, it was only when he was in second year high school when he grew to 5’9”.

When he finally learned how to play the game in the San Andres Bukid playgrounds, he heard the jeers, catcalls, and snide remarks about his size and features. “Nandoon lahat yung mga loko so narinig ko na lahat whether bastos o nakakatawa. Kaya’t nung nasa NCAA at PBA na ako, bali wala na sa akin yun,” said Andaya. “If life isn’t easy that’s not a reason for anyone to give up.”

While playing for Adamson in high school, his left leg was fractured when a car hit him from behind as he was going up a jeepney. The initial prognosis was his career was over and Andaya felt so disconsolate. Another doctor however thought different. He underwent an operation and not only did his bones heal but he grew taller and found his basketball jones.

It was while he was playing for Manuel L. Quezon University where he was invited by Mel Alas, the younger brother of Louie to transfer to Letran. He joined forces with Aaron Aban, Boyet Bautista, Erick Rodriguez, Kojack Melegrito, and RJ Jazul, Andaya to help the Knights win the 2005 NCAA championship over Philippine Christian University.

Turning pro the following year, Andaya thought more highly of himself than his peers or coaches. Struggling to adapt to coming off the bench and taking fewer shots, he let what he thought was unfair treatment affect his game. Drafted eighth overall by Talk ‘N Text, he was traded midway in the 2006-07 season to Air21 for Yancy de Ocampo.

He bounced around from Barako Bull, Rain or Shine, the Philippine Patriots in the Asean Basketball League to the Misamis Oriental Meteors in the Liga Pilipinas and back to Barako Bull for the Philippine Cup of the PBA’s 36th Season.

He entered the 36th season of the PBA with a different mindset. “At first, nainggit ako sa co-rookies ko,” he related. “Mali ang understanding ko sa basketball. Natalo ako ng immaturity ko. Only later did I realize that you do what the coach asks you to do. If that be a block, a rebound to start the fastbreak, a tap here, box out there, that’s what it takes to win a ball game.”

Initially, he was signed to a month-long contract by Barako Bull. After his strong play off the bench, he was signed for the remainder of the season. However soon, Barako Bull folded up and Smart Gilas took its place the following season. “I thought that this was it, my second chance at a PBA career, but hindi pala,” he said of those dashed hopes.

“But I think of those days when people said I wasn’t good enough, when my leg was fractured, when in the middle of my rookie year, I was traded from Talk ‘N Text to Air21. That serves as my inspiration to keep going on.”

Now he’s latched on once more to the Philippine Patriots while waiting for a call to try out for Petron for the upcoming PBA season. “I have to earn a living and the way life is, parang basketball, it’s full of comebacks. Now I hope to live my dream.”

Hanging out at Starbucks Rockwell. 

Mark does a lot of biking nowadays riding as far as the mountains of Antipolo. Sometimes at the MOA area. 

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