My son Matthew's first piece for philstar.com
An American in Morayta
By Matthew Olivares Photo by Jan Dizon
It is no longer unusual to see tall foreign students walking the streets of Recto. For years, the University Belt has seen an influx of students from the Middle East and Africa or even Asia. However, all 6’5” of Anthony Hargrove from Newark, New Jersey still stand outs because he is known to play for the Far Eastern University Tamaraws.
Hargrove has learned to cope with life on Manila’s mean streets. After all, he’s learned that from first hand experience.
After more than four years in the Philippines, it still is a struggle. He thought that he would have adjusted to life here already but he constantly pines for home. There are days when it gets the best of him and even affects his game. “Sometimes, while playing, I just wonder about my family,” Anthony said with a touch of melancholia to his tone. “I go crazy just thinking about them. I wish they were here to watch me play.”
Upon arriving in the country, Hargrove experienced severe culture shock. He didn’t have any friends here; his friends from New York who piqued his interest about going to the Philippines went back to the United States to work. He didn’t even have his video games to keep him entertained.
Despite the difference in culture, Hargrove was able to adjust with the aid of his teammates. At first, he was a little shy because he felt like they will never understand him and his cultural background, but his teammates were genuinely interested. They would even tell him about their lives and their families, giving Hargrove glimpses of Filipino life and culture. Eventually, he found a home with his teammates and now lives comfortably in his dorm in Morayta.
What he found to be the most devastating was the poverty. “It’s not like there’s no poverty in the United States,” he said. “Of course we do and we have homeless people as well, but the government doesn’t allow them to stay in the streets so they look for shelters for them to stay in. Here in the Philippines, it’s all out in the open with babies crawling looking for their mommies. It’s just painful and unbearable to look at.”
However, he admires the perseverance of the poor to keep on living, and it’s just humbling to see them fighting to live. In many ways, he takes inspiration from what he sees on the streets; it fuels his “no excuses” mentality.
Unfortunately, in the first half of a match between the FEU Tamaraws and Lyceum of the Philippines University, that mentality wasn’t on display for him.
Heading into the match-up, both teams were undefeated in the Filoil Flying V Hanes Premier Cup, a pre-season collegiate basketball tournament with the Tamaraws at 3-0 and the Pirates at 2-0.
Hargrove was way off in the first half. He didn’t touch the ball much and when he did and drove to the basket, LPU’s Joseph Gabayni and Arwin Azores banged him up like a pinball causing him to lose possession. The roughhousing tactics are nothing new. It happens all the time usually to the taller or foreign student-athletes. There’s hardly any protection even from the referees. On another occasion, Hargrove ventured out to receive the ball from teammate Mike Tolomia at the free throw line, Azores hammered him the lower back area forcing him to double over in pain. Anthony looked at the referee for any sign of acknowledgement but none was forthcoming.
He was a non-factor in the first half.
In the second half of play, he was a different man. Attacking the basket. Hauling down rebounds, blocking shots, yapping at teammates and foes alike.
Of course, this can’t be an excuse for him to lower his performance, and he knows this. “A commitment is a commitment,” he said. “I signed up for this.”
He played well until he hurt his right leg in a bad fall although he did come back in the last two minutes but by then the game was wrapped up for a 78-71 FEU win. Hargrove finished with four points, seven rebounds and two blocks to help the Tamaraws go to 4-0.
“I’m sorry for the bad game,” Hargrove apologized post-match. “It was a very physical and tough game,” he added. “At times, it didn’t seem like basketball anymore but you just have to deal with it.”
Usually after games, he would call his parents through Viber to tell them about what had transpired or to seek advice. Not wanting to waste the faith that his parents have in him, he would always think about their words of encouragement to drive him to do better.
The days when he used to work at Footlocker in New York or hang out with his friends balling or playing video games are far away.
He now lives simply and enjoys the same things that he misses, only in a different setting. When he is not preoccupied with basketball, he would spend his time with his girlfriend, going out on dates and watching movies; playing video games; haunting the sisig or Bicol Express restaurants along Recto or Morayta, or listening to hip-hop songs by artists such as Eminem, Kanye West and Jay-Z, which gets him pumped up before games. He draws inspiration from these hip-hop artists.
“They started from nothing and became something,” the American reflected. “My life is similar to theirs in that aspect. That’s why I try my best to become better at what I do.”
This is Hargrove’s final year with FEU and he will graduate with a degree in Sports Management. He plans on making the most out of his final year, hoping to make himself better as an athlete through basketball, and as a better person through his education. He embraces life’s inherent uncertainty and leaves it all to God. Wherever the wind takes him, he will accept it wholeheartedly and with a come-what-may attitude.