SAN MIGUEL Beer Head Coach Leo Austria said the youth in his hometown of Sariaya should not give up on their dreams despite the Covid-19 pandemic as he is confident the presence of San Miguel Corp. (SMC) in the area will boost basketball in Quezon province and produce fresh talents who will eventually make it to the collegiate leagues and the Philippine Basketball Association (PBA).
Austria, the PBA Rookie of the Year in 1985, said that living in the province did not deter him from moving forward as a player and coach in the Philippine Basketball League (PBL), the University Athletic Association of the Philippines (UAAP) and the PBA.
“I always tell the kids in Sariaya that I worked hard to be in the PBA, and I keep reminding them that if I can do it, they also can,” Austria said. “All they need to do is to work hard and set their goals—and it’s a blessing for them that SMC is in their community.”
Austria, along with PBA legend Alvin Patrimonio, joined Sariaya local officials led by Mayor Marcelo Gayeta and Quezon clergy led by Lucena City Bishop Mel Rey Uy during the recent inauguration of the new 5.4-hectare San Miguel-Christian Gayeta Homes.
The facility includes a covered and concrete basketball court, livelihood center, e-library and children’s learning center.
Austria reiterated his gratitude to SMC President and COO Ramon S. Ang for taking care of 127 families who relocated to the P352-million sustainable housing community from the risky coastal areas of Sariaya.
“Being in San Miguel Corp. changed my life. And I tell my kababayan that SMC cares and that they could always depend on Boss RSA,” he said. “The SMC facility gives jobs to the people of Sariaya and, as well as income to the local government.”
Austria said he will conduct basketball clinics for kids in the community once health protocols are relaxed.
“I will teach the kids of Sariaya how to play basketball, that’s my dream—to boost sports development in my hometown,” he said.
Austria reminisced his younger days in Sariaya which he spent mostly on sports.
“I started with volleyball at St. Francis High School and I was a regular in intramurals. After volleyball, I fell in love with basketball,” he said.
“We often played in the basketball court fronting the church, which we called parke. I played there all the time and eventually, everyone was calling me ‘batang parke,’” Austria narrated. “Me and my baskettball friends roamed almost the entire Quezon province playing basketball.”
Austria said that he hopes more Quezon-based players could make it to the collegiate and professional leagues as he named players from the province who rose to stardom.
“Alex and Boy Clarino are from Pagbilao, the late Vegildo Babilonia was from Alabat and among the younger ones, Jesper Aya-ay is also from Pagbilao,” he said. “I hope many more will follow their footsteps.”
SMC is set to build a modern, state-of-the-art integrated agro-industrial complex in Sariaya 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 standards, has a lot area of 54 square meters that can fit a bedroom, toilet and bathroom, kitchen and dining area with loft capability.
The community also has an overhead water tank with a 136,000-liter capacity, a dedicated sewage treatment plant made of natural reed beds, park, daycare center and playground garden.