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The Final Score: Japeth the Dreamer

September 21, 2012 8:56am

Japeth Aguilar’s face appears on my laptop monitor. He’s comfortable in a white V-neck shirt. He sits on a couch. He leans forward so we can see each other through Skype. It’s close to midnight in Glendale, California where he is set to complete another productive day.

I ask, “Kumusta ka na?”

Japeth pauses. The man on the other end of the video chat is dreaming big. His goal to play in the NBA is easy to understand for some, impossible to grasp for others. So my simple question can have a not-so-simple answer.

Japeth, however, replies, “Okay lang po.”

Japeth has attended private workouts for two NBA teams. He’s set to attend three more. He can’t stay up too late because he’s preparing for a private workout two days from now. Another workout with a scout means another chance to make an impression. Good or bad. It’s all part of the hike.

“Yung mga scout very intimidating yung dating nila,” Japeth shares. “As soon as ipakilala sila sa akin, very serious sila. Walang reaction. Straight faced sila. Kaya I just tell myself hindi sila mag-aaksaya ng oras if hindi sila interested.”

So that’s the drill. Run around the city. Lift weights at the Cal State University Fitness Center. Prepare for tryouts. Gather confidence for private workouts. Japeth plans to do this for a whole year, away from the PBA, away from the Philippines, away from the system that, he believes, limits him to play a certain way, away from the people who will insist that he stay put. He has set a 12-month timetable to achieve the chance of a lifetime.

“Yung mga naipon ko sa PBA ang gagamitin ko to pay for my life dito,” Japeth, whose contract with Talk ‘N Text expired last August, admits. “Kailangan lang mag budget ng maayos.”

I’m not sure if he’s dreaming like a man and working on his dreams like a child or if he’s dreaming like a child and working on his dreams like a man. I’m just sure of this: who am I to tell anyone not to aspire?

Japeth starts most days by waking up at 6:00am to conquer the stone steps of the Culver City Stairs. It’s part of his conditioning routine. He takes one big step after another. The higher he goes, the harder it gets. It’s a symbolic way to begin his daily regimen. He ascends with each taxing stride. He works for a pay-off he completely believes in. Once he hits a sign that says “375 feet above sea level”, he reads a poem engraved on the ground:

“Step by step your climb expands
the cityscape a thousand fold,
framing it ever more broadly with hillside and sky.”

Japeth, then, finishes his morning climb with 30 more steps. He finally stops to take in the spectacular view of the city. It’s a deep satisfaction he can’t easily share and we can’t instantly identify with. We’re not there. He is. It’s his journey. Not ours. - AMD, GMA News

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