When basketball is the topic of conversation, 24-year-old Marko Yldeso from Santa Rosa, Laguna, doesn't back down—despite going to court with an artificial left leg.
He lost his left leg to a road accident in 2005 when he was five years old.
"Sa tapat po ng bahay namin nangyari 'yung aksidente, then pagtawid ko po doon sa tapat ng bahay namin, may biglang van po na dumaan," Yldeso said.
Despite becoming a target of ridicule growing up, Yldeso did not let this hinder his determination to throw perfect baskets.
FINDING JOY IN BASKETBALL
His journey to basketball began in 2008 when the government provided him with a free artificial leg. This rekindled his ability to walk and motivated him to try his hand at basketball.
It was at the court that he found happiness and new friends, and new meaning to his life.
“That time, si basketball napo yung kasama ko lalo sa lungkot or kasiyahan man yan, sa basketball din po ako maraming nakilalang kaibigan. One main reason lang po bakit po ako naglaro ng basketball is napapasaya po ako nito,” Yldeso said.
He then started joining competitions in his community and in neighboring areas.
"Naglalaro po ako sa mga liga-liga ng barangays or dayo rin po [ako] sa ibang barangay or ibang lugar samin," he said.
Win or lose, what matters to him, he said, is the enjoyment he has been getting from every game.
"Halos lahat naman po panalo, [pero pamanolo] man or talo yan as long as nag-eenjoy po ako tuloy lang po ako sa laro ko," he said.
Playing basketball with his artificial leg for the first time was like facing life for the first time after his leg was amputated.
He recalled the shock he felt upon learning he would lose his leg and the arduous process that followed for him to heal.
“Nung una po, shock, kasi five years old lang po ako nung naputulan po, eh… wala pa pong kamalay-malay… mga two to three months before po ako nakalabas uli ng bahay for recovery then balik po [ako] sa school… naalala ko po buhat-buhat pa po ako ng tita ko mula daycare hanggang grade three pag papasok po ako,” he said.
He may have been very young at that time but he showed maturity in choosing to continue to face the future.
"I chose to continue pursuing my dreams… lakasan lang po talaga ng loob, at mas pinili ko pong ituloy lang ang pangarap [ko] sa buhay,” he said.
With basketball, Yldeso said he participated in training camps just so he could hone his skills for the game using his artificial leg. He said it was not easy running and dealing with the scars from his injury but he pushed until he found his rhythm on the court.
“Yung mga challenges lang po sakin is mas iba lang po yung pagtakbo ko po kesa sa normal, and nung una nagsusugat and maraming kalyo po palagi yung putol kopong paa, hanggang sa nasanay nalang din po ako. Nilakasan ko lang po loob ko palagi sa tuwing aapak po ako sa court,” he said.
Yldeso acknowledged that basketball is physically demanding but he said he never let his physical shortcomings hinder him from keeping up with his peers.
“Mostly, physical po talaga si basketball pero never naman po naging hindrance yung kalagayan ko para makipagsabayan po sa normal [na tao, pero] mas namotivate [pa] po ako na mas pag-igihan para makasabay pa po lalo sa kanila,” he said.
Yldeso said he continues to play not only for his benefit or to inspire other amputees but also anyone facing difficulties in life.
“Kaya ko rin po ginagawa ito is para makainspire po [ako] sa iba, hindi lamang po sa katulad kong amputee kundi in general man po yan… para [rin] po sa mga nawawalan po ng pag-asa sa buhay, upang bumangon po sila at ipakita po na kung kaya ko, what more pa silang mas capable po na gawin nila yung isang bagay na ikakaligaya nila,” he added.
From the court, he carried the same determination to school until he finished a course in industrial engineering. He also did not back down from opportunities to serve others as president of the local association of Persons with Disabilities (PWDs) in his barangay.
Yldeso encouraged people to find inspiration in their lives and express gratitude to those who support them. More importantly, people should realize they are not alone.
“Isipin lang po lagi ang mga bagay na nagbibigay inspirasyon sa kanila at huwag kalimutan [na] laging magpasalamat sa mga taong nakasuporta at lalo na sa itaas. Hindi po kayo nag iisa, may mga resources at suporta na available po lagi para sa ating lahat, kaya lakasan nyo lang po loob nyo palagi,” he added.
“Sa lahat po ng naghihirap o humaharap sa hamon ng buhay, PWD man yan or hindi, kahit anong pagsubok ang inyong kinakaharap, huwag po kayong mawalan ng pag-asa… lagi pong may pagkakataon na ipakita ang ating determinasyon at kakayahan na harapin ang hamon ng buhay,” he said.
Yldeso's life mantra serves as a reminder that strength can come from within, and one can find fulfillment even in the face of adversity, on and off the court.
"Hindi mo kailangan maging buo, para maging buo ang laro mo sa buhay,” he said.