Jean Marc Pingris has already cemented himself as one of the top big men to play in the PBA.
Pingris may not in score in bunches like former Gilas Pilipinas teammate and TNT combo guard Jayson Castro, or dominate a ball game like San Miguel Beer’s June Mar Fajardo, but the 6-foot-5 forward earns a living by playing tough defense and going after the rebounds.
Aside from being part of the Grand Slam run of San Mig Coffee Mixers (now Star Hotshots) in 2014, Pingris was also part of the success of the Gilas Pilipinas program in recent years.
Recently, he added another feat in his long list of achievement–that of being a book author.
As Pingris shares his heart out to FOX Sports mainly on the topic of his new children’s book, we also discovered another surprising, yet inspiring chunk of memory from the man himself.
From personifying the favorite Gilas battle cry “puso” (heart) in his stint with the national team, Pingris is not yet done inspiring the future generation of Philippine basketball players.
Just over a week removed from a disappointing season with Star, Pingris ventured into children’s book publishing in his desire to share his journey in life–a rags-to-riches story that he hopes will be read by as many aspiring, but underprivileged kids out there for extra motivation.
Entitled Marc Pingris: Puso, pangarap, pag-asa, the Hotshots forward shared his journey from the market place to the spotlight of Philippine basketball through the words of friend Vincent Lester Tan and with the support of his wife Danica Sotto.
“Kasi gusto kong bigyan ng inspiration yung mga batang maglaro rin ng basketball, para makaiwas rin sa mga bisyo,” said Pingris, noting he will donate the proceeds to young cancer patients and wounded soldiers, whom the many-time PBA All-Defensive Team anchor visited recently.
While he got the necessary help from their friends, Pingris admitted the hardest part of producing the book was getting the right words and appropriate presentation across the medium. But after six months of labor of love, the project was sure all worth it as it already drew an overwhelming support.
According to Pingris, his new book, published by CSM Publishing was able to sold more than 2,000 copies in the Manila International Book Fair event, a month before it will be fully available in bookstores nationwide.
With the positive reception of the initiative, Pingris said there are plans to produce a Part II, but this time, it will be a full-length, no-holds-barred biography that covers his experiences and struggles as a teenager before becoming a basketball star.
“Kilala nila ako na naglalaro sa PBA, pero di pa nila alam na kagaya ng iba, nangarap at dumaan rin ako sa mga mahihirap na trabaho,” he shared.
And when FOX Sports asked for a preview of what could be in this book, Pingris revealed something more.
Pingris is known for doing the “dirty” work on the defensive end. Hustle is his brand of play, whether it’s going up against other big PBA players, or against the “giants” from the international basketball arena while playing for Gilas.
But long before the sacrifices he made for the national team and the Purefoods franchise in the PBA, the Pozzorubio, Pangasinan native learned to appreciate the value of hardwork and perseverance at a young age.
At first, Pingris was hesitant to reveal what was the hardest job he took early on. But after consulting with his wife Danica, the bruising Star forward was ready to bare his past unashamedly.
Curiously, it was not his wet market work that made him hesitate to open up early on during the interview, but as a teenage boy trying to earn a decent living, he went as far as cleaning septic tanks.
Yes, you read that right, the good-looking Star big man, who has French blood running through his Filipino veins, literally took a dirty, but decent job back when he was 14 years old in their neighborhood in Pozorrubio.
“Nagtatangal ako ng dumi ng mga tao dati sa mga septic tanks,” he shared. “Kasama ko nun yung uncle ko, tsaka mga pinsan ko, pero imagine mo yun, sa laki kong ito, pumapasok ako sa mga yun (septic tank).”
Pingris, though, never looked at it as a lowly, because he considered it as a way to help his mother, the former Erlinda Prado make a living.
“Di siya (cleaning septic tanks) lagi, pag may tawag lang sa mga bahay bahay,” he recalled. “Paiinumin ka lang tapos PhP20 yung bayad, para sa akin malaking tulong na yung perang yun.”
“Extra income lang, umaabsent ako noon (sa school) pero ang alam ng nanay ko nasa eskwelahan ako. Pinagsasabay ko yung aral at trabaho para kumbaga nakakatulong ako.” he continued.
Along with his septic tank job, Pingris said he also experienced entering other jobs like ice buko vendor, metal and bottle scrap trader and even a “candle-thief” during All Saints Day.
“Naging inspirasyon ko talaga lalo na yung nanay ko noon, nakita ko sa kanya kung paano niya kami buhayin dati, naging nanay at ama siya,” he said.
In retrospect, Pingris’ relentless hustle to earn a decent living would serve as a stepping stone when he later on, discovered what he can do with a basketball.
Opportunities in high school changed the life of Pingris.
Before donning the basketball jersey though, he was initially engaged in track and field, with the sprint and long jump event as his specialties.
But with his above average height, his high school best friend recommended him to play basketball instead. Heeding that suggestion, Pingris was able to crack the line-up of their varsity team. And that’s where his foray with basketball started.
“Natutunan ko na rin dahan dahan, kumbaga napasama na ako sa bangko, talagang di ako marunong maglaro nun,” he said.
Eventually, recruiters for the defunct Philippine Basketball League visited their hometown for a tryout, eyeing a point guard from the cast.
But with Pingris eager to attract some attention, he showcased his dunking ability that somehow caught the attention of scouts.
On that same day, he was invited to travel to Manila, to which he responded: “Di ako nagdalawang isip nun, biglaan lang kaya isang pantalon, dalawang shorts lang ata nadala ko noon.”
And while he had to fight homesickness and all, Pingris fully realized his dream through the help of current San Miguel Beer assistant coach Boyzie Zamar, who helped him in his transition to the Big City. Hastening the impact of missing his hometown was when he crossed paths with longtime basketball idols Rommel Adducul and Danny Ildelfonso.
“Ang liit ng mundo, nung nakilala ko sila Kuya Rommel,” he said. “Inidolo ko talaga sila,” he shared.
“Ako yung dating batang nagtratrabaho lang sa palengke, nung inidolo ko sila, ginaya ko sila, hanggang naging professional rin ako.”
True enough, after fighting through all the hard times with “puso”, Pingris’ fortunes changed and the rest as they say, is history.
“Nagbago talaga, kahit papaano okay yung buhay ko dahil na rin sipag ko,” he said.
Pingris admitted that God has used basketball bless him and his family.
But he knows that he can’t play professional basketball forever, which is why in recent years, the Pingris couple established Techno Glass, a glass and aluminum supply business in order to put his hard-earned money to good use. – Jason Mercene
Follow this writer on Twitter: @JasonMercenePH
Photos taken from Marc Pingris’ Official Instagram account