Basketball gave him inner strength
He was an 11-year-old kid growing up on the West Side of Chicago when someone first tossed a basketball to him. Who would have thought, as the ball arched towards him, that he had just met his best friend?
A former Rookie of the Year of the University Athletic Association of the Philippines (UAAP), Bobby Diloy was 3 years old when his Filipino parents immigrated to the United States.
Living at a tender age in a strange country, Bobby had an early taste of racial discrimination.
“I learned to find security in the game. It was an escape from my reality. On a daily basis, I was belittled by other kids because I looked different from everyone else,” Bobby says in an e-mail interview.
It was not exactly the kind of life the Filipino couple Tomas (now deceased) and Rosita Diloy had dreamed for their youngest son when they left Manila in 1975 to try their luck in America.
But Bobby’s love for basketball helped him through.
Finding solace in playing the game, he pushed himself to be the best basketeer he could be.
Overcoming his insecurities and the rage he felt over the racial slurs he was getting in his neighborhood and in school, Bobby developed his skills on the hard court, until basketball became more than just a favorite sport. It became his biggest ally in his battle to win respect.
“There were many evenings I would practice alone because basketball gave me a sense of accomplishment,” Bobby says. “I even slept with my ball because I did not have any real friends and my ball was the only loyal friend I had.”
He often carried his most precious possession to school, leaving it in his locker at the end of the day.
“Whenever I was ridiculed by other kids at school, I would go to my locker to touch my basketball to remind myself that everything would be OK,” Bobby recalls.
Like many kids growing up in Chicago, he dreamed of playing in the NBA.
Now 39, Bobby lives in San Francisco, California, with his wife Joyce and son Miles David.
All-Star team, MVP
A summer vacation in 1992 in Manila, where he watched PBA games and saw local legends Ronnie Magsanoc, Benjie Paras and Norman Black, fired his desire to try his basketball skills in the country of his birth.
Back in the US, he joined Filipino leagues in Chicago that same year to boost his amateur credentials. Soon, he was a member of an All-Star team that played in Boston against other Filipino All-Star squads from other US cities. They won the tournament and he bagged the Most Valuable Player award.
But the Philippines continued to beckon to him.
After graduating from college in 1994, Bobby moved to Manila. He was introduced to PBA agent Danny Espiritu and former coach Francis Rodriguez. The timing was perfect.
“They were in need of a point guard so I tried out and eventually was asked to be part of the team,” he recalls.
At last, this 6-footer had the chance to strut his wares before Filipino crowds.
Claim to fame
Between 1994 and 1997, he played for two teams in the Philippine Basketball League-Carroll Ann Foods (Swift Corp.) and Oriental Battery.
At the same time, he competed in the UAAP, playing with the UE Red Warriors. In 1994, his first season, he won the Rookie of the Year award, a claim to fame that has remained one of his unforgettable experiences.
Initially, he struggled with Filipino. The language barrier made it difficult for him to connect with his teammates. But as the season progressed, the communication barrier began to disappear.
“We started to develop as a team and as friends,” Bobby says. “The communication challenges… dissipated when we stepped out on the basketball floor.”
But destiny has something else in store for him.
On July 30, 1994—Bobby remembers the date well—he met Joyce Vives, one of the legions of fans that always flocked to UAAP games. Their meeting occurred “just after we lost to FEU (Tamaraws) on national TV.”
That Joyce was cheering for another team, the University of the Philippines, her alma mater, was no problem. Her heart was big enough to hold two loves—the Maroons and Bobby.
They married two years later. It was a bond as strong as Bobby’s love for basketball. They have been together for 15 years now.
Then fate struck again.
During an exhibition game in 1996 at the Araneta Coliseum (now Smart Araneta), he twisted his left knee and tore his ACL (anterior cruciate ligament).
“That injury was a defining moment in my life,” Bobby says. “I had knee surgery, trying to make a comeback, but it was extremely difficult to get back to my original form.”
He thought his life was over at the age of 24. “The thing that gave me security was gone from my life.”
He was devastated, extremely bitter, he even questioned why God would allow such an injury to strike him so early in his career.
After he recuperated, the Diloys moved to San Francisco to start anew. They worked full-time in the Bay Area Christian Church (BACC) ministry. According to Bobby, it was the help of friends in church, along with God’s grace, that gave him a new outlook in life.
“It was when I decided to prioritize my relationship with God and my marriage that God started to reveal a renewed vision for my life centered on biblical principles,” he says.
Although they were laid off from the ministry due to the 2003 recession, Bobby was able to land a career in management, working for Bank of America and Citigroup. Eventually, they were blessed with a son, Miles David, who recently turned 7.
MBA in Boston
Although the Diloys are still active in BACC, where he leads the congregation in song every Sunday morning, Bobby has taken a different career path.
In May this year, he finished his MBA (Masters in Business Administration) at Boston University. Upon graduation, he was recruited to work for Robert Half International Finance & Accounting in downtown San Francisco. Joyce also works full-time while attending graduate school.
At home, Bobby takes on most of the responsibilities—getting his son ready for school, helping him do his homework, cooking, cleaning, washing dishes, and managing their finances, among other things.
“The average middle class American family cannot afford a maid,” he says.
Life is good
He feels that life has been good to him.
The boy from the West Side of Chicago has gone a long way and the BFF (best friend forever) he met there is never really far away. After all, it was that friend who gave him his inner strength.
Poignantly, he quotes the German philosopher Nietzsche. “That which does not kill us makes us stronger.”
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.