Filipinos in Dubai organise basketball games to save life of compatriot
Dubai - At least Dh4,500 was raised after the games.
Basketball is not just the national pastime or favourite sport of Filipinos, it is also a means to mobilise the community to gather support for a beleaguered kababayan (compatriot).
Recently, a one-day basketball tournament was organised by the Old School Above 40 group to raise funds for the hospitalisation of Voltaire Hilario, 45, a pioneering referee under the Samahang Basketbolista ng Pilipinas (SBP), who is undergoing treatment for liver cirrhosis.
"At least Dh4,500 was raised after the games and we immediately sent the money to Voltaire, who is now confined at the Philippine General Hospital," Arnel Fernandez, the basketball tournament organiser, told Khaleej Times on Friday.
"Just like in basketball, we displayed team work to help a kababayan in distress. At least eight teams, with 15 players in each team - all above 40 years old - participated in the tournament. The officiating staff rendered free services and a collector of limited sneakers auctioned a pair to raise more funds," Fernandez shared.
Andrei Avila, the player-coach of the champion Blue Team, added: "The event was an all-out effort to come to aid Voltaire and pay for some of his medical needs. He actively served the Filipino community and was very active in the basketball circuit; we really miss him."
A close friend of Voltaire, Nerwin Diego, who is also a basketball referee, described Voltaire as a calming presence during intense basketball games. "He was always fair in officiating and he always made sure that no one would get hurt on the floor."
Diego also described Voltaire as a hardworking man. "He used to work as a warehouse staff for a logistics company for almost a decade until he was laid off last year. While searching for another job, he officiated in various basketball tournaments in Dubai and Abu Dhabi to earn some money that he could send to his kids - the youngest of whom is just three years old - back home.
"He never told us he was sick until we forced him to see a doctor at Rashid Hospital in late June and that's when we found out he had a serious liver problem. He would have stayed here but with no medical insurance, he chose to go home," Diego added.
According to Jay Pesebre, another basketball organiser, Voltaire's body is rejecting any medication and he has been vomiting blood. He has lumps in his liver and water is building up in his abdomen. He has been bedridden since he arrived in the Philippines last month. His liver is rapidly failing and he needs urgent liver transplant but has no financial means to undergo an expensive medical treatment.
Fernandez illustrated Voltaire's predicament like a crucial basketball match: "It's like Voltaire has entered the last two minutes in the final quarter and he is trailing by a large margin.
"But he is not alone in this game. We are with him and with team work, we will rally and make a good run to even the score and send the game into overtime. That means we will do the best we can to help him find ways to extend his life," Fernandez underlined.