TENG BROTHERS

YES! (Philippines) - - In This Issue - TEXT BY SHARA CAYETANO IN­TER­VIEWS BY SHARA CAYETANO & ANNA PINGOL PHO­TOS BY RENE ME­JIA

It’s siesta hour in the sti­fling month of March, but Jeron Teng is wide awake, star­ing in­tently at the tele­vi­sion screen in front of him. His lips twitch into a half­frown. With­out tak­ing his eyes off the screen, he says: “Game nina Jeric ’to.”

It turns out that he is watch­ing his Kuya Jeric’s live bas­ket­ball match on TV.

Yes, the Teng brothers are all about the ball game. The last time they ap­peared in YES! was in De­cem­ber 2013, two months af­ter their sib­ling ri­valry man­i­fested it­self in the Sea­son 76 bas­ket­ball cham­pi­onship of the Univer­sity Ath­letic As­so­ci­a­tion of the Philip­pines (UAAP). Jeron’s team, the Green Archers of De La Salle Univer­sity (DLSU), bat­tled it out against Jeric’s team, the Growl­ing Tigers of the Univer­sity of Santo To­mas (UST). DLSU even­tu­ally emerged as the cham­pion, and the sib­ling ri­valry was left be­hind on the hard­court.

Since then, much has changed—not only in the brothers’ lives, but in their child­hood home as well. As the Tengs— dad Alvin, mom Su­san, and kids Alyssa, Jeric, Almira, and Jeron—open their newly ren­o­vated house to YES!, we get to know more about this fam­ily, and how the sons are nav­i­gat­ing the highs and lows of pro­fes­sional bas­ket­ball.

GUN­NING FOR THE BIG LEAGUE

Jeron Allen Uy Teng stands 6-foot-2, wears a size 14 shoe, and has broad mus­cu­lar shoul­ders that he got from play­ing bas­ket­ball for more than 10 years. He stands taller than his sis­ters Alyssa and Almira, and is the same height as his brother Jeric. But he is ac­tu­ally the bunso of the fam­ily.

“Ako ’yong baby ng fam­ily bago kami nagkaaso,” he jests, his eyes crin­kling as he laughs. The aso is Zoe, the Tengs’ Shih Tzu, who is only three years old.

Jeron may be a se­ri­ous player on the hard­court, but he takes him­self less se­ri­ously in nor­mal con­ver­sa­tion. Since

the YES! in­ter­view takes place two days be­fore his birth­day, we ask him how old he is go­ing to be. Jeron pauses for a few sec­onds to do the men­tal math.“Baka magka­mali, e. Nakakahiya!” (Ac­tu­ally, he turns 23 two days af­ter the YES! in­ter­view.)

But steer the con­ver­sa­tion to bas­ket­ball, and the cager turns earnest, his an­swers weighty and straight to the point. Be­fore long, he is talk­ing about the UAAP Sea­son 76 bas­ket­ball cham­pi­onship game back in 2013, when Green Archer Jeron faced off against Growl­ing Tiger Jeric.

“Parang iba ’yong ni­laro niya,” Jeron says. “I re­ally had a hard time guard­ing him. When you put play­ers in that po­si­tion, parang they re­ally step up their game, e.”

Back then, the younger Teng could only imag­ine the pres­sure weigh­ing down on his Kuya Jeric. Af­ter all, it was not just a fi­nals match; it was also Jeric’s last game as a col­le­giate bas­ket­ball player.

But the La Salle Green Archers didn’t take their eyes off the prize. In the end, they took home the UAAP Sea­son 76 bas­ket­ball cham­pi­onship ti­tle, and Jeron was named Fi­nals Most Valu­able Player (MVP).

Jeron knew that his kuya was un­der im­mense pres­sure in that 2013 game. But the younger Teng him­self would feel the same pres­sure three years later dur­ing the 2016 UAAP Sea­son 79 cham­pi­onship. Fac­ing off on the hard­court were fierce ri­vals DLSU and Ate­neo de Manila Univer­sity (AdMU), the Green Archers

and the Blue Ea­gles, who had last met on the cham­pi­onship court in 2008.

As LaSal­lians and Ate­neans flocked to the Araneta Coli­seum in Cubao to sup­port their teams, Jeron suited up for his last match in the UAAP. And he didn’t hold any­thing back. In that De­cem­ber 2016 game, he scored 28 points for La Salle, lead­ing the team to the UAAP cham­pi­onship tro­phy. And the ic­ing on the cake was that Jeron took home his sec­ond Fi­nals MVP tro­phy.

“Su­per over­whelm­ing ’yong feel­ing, e,” he re­calls. “You know, as I look back at my five years, even be­fore I en­tered La Salle, La Salle has al­ways been my dream school, e… And ’yon, very happy ako, and ’yon nga, I feel blessed to have got­ten one more cham­pi­onship be­fore I grad­u­ate.”

The win was also made sweeter by his fel­low LaSal­lians’ sup­port through­out the en­tire tour­na­ment sea­son.

“Ang daming nag-con­grat­u­late. ’ Yong mga friends ko, school­mates, and fans, ’pinakita nila kung gaano nila ako sin­up­port and how happy they are for me. And, you know, so­brang blessed ako sa how peo­ple sup­port me.”

Now that the UAAP bas­ket­ball tour­na­ment is over, Jeron has been kept busy by his stud­ies, es­pe­cially his Busi­ness Man­age­ment the­sis. The star ath­lete is on track to grad­u­ate from La Salle this July. But that doesn’t mean that he has put play­ing his fa­vorite sport on hold. At the re­cent Philip­pine Bas­ket­ball As­so­ci­a­tion (PBA) Devel­op­men­tal League (D-League) draft, he was the first pick among more than 80 am­a­teur play­ers. Joining the D-League is a step­ping stone into the PBA, the coun­try’s big­gest bas­ket­ball league, which Jeron hopes to get into this year.

In his de­but game with the AMA On­line Ed­u­ca­tion Ti­tans, one of the teams in the D-League, Jeron showed off his UAAP-honed skills, con­tribut­ing 42 points to his team’s score. That was the sec­ond high­est in­di­vid­ual score recorded in the D-League, ac­cord­ing to CNN Philip­pines.

Last Jan­uary, Jeron also got a taste of in­ter­na­tional bas­ket­ball when he joined Mighty Sports, which rep­re­sented the coun­try in the Dubai In­ter­na­tional Bas­ket­ball Tour­na­ment last Jan­uary.

Since he started play­ing for the big leagues (at press time, he’s with the Fly­ing V Thun­der, a new team in the D-League), Jeron has come to re­al­ize how dif­fer­ent pro­fes­sional bas­ket­ball is from UAAP.

“Sa col­lege, you re­ally feel the school pride, kasi you’re play­ing for the school, e,” he says. “Pro­fes­sional

play­ing— parang for me it’s more of, like, work al­ready, e. Work to a cer­tain ex­tent na parang I’ll be get­ting some­thing from it, pero also, like, work in a pos­i­tive way.”

He ex­plains fur­ther: “Bas­ket­ball is my pas­sion ta­laga. It’s what I love to do, so I don’t re­ally feel like I’m work­ing when I’m play­ing bas­ket­ball.”

It is at this point in the YES! in­ter­view that Jeron opens his flat-screen TV to watch his Kuya Jeric play­ing in the PBA game be­tween Mahin­dra and Rain or Shine. The con­ver­sa­tion be­comes lighter, drift­ing once again to his up­com­ing birth­day. Will he be wish­ing for any­thing on his 23rd birth­day?

“Birth­day wish ko?” he re­peats. “Kasi, parang ngayon, wala akong maisip, e, dahil I’m happy na­man with how my life is right now. Ayun. Win­ning the cham­pi­onship be­fore I grad­u­ate, that’s a big thing for me. So think­ing about that pa lang, it makes me happy na.”

Then he adds, with a smile: “Happy na­man ako sa girl­friend ko.”

By the way, bas­ket­ball also plays a part in Jeron’s love story. His girl­friend, Jea­nine Tsoi, was DLSU’s courtside re­porter dur­ing Sea­sons 77 and 78 of the UAAP. Jeron and Jea­nine grew closer to each other dur­ing the tour­na­ments—and then, in 2016, they started dat­ing.

It seems that there is noth­ing more that the dec­o­rated baller could ask for. But he speaks up again af­ter a few sec­onds, hav­ing de­cided on his birth­day wish: “Hope­fully, be­fore ako magpa-draft sa PBA, ta­pos na ako sa school ko. Para hindi na con­flict. I’m not sure if it’s Au­gust or Septem­ber, pero yeah, def­i­nitely I’ll be joining the next draft­ing na.”

For now, Jeron can only hope for the best. But go­ing by his past per­for­mance, it won’t be long be­fore the bunso be­comes a PBA player, like his Kuya Jeric at present, and like their Daddy Alvin be­fore them.

“This is what I re­ally love to do, play­ing bas­ket­ball,” Jeron says. “So, if ever I’ll be in PBA, it’s a dream come true for me.”

WAIT­ING FOR HIS BIG BREAK

“Every time na may chance kang mag-wish, mag-wish ka. Wala na­mang mawawala.”

That’s Jeric Allen Uy Teng’s out­look on birth­day wishes. The sec­ond child in the Teng fam­ily, who’s also 6-foot-2 but wears size 13 shoes, turned 26 years old on March 18, just a day be­fore the YES! house shoot.

“Sig­uro na­man, hindi nau­u­bos ’yong wish ng tao,” he says. “Of course, you

want a bet­ter ca­reer. You wish for your health, good health sa fam­ily mo, sa busi­ness and all that.”

As he enu­mer­ates his wishes, his lips curl into a smile. If he is ex­hausted or dis­ap­pointed, it doesn’t show on his face.

Just a few hours be­fore his YES! in­ter­view, he was still grind­ing it out on the hard­court, where his team, the Mahin­dra Flood­busters, was in an of­fi­cial PBA match against the Rain or Shine Elasto Painters. That af­ter­noon, his team lost the match.

But once he gets home, he knows how to set all that aside. When the YES! team photographs him in his bed­room, he gives his best smiles to the cam­era. Much later, he joins ev­ery­one for a din­ner of pizza and fried chicken, still in a pleas­ant mood.

Bas­ket­ball fa­nat­ics will know that Rain or Shine was Jeric’s for­mer team, which signed him up in the rookie draft back in 2013. He donned the team’s col­ors for three years, un­til his con­tract ended in Novem­ber 2016. One month later, he signed up with Mahin­dra, the team he now plays for. But it was Rain or Shine that first got him into the PBA and let him live his child­hood dream.

“I wasn’t ex­pect­ing to be drafted im­me­di­ately.” Jeric re­calls. “Pero I was, and I still feel blessed na na-draft pa rin ako. Kasi, ever since, pag may mga teach­ers na nag­tatanong ng ‘What do you want to be when you grow up?,’ la­hat do’n I used to write: ‘To be a pro­fes­sional bas­ket­ball player.’ So, sabi ko, sig­uro na-reach ko na ’yong dream ko.”

Af­ter he got drafted as an Elasto Painter, Jeric was rar­ing to show off his skills, which he had built up dur­ing his stint with the UST Growl­ing Tigers. “I am hop­ing to get play­ing min­utes,” he said dur­ing the YES! in­ter­view back in 2013. “Pero siyem­pre, I have to work hard for it also. Sa bas­ket­ball ngayon, ang dami ng Fil-Ams, ang dami ng com­pet­i­tive play­ers from dif­fer­ent coun­tries. Da­pat ta­laga magsi­pag, dahil dami ng kom­petisyon.”

Not much has changed, three years af­ter that in­ter­view. Though he is now with a dif­fer­ent team, Jeric is still hop­ing for a break—a chance for him to show what he can do on the hard­court. He has since re­al­ized that suc­cess, in the PBA, is not the au­to­matic re­sult of hard work.

“What you re­ally need is ’yong breaks,” Jeric says. “Siyem­pre, it’s up to you na rin if you’re go­ing to—if you can— max­i­mize the op­por­tu­ni­ties given to you. Pero ’yon nga, kahit ano’ng tal­ent mo or kahit ano’ng hard work mo, but if the

breaks are not there, it’s hard to show what you’re ca­pa­ble of.”

Oc­ca­sion­ally, the for­mer UST Growl­ing Tiger finds him­self miss­ing his days in the UAAP, when there were plenty of breaks for when he needed them. “Back in col­lege, I used to re­ally be one of the main men sa team. Ta­la­gang kahit masama laro ko, the op­por­tu­nity was still there for me to play bet­ter.”

But in pro­fes­sional bas­ket­ball, the breaks are few and far be­tween. In the span of a few months, Jeric went from the main man of the UST Growl­ing Tigers to a sup­port­ing char­ac­ter in Rain or Shine. “In the PBA, I’m still in this level or phase na I still need to show what I am ca­pa­ble of.”

The for­mer UST cap­tain turns ret­ro­spec­tive: “At first, with Rain or Shine, I think that hindi pa ako ready at that time. I was still ad­just­ing and all that. I was plagued with many in­juries din.”

In his first year in the PBA, Jeric had to sit out a num­ber of games due to patel­lar ten­donitis, an in­jury also known as jumper’s knee. “Parang there were times na I’m start­ing to get my rhythm, pero I would get in­jured, so set­back na na­man sa akin.”

Con­sid­er­ing all the ob­sta­cles he has en­coun­tered along the way, Jeric feels that he hasn’t achieved suc­cess in his pro­fes­sional bas­ket­ball ca­reer, in­clud­ing the few months that he has been play­ing for the Mahin­dra Flood­busters. But suc­cess, for him, isn’t even about money or fame; it’s about self-ful­fill­ment.

“Parang you re­ally be­lieve that you helped the team to win, ’yong you had a ma­jor part in the team win­ning,” he ex­plains. “I haven’t had that feel­ing. I can say na parang I haven’t had any suc­cess yet sa three and a half years ko in the PBA. Wala akong gano’ng feel­ing, wala pa ta­laga.”

But that hasn’t dis­cour­aged Jeric from play­ing the sport that he loves. In­stead, he uses his lack of suc­cess as his mo­ti­va­tion for when the next break comes.

“That’s part of be­ing a pro ath­lete, e,” he says. “You have to stay ready when that op­por­tu­nity comes again. You have to per­form well.”

Un­til that op­por­tu­nity comes, Jeric is just happy to be liv­ing his child­hood dream. “I’m lucky na I’m play­ing in the PBA. I’m still play­ing.”

SIB­LING RI­VALRY?

Now that Jeron, the bunso of the Teng sib­lings, has claimed the per­fect fin­ish to his UAAP ca­reer, he is look­ing for­ward to what the fu­ture holds.

“Now, feel­ing ko I’m get­ting, like, not na­man older, but I’m get­ting more re­spon­si­bil­i­ties kasi. I won’t be a stu­dent any­more, e, and in a few months I’ll be in the PBA al­ready. I’ll be, like, le­git work­ing al­ready, so it makes me feel more ma­ture.”

And though the PBA draft is still a few months away, his Kuya Jeric has al­ready given Jeron some ad­vice about play­ing the pro league.

“I al­ways give him tips,” Jeric says. “Sabi ko, ‘If you think that ikaw, malalaro mo na okey na dito sa PBA, mali ka, dahil la­hat ng ’to, ma­g­a­gal­ing na. La­hat ng ’to, very pro­fes­sional na… You have to re­ally prac­tice harder. ’ Yong mga weak­nesses mo, kailan­gan mong gaw­ing strengths para maka­sur­vive ka sa game.”

With these words of guid­ance from his kuya, Jeron is hope­ful that he will be picked in the rookie draft. The DLSU stu­dent says that it doesn’t even mat­ter which team he ends up play­ing for: “As long as I go to a team, with play­ing time siyem­pre. As a player, gusto ko lang na­man maglaro. Suw­er­ti­han lang din na­man sa bas­ket­ball ta­laga, e. Kung sino’ng magda-draft sa ’yo and if you’ll be given play­ing time, it doesn’t mat­ter to me as long as I play and as long as I’ll be given a chance to show what I can do.”

With two brothers in the same league, could the Tengs’ sib­ling ri­valry make a come­back in the PBA?

Noth­ing is for sure. But Jeric be­lieves that if he does face off against Jeron in the PBA, it will be noth­ing like the orig­i­nal 2013 match.

“Of course, it’s dif­fer­ent,” Jeric says. “Dahil dati, me­dyo gamit kami sa team and me­dyo in­aasa­han na kami. But this time, like right now, ako, I’m still far from that. So sig­uro siya, rookie pa lang din siya if ever, so he’s still far from that. So it’s re­ally dif­fer­ent.

“Pero who knows? God knows, only God knows what can hap­pen in the fu­ture. Basta we’re just gonna work hard and see what hap­pens. Kung anu­man ang mang­yari, I’m so grate­ful na andiyan kami.”

The top shelf in the liv­ing room holds a valu­able art piece—a ce­ramic tile paint­ing by Na­tional Artist for Vis­ual Arts Benedicto Cabr­era, bet­ter known as BenCab. The var­i­ous knick­knacks on the lower shelves also make for in­ter­est­ing con­ver­sa­tion starters.

The prayer room re­flects the Tengs’ Catholic and Bud­dhist be­liefs. Ac­cord­ing to Mommy Su­san, her fam­ily has never felt that there’s a con­flict be­tween those two re­li­gions. “Tin­gin ko, wala na­mang con­flict. May Pilipino, may Chi­nese. La­hat na­man ’yan, basta dasalan mo lang, e.”

The door to the walk-in closet is flanked by two shelv­ing units, which hold more than 70 pairs of men’s footwear. The col­lec­tion is dom­i­nated by the sports brand Nike, which Jeron and Jeric en­dorse.

Jeron, who ad­mits to be­ing a sneak­er­head (de­fined by Ox­ford Dic­tionar­ies as “a sports shoe en­thu­si­ast”), says that he and his kuya also pur­chase shoes when­ever they travel abroad. “Min­san, mahi­rap kam­ing makakuha ng size namin dito, so min­san, pag nag-a-abroad lang, saka nakak­a­bili ng shoes, or nag­pa­pa­bili.”

Speak­ing of shoe size, Jeron wears a size 14, while his Kuya Jeric wears a size 13. The one-inch dif­fer­ence al­lows the brothers to swap shoes—ex­cept for the pairs they wear on the hard­court. Those have to be well­fit­ted for op­ti­mum per­for­mance.

The bed­rooms in the Teng home can only be ac­cessed through the use of a num­ber code or a ra­dio-fre­quency iden­ti­fi­ca­tion (RFID) ac­cess card, since they are out­fit­ted with dig­i­tal locks from the Ger­man brand Hafele.

Alyssa (left) and Almira, just like their brothers, grew up shar­ing the same room—and even the same bed. While the house was still be­ing ren­o­vated, the sis­ters were given the op­tion of hav­ing sep­a­rate rooms. But since they still wanted to stay to­gether, they got twin beds in­stead.

Alyssa, 29, used to work as a key ac­counts man­ager, but re­signed to over­see the ren­o­va­tion of the house. Almira, 24, is a so­cial me­dia in­flu­encer, that is, one who has es­tab­lished on­line cred­i­bil­ity and can in­flu­ence read­ers and fol­low­ers.

In­stead of in­stalling a rack, Alyssa chose to re­cess a por­tion of the wall to serve as stor­age space in the shower. She also picked out a prac­ti­cal sink model for the bath­room.

“’Yong sink namin, same kami ni Jeron,” Alyssa says. “Parang gusto namin ’to, kasi me­dyo mas uso ngayon ’yong pa-rect­an­gu­lar. Saka pag cir­cle kasi, parang mas mahi­rap daw lin­isin sa ilalim.”

The wall on the right side of the mas­ter bed­room is taken up by a writ­ing desk and a cus­tom-made bag dis­play unit, which holds more than 30 de­signer bags owned by Mommy Su­san.

In­te­rior de­signer Kyra Co jests that the bag dis­play was “the num­ber one re­quire­ment” for the mas­ter’s bed­room— some­thing Mommy Su­san doesn’t deny.

“Mahi­rap kasi,” Mommy Su­san says. “’Yong dat­ing ni-rent namin, maliit. So ang daming gagawin bago mo makuha [’ yong bag]. ’Ta’s naka­balot pa… Dito, madal­ing kunin, e.”

To prove her point, she walks up to the dis­play case and presses on the glass cover. It au­to­mat­i­cally swings away, giv­ing her easy ac­cess to the bag in­side.

“O, di ba, kukunin mo na lang? Con­ve­nient!”

The door by the en­ter­tain­ment con­sole leads to the walk-in closet and mas­ter bath­room. A van­ity table graces one side of the walk-in closet, while a built-in shoe rack stands on the other side. The up­per half of the shoe rack is re­served for Daddy Alvin, who stands 6-foot-4 and can reach the shelves with min­i­mum ef­fort.

Since there is no tele­vi­sion set in the liv­ing room down­stairs, the en­ter­tain­ment room on the fourth floor is the place where the en­tire fam­ily can watch movies and TV shows to­gether. “We love watch­ing movies,” says Jeric. “Every week, we watch movies to­gether.” The wide L-shaped sofa is also from Furni­nova.

The guest room on the fourth floor may be smaller than the other rooms in the house, but it has all the nec­es­sary fur­nish­ings: a daybed (de­fined by Mer­riam-Web­ster as “a couch that can be con­verted into a bed”), a flat-screen TV, and even a per­sonal bath­room.

“CR ang pinaka­ma­rami namin,” Mommy Su­san says with a laugh. This bath­room on the fourth floor is just one of seven in the whole house. Aside from this bath­room, there’s a com­mu­nal half-bath on the first floor, and a per­sonal bath­room in each of the five bed­rooms. The Tengs got all their bath­room fix­tures from Kuy­sen.

Alvin Teng (cen­ter), who in his hey­day was a player for the San Miguel Beer­men, didn’t ex­pect that Jeric and Jeron would fol­low in his foot­steps. “Hindi ko in-ex­pect… Ang gusto ko, mag-aral si­lang mabuti. Sig­uro, nakikita nila dati na nagba-bas­ket­ball ako, kaya nag-try sila.”

Hav­ing ex­pe­ri­enced the ups and downs of pro­fes­sional bas­ket­ball, Daddy Alvin now shares with his sons all the lessons he learned along the way: “Sinasabi ko sa kanila ngayon, ‘Nasa pro na kayo. Kailan­gan, lagi kang handa any time pag gi­na­mit ka. Hanap­buhay mo ’yan, e, tra­baho mo ’yan. Mag­pa­pak­i­lala ka na ta­laga, kasi hindi ha­bang-buhay nandiyan ka sa bas­ket­ball.”

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