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ortousteDo you wish to be great? Then begin by being. Do you desire to construct a vast and lofty fabric? Think first about the foundation of humility. The higher your structure is to be, the deeper must be its foundation.

One may be led to remember these words of Augustine, the famed bishop of Hippo, when one comes to know Jamil Ortuoste. At first, he may seem simply shy. He would say that he feels comfortable wearing polo shirt paired with the usual jeans as he thinks this may make him look more decent and respectable; that is, comparing it with how he feels and looks wearing non-collared shirts. This somehow says a lot about this man’s simplicity. Getting to know him more would lead one to realize that it is indeed possible for one to become great and yet remain humble. One may even learn that the only sure way to achieving greatness is through humility. This virtue is very much embedded in the education Jamil receives from San Sebastian College – Recoletos Manila, which is run by the Order of Augustinian Recollects priests.

Some say that God gives this grace of humility to those who ask for it. Sometimes, though, God grants this through experiences of humiliation. Only those who embrace and survive such experiences would receive the gift of humility. That gift is the key that shall unlock the door towards greatness.

Born on the 13th day of November in 1991, Jamil’s personal history is definitely not without experiences that challenge his fortitude.

This young man whose concept of family is “masaya, buo, kumpleto, laging magkasama sa hirap at ginhawa; hindi lang sa sarap magkakasama, pati sa hirap,” remembers that one of the lowest points of his life was when his parents separated when he was just 4 years old. In spite of this, though, he does not harbor any ill feeling towards any of his parents. He also maintains good relationship with his siblings, who turn out to be much proud of him.

Who wouldn’t become proud of him, especially now that college basketball history begins to be adorned by his name?

Interestingly, this recent and seemingly sudden rise to popularity also surprises Jamil who, clearly, is just passionate about the game and always sees everything as blessings from God.

Influenced and inspired by his father who used to play basketball for FEU when he was in high school, Jamil remembers starting playing this particular game when he was still 5 years old. Obviously, he is still very much into it.

He shares an amusing anecdote about the manner by which he got himself into the team under Coach Raymond Valenzona. He reveals that it was his brother who really was bent on getting into the team. He narrates: “tinext ko si Coach gamit ang cellphone ng kuya ko. Tapos nagpakilala akong siya (his brother). Saka tinanong ko kung pwede bang magtry-out si Jamil, yung kapatid ko. Tapos, nagreply naman si Coach: Sige. Okay lang.” Thus, as the cliché goes, the rest is history.

Asked what and how he contributes to each of the games he plays, he responds by calling himself a role-player. This, he explains, means that his mindset is to simply focus on every game and on the goal of the team, and to simply do what he must or what is required of him to do. This mindset seems to be a product of working with their coach, whom Jamil obviously highly respects.

Jamil unreservedly mentions two main goals in life: to play in the Philippine Basketball Association league and to have a family of his own (and be a responsible father). In order to accomplish these, he shares that he strives everyday to balance his studies and training. He has to wake up early in the morning for training and has to attend his classes in the afternoon. He clearly knows, though, that all these are necessary sacrifices for him to have a better future.

He looks back to one significant event in his life that seems to serve as the most pivotal experience for him.

After high school, he took up BS Education in the Far Eastern University where he also joined the FEU Tamaraws team so he may continue to play. There, he spent two years as member of Team B. While doing some physical exercises using weights, his back was injured. He thought that the injury was trivial; but, as it turned out, it would mean not being able to play. This caused him much frustration that he almost decided never to play again.

In a significant twist of events, during those months of having a bout with depression, Coach Raymond gave him another chance to play again. He came back to San Sebastian as a member of the Team C for Stags. This proved to be providential, seemingly echoing words from Psalm 40: “He pulled me out of a horrible pit, out of the mud and clay. He set my feet on a rock and made my steps secure.” That opportunity made Jamil realize that he has to do something, he has to work. It also made him see that he no longer seems to have enough time, and that he is not getting any younger.

Doubting his capabilities did not leave him, but he worked hard and persevered until he was chosen to play for Team A.

Disappointments and frustrations do not stop for this man, though. Asked what he may say about himself, or what his realizations are, he answers: “Hindi ko pinupush yung sarili ko. Before magstart ang NCAA Season 89, madami na ang naniniwala sa akin, pero ako, wala akong tiwala sa sarili ko.”

As if life, like a mentor, was bent on changing this self-esteem and was bent on teaching this man certain lessons so he may be molded to become great, his resilience to endure trials was once again tested. During the recently-held FilOil games, he once again felt back pains that led Coach Michael Christopher “Topex” Robinson to advise him to rest. That meant not playing during the game. This could have been taken as another obstacle to his desire to play if not for the Coach telling him that he needs him to rest so he may play for the NCAA Season 89. That, like a flame, warmed his heart and filled him with hope. He realized he has the chance to be lined-up for NCAA. This fueled his burning desire to go out into the court and battle it out with other teams.

That time, he had no inkling about one thing: that the moment he played would catapult him to a certain level of stardom. “Lahat siguro ng nangyari ay blessing: nangyari, kasi may purpose,” he later would realize. This realization always fills him with much gratitude. In the future, he says, he would also like to be able to share these blessings by teaching other aspiring players how to play basketball. Asked until when he would play basketball, he answered: “Kung hanggang kailan ko kaya maglaro ng basketball; kasi mahal ko talaga ang basketball.”

About the San Sebastian crowd during the games, he says: “Sana mas dumami pa. Thankful ako, kasi kahit minsan gabi na yung game, nandoon pa din sila. Sa kanila kami kumukuha ng lakas. Once kasi na makita mo na yung crowd, gaganahan ka na.”

“Yung faith ko kay God, sa kanya lang ako kumukuha ng lakas. Especially nung time na na-frustrate ako at lubog na lubog at walang mapuntahan kasi kahit family ko galit sa akin, sa Kanya lang ako lumapit. Araw- araw akong nagsisimba. Kahit na may mga hindi magandang nangyari sa akin thankful pa din ako”

This defines Jamil Ortuoste.