MANILA, December 22, 2005 
(STAR) SPORTING CHANCE By Joaquin M. Henson - It took a lot of inner strength for La Salle’s Joseph Yeo to write a letter of apology and personally ask forgiveness from Ateneo’s Enrico Villanueva in a meeting arranged by "Dream Games" organizer Carlos (Bobong) Velez last Sunday.

It also took a lot of guts for Villanueva to agree to attend the meeting and accept Yeo’s apology especially since he was the aggrieved party.

All in the spirit of Christmas.

The players figured in an unsavory skirmish during the "Dream Games" at the Araneta Coliseum last Dec. 8. No need to relate the details. Depending on which side you’re on, your version of what transpired may be different. But the fact is Yeo was ejected for clotheslining Villanueva who wound up with a fat lip and bloodied nose. Whether Yeo was provoked or not is beside the point.

Yeo’s uncle and adviser William Ong has appealed for leniency and understanding, particularly from Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) commissioner Noli Eala who said the pro league may mete out sanctions if the Ninja from La Salle applies for the draft next year.

Villanueva didn’t have to show up for the meeting. He could’ve given Yeo the cold shoulder. But he found it in his heart to forgive. I’m sure his Red Bull coach Yeng Guiao had something to do with it. Guiao, of course, called the shots for La Salle during the "Dream Games."

Velez said he couldn’t have arranged for a more pleasant closure to the incident. Ateneo’s Arben Santos came for the meeting along with Ong, Guiao and the two players.

No, Yeo and Villanueva didn’t kiss and make up. But they shook hands and that’s good enough. Will it mean that when they face each other next on the court, they’ll play soft? No way. Yeo and Villanueva know how to play the game only one way–flat out and that’s how the fans want it.

On the court, they’ll always be fierce competitors. Because that’s how it’s supposed to be when the ball’s in play. But off the court, they’ll be friends from now on.

* * *

On the topic of the Christmas spirit, here’s a story I’d like to share.

The other night, my brother Ramon was at the airport to fetch his 14-year-old daughter Emma who was arriving as an unaccompanied minor on a Cathay Pacific flight from Newark, New Jersey, via Hong Kong.

Ramon has lived in the US for over 30 years and flew in a few days ago to attend our mother’s 90th birthday celebration. His daughter couldn’t fly in earlier because of school commitments.

Ramon and I waited at the arrival area for Emma to show. Then, a Cathay representative came to escort Ramon to the terminal. Ramon was brought to the ID and Pass Control office to be registered for entry into the terminal. He surrendered his passport for a terminal pass.

After Emma cleared immigration and customs, my brother went back to the ID and Pass Control office to retrieve his passport only to find out the passport was given to somebody else. The ID and Pass Control officer Reynante Gonzales inadvertently gave my brother’s passport to another man.

Gonzalez profusely apologized for his mistake and chased after the man whom he had given my brother’s passport. Apparently, the man mentioned he would go to a cargo warehouse in front of the Casino Filipino to pick up a dog.

This happened shortly after midnight. Emma’s plane touched down at 11:50 p.m. so when my brother went to the ID and Pass Control office to retrieve his passport, it was close to 1 a.m.

Gonzales ran quite a distance to find the man with my brother’s passport. At first, he couldn’t locate him at the warehouse. He went back to the ID and Pass Control office to ask my brother and his daughter if he could just send the passport to where they’re staying. They decided to stay until the passport was found. We were apprehensive that this could be some kind of ruse or scam.

So Gonzales ran back to the warehouse to wait for the man. At about 2:30 a.m., Gonzales–perspiration all over his face–returned to the ID and Pass Control office with my brother’s passport.

An airport employee the last two years, Gonzales works the graveyard shift from 11 p.m. to 7 a.m. with his supervisor Romeo de la Cueva.

Gonzales repeatedly asked for my brother’s understanding. He admitted his mistake and gave no excuses. Gonzales did everything he could to correct his mistake and made amends. The bottom line was he produced the passport in the end.

Gonzales could’ve brushed my brother aside and told him to go home and wait for his passport to be found and delivered. He could’ve been arrogant, knowing how helpless my brother was. He could’ve even extracted some money from my brother. But he didn’t.

Gonzales went out of his way to correct his mistake and for that, he should be commended. Of course, it doesn’t mean he’s off the hook. He gave somebody else’s passport to another and that was a clear case of incompetence. Sure, the person who got the passport should’ve checked if it was his or somebody else’s but that shouldn’t diminish Gonzalez’ culpability.

Anyway, like in the Yeo case, all’s well that ends well. Yeo and Villanueva are friends again and my brother has his passport back.

There’s a lesson to be learned from these two incidents. Forgiveness is a Christmas gift that comes from the heart.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

All rights reserved