Four years ago, the lanky young man from Pozzorubio, Pangasinan, was just one of numerous aspiring athletes who wanted to make a name for himself on the local basketball scene.
Fast forward to 2006. Jean Marc Pingris Jr., 24, is now with the professional Philippine Basketball Association (PBA), playing for the Purefoods Chunkee Giants team. Not only that: he was named the Most Valuable Player in this year's All-Filipino Cup finals, where his new team won.
Marc is clearly assured of a bright future, and he can now afford to give back to those who supported and encouraged him to set a higher goal for himself.
Joan Gamboa, Marc's half-sister, reveals that the basketball player, at one low point in his life, almost gave up on his hoop dream.
"Noon sigurong three months pa lang siya dito sa Manila, siyempre probinsiyano, hindi niya alam 'yong paligoy-ligoy dito," Joan recalls. "Gi-give-up na sana 'yan kung di lang namin talaga siya kinonvince na magtiis."
"Noong naglalaro pa siya sa FEU, umiiyak 'yan," says Marc's mom, Erlinda. "Talagang nami-miss niya ako. Maski nga umuwi sa Pangasinan, hindi 'yan marunong."
Recruited at the age of 17 to play for Chowking in the Philippine Basketball League's (PBL) juniors division, Marc was brought to Manila for further training and was picked by the Far Eastern University Tamaraws team in 1999.
"High school pa lang kasi ako e malaki na ako," says the now-6-foot-5 player.
The center-forward got his height from his French father and namesake, Jean Marc Pingris—pronounced "pingreya" in French, according to Marc. Marc was still a baby when his father went back to France. The family never heard from Jean Marc Senior again.
"Ang sinabi ng Mommy ko, missing ang daddy ko, so talagang hinahanap namin," Marc recalls. "Ang Mommy ko nga dati, sobrang nabaliw sa paghahanap. Kung ikaw ba naman ang sabihan ng asawa mo na pupunta lang siya ng France, 'tapos biglang nawala at hindi na bumalik? At least, matatag si Mommy, malakas siya. So ngayon, ako naman ang babawi. Ibibigay ko lahat ng gusto niya. Siyempre, mommy ko 'yan e. Sayang din 'yong pera kung hindi naman mapapaligaya 'yong mother ko."
True to his word, Marc bought his mom a house here in Manila. That was after he earned his first big salary in the PBA league two years ago. Indeed, Marc's success in basketball has been instrumental in raising his family's standard of living.
"Thankful din ako kasi nakapasok siya sa PBA," says his grateful sister, Joan. "Kahit panganay ako, hindi ako mahihiyang sabihin na siya 'yong breadwinner namin sa pamilya. Kumbaga, nakaahon kami kahit papaano dahil sa kanya, dahil talagang nagsikap siya."
Taking his newfound popularity in stride, Marc already has plans for his future earnings.
"Sana by next year, pag nakapirma ulit ako sa Purefoods, bibili kami ng lupa sa Pangasinan para gawing apartment. At bibili kami ng mga palayan. Ang lupa, pag nabili mo ngayon, mga ilang years, lalaki pa 'yan, e. 'Yong ibang players diyan, may mahilig sa mga kotse. Hindi natin maaalis talaga 'yan. E, ako, hindi. Simple lang kasi 'yong buhay ngayon. Kung anong meron ka ngayon, baka balang araw, mawawala sa 'yo, di ba?"