As I watch James Yap and San Mig Super Coffee celebrate only the fifth grand slam championship in the PBA’s 39-year history about three weeks ago, I’m reminded of one player, who was closely associated with the 6-foot-2 Mixers star during his college days at the University of the East.
Maybe, today’s UAAP basketball fans may no longer remember him, but I’m talking about JayArr Estrada.
JayArr used to be UE’s starting power forward under coach Boycie Zamar from 2001 to 2003, partnering with fellow veteran big men like Jhayson Alminario, Philip Butel and guards Arnold Booker as well as Paul Artadi.
But Yap was the main attraction for UE back then.
Today, Yap has earned his seventh PBA championship, including the last four league titles under two-time grand slam coach Tim Cone.
Jay-Arr, on the other hand, officially retired sometime in 2010, six years after being left undrafted in a talent-rich PBA rookie batch that included Yap, Rich Alvarez, Artadi, Bitoy Omolon, Willy Wilson, Marc Pingris, Sonny Thoss, just to name a few.
Well, fast forward to 2014, Jay-Arr is now playing in a different arena -where he serves as one of the “LIFE coaches” of LifeBox, a nationwide campus organization that is passionate in preparing students for LIFE. And LIFE stands for Leadership, Integrity, Faith and Excellence.
He no longer plays basketball, a sport that has helped him earn a college degree later on at UE, though what he’s most passionate about for the last three and a half years is the opportunity to help “fatherless” students become secure and full of hope in God.
As someone I have know for over a decade already, I remember Jay-Arr attempted to search for his father somewhere in Novaliches. He grew up without a father figure, drawing it instead on various male influences he had during his childhood years.
JayArr earlier, thought that flaunting a macho image and moving from one relationship to another could satisfy the inner longings he had.
But when he encountered a group of LifeBox (then known as Youth on Fire) active members who shared to him that God is the only one who can fill the emotional and spiritual gaps he’s had since his childhood days, JayArr yielded his life completely to God.
He began to read his Bible, developed a lifestyle of prayer and started sharing his faith to his friends. Today, JayArr is on a mission to reach students, who like him, were abandoned by their fathers – by pointing them back to our Heavenly Father.
JayArr now serves as one of the campus ministers of LifeBox at Victory Fort, mentoring students at STI and leading a group of students, who, despite being “fatherless”, are now reaching out sharing their newfound faith to their classmates.
What’s more, God has blessed him a supportive, loving wife in Janet, and they have two beautiful kids in Zia and Zuri.