Former PBA player Mike Bilbao's life was changed in 1985 by a car accident that nearly ended his life.
Bilbao was on his way to Alabang Country Club to attend the baptism of his best friend's daughter when the Toyota Land Cruiser he was driving got hit by a wayward truck along Alabang-Zapote Road in Las Pinas City.
It was a few months after he called it a career in the PBA. A jeepney driver and some strangers got him out of that mess and brought him to the nearest hospital.
"The jeepney driver saved my life. It took some time for them to get me out. Then the jeepney driver brought me to the hospital in Las Pinas and when they looked at my wallet, they saw and realized 'this was the PBA player," he recalled in Saturday's episode of An Eternity of Basketball.
He was 33 then. A few months removed from professional basketball, the 5-foot-8 defensive whiz was still trying to figure out life after retirement. He intended to work for the Elizalde group after his basketball career that spanned nine years. But things didn't go as planned.
"I felt I was lost because I was being groomed at finishing my career at Elizalde," he said. "I had no choice but to look for others things that's why I went to Beer Hausen for a while too see if there was something here for me then I got into an accident."
Life after basketball was tough, but the car accident made it tougher. Bilbao admitted he struggled mightily to recover from the accident that also severed his left ear.
"But I had a hard time getting back. My wife Techie and son Fabrizio, they just kept on. So I also pushed myself. I'm so used to pushing myself," he said. "I was able to come back. But all of that was already getting over and it was hard but it was challenging. I guess my life was all about that: overcoming challenges."
His friends put up a benefit event called "For the Love of Mike." To his surprise, over 12,000 fans showed up to the game that featured the likes of Sonny Jaworski, Mon Fernadez, Samboy Lim, Atoy Co, and Allan Caidic, as well as celebrities Richard Gomez, Gary Valenciano, and Aga Muhlach.
"I was watching from the hospital. I was shocked when I saw the number of people who came out," he said.
He felt the love from his friends from the basketball fraternity as well as the love of his fans, who supported him as he rose to the local Pantheon. He averaged 5.7 points, 4.3 assists, 1.4 steals (18th all-time) in 337 games in the PBA.