Retired PBA Cager and Former Maldita determined to conquer health hurdle


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In the world of sports, it comes to no surprise that athletes from different sports get to cross paths and end up being a couple. Retired PBA player Tony De La Cruz and former PH women’s national team football player Belay Fernando are no exception. Both have been in a relationship for more than three years now but find themselves needing to go through an unusual hurdle.

It was on the birthday of the former player of the Alaska Aces some years back when both discovered Fernando had cancer. It was a surprising discovery for both, especially since each led a pretty healthy life. Being the competitors they are, both embarked on a mission to overcome this obstacle. Tony and Belay are fully aware of the hardships ahead but are ready to go through it together

Former PH national women’s football team player Belay Fernando (L) and retired PBA player Tony Dela Cruz (R). [photo courtesy of Belay Fernando]
Former PH national women’s football team player Belay Fernando (L) and retired PBA player Tony Dela Cruz (R). [photo courtesy of Belay Fernando]

“The one thing I realized with cancer is that it can run your life if you let it, especially if you let yourself live in fear. With cancer, you need to take it day by day. I just have to take a step back, have faith and trust the process. There are going to be bumps along the way but you just have to trust it,” Dela Cruz said.

Focus On The Process, Not The Result

Being a mentor, Tony admits that the whole thing is somehow similar to coaching kids. He believes that focus should not on the result but on the process of getting better.

“I feel like it’s the same process when you teach a jump shot. Don’t worry about the result, focus on the process. I feel like it’s the same with medicine. Focus on what you can do daily and the result will take care of itself. At the end of the day, the biggest lesson I learned is to stop trying to take control of the situation,” Dela Cruz explained.

Dela Cruz admitted that when they found out that Fernando had cancer, he ended up doing some research on the Big C. But in the end, it took a doctor to tell him that there is more to what a person can discover on the Internet.

“When we first found out she had cancer and she was going to the treatment, I’m all of a sudden a professional researcher. I researched everything on Google and everything was about organics, vegan. I was trying to feed her all these organic shakes and juices but they did not well with radiation. The Alaska doctor told me to stop trying to feed her anti-cancer foods because they are not good. They don’t taste well and she needs calories,” Dela Cruz shared.

Overcoming the Big C

As far as tying the knot, both do have plans of doing so. But for now, their main goal is to battle Belay’s fight with cancer.

“One day. The focus right now is getting healthy,” Dela Cruz said.

“Yeah we have talked about it but the focus right now is getting over this hurdle. It’s a super vulnerable moment. There is no biological clock because the clock is shut down, so that is not a factor. There is no pressure,” Fernando replied

Things have not been easy for both athletes. But as far as Fernando is concerned, she looks at everything as a blessing.

“It has been a rough journey for us. But it was this journey that made me realize that it was a blessing. I underwent everything and understood these things that people experience. It does take a toll on the family, friends and loved ones. It’s not just the patient. It’s really about the people around,” she ended.