Tag Archives: ACL

When One Door Closes, Multiple Doors Open (My Common Application Main Essay)

*This was my common app essay that answered the prompt, “Some students have a background or story that is so central to their identity that they believe their application would be incomplete without it. If this sounds like you, then please share your story.” Given that high school seniors are probably going through the process of writing their college application essay, I figured it wouldn’t hurt if I shared mine on the internet to help inspire high school students.

Numerous times I felt like giving up on my basketball dreams yet I didn’t want to be labeled a quitter. Instead, I wanted to one day tell a story just like Michael Jordan’s and how he was initially cut from the varsity team only to end up becoming the best player in the world; this became the driving force of my basketball obsession after I didn’t make the varsity team during my freshman year.

I spent countless of hours working on my game, pushing aside my friends and what a “high school” life was supposed to be about. Yet as my Junior Year ended, I sat there tired of the whole routine of working my butt off every single day only to have sub-par performances during actual games.

And after another dismal performance, I was ready to call it quits when my dad told me that if I quit, all the hours I spent working on my game would be wasted, and I’d be labeled a quitter, forever– this led to a renewed fire to stick it out in hopes of making the most out of my last year in high school.

I promised to double or even quadruple my effort in the next practices when, lightning struck. In a blink of an eye, everything I had worked for in the past 8 years disappeared as I lay on the court shouting in pain after tearing my Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL), an injury that would sideline me for the rest of my senior year.

I suddenly remembered all my daily sacrifices of swallowing up those gooey protein shakes, shooting hoops under the scorching heat, doing dribbling drills during lunch breaks, refusing to indulge in junk food, sleeping at 9 pm in hopes of growing taller and turning down my friend’s invites to hang-out just so I could work on my game instead.

I was devastated as I stayed up all night in pain thinking about what I had done with my life, then I suddenly remembered why I even worked so hard in the first place — the story I wanted to tell couldn’t end here.

How could I give up when my senior year essentially hadn’t even started? I now had a blank page to start writing a renewed story.

6 months later, my story continues to unfold. Who would’ve thought that the same injury that felt like the world falling on my knee would catapult me to a much bigger world. I wasn’t afraid to fail anymore, for I already knew how it felt to hit rock bottom so I went ahead to pursue opportunities that I was once too scared to even consider.

I tried out for the debate team, where I was forced to step out of my comfort zone and learn more about global issues. My devastating injury suddenly seemed so trivial compared to the pressing societal problems we debated about. I was now playing a much bigger game than basketball.

More importantly, as I fulfilled my dream of representing my school and country in international tournaments, I got to meet people from all over the world — each one with their own dreams of one day making a more profound impact in the world.

This inspired me to spend more time working on community service projects while continually trying to inspire others to do the same through my blog posts and newspaper articles that document my Senior Year journey — one that saw me change from the health-conscious basketball freak that my friends used to call me to who I am today, an ambitious global citizen constantly looking for novel solutions and stories to share.

Maybe I was never meant to have a story like Michael Jordan’s because ultimately, we all have our own unique story to tell, and I’d like to think that tearing my ACL was just the start of a whole new chapter.


Feel free to let me know what you think about my essay by emailing me at david.ongchoco@gmail.com. Do let me know as well if you need any help with your essay.


FINALLY!!! College Admissions Results!! The end of a journey…the start of a new one!

I’m still overwhelmed right now from graduation and then college results but I just have to write this note of thanks to everyone who has helped me in this journey! 

After a few rejections and wait-lists to some of my top choices for university, I wasn’t expecting anything anymore. Yet, just like how I tore my anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) last May, life surprises you when you least expect it. I’m glad I ended up making it to UPenn, UC Berkeley, UMich, and UCLA. 

Thank you to my friends, classmates, parents, family, relatives, teachers, mentors, coaches and everyone who has helped me become who I am today.

When I was a high school freshman, I just wanted to go to La Salle since they are on a trimester system and I could quickly graduate. But I’ve come to realize our plan at 14, isn’t always our plan at 18 or 22 or 30. There are so many factors in life that all we can do is to cherish every moment

At the start of last year, I wasn’t even sure whether I would apply abroad but I decided to give it a shot. At the beginning, I was still skeptical about it but after I tore my anterior cruciate ligament (ACL), I was really confused and unsure what would become of my senior year.

Yet I decided to trust the Man above and still make the most out of my senior year……and now that it’s all over, funny how things didn’t turn out how I expected it to be……because it turned out to be so much more than just a school year!

Who would’ve thought that as tiring as it was, this past school year would turn out to become the most memorable, amazing and surreal year in my life! I will miss Xavier but glad I was able to end my stay in Xavier with a bang!

So last but not the least, thank you God for everything that has happened, all the blessings I’ve received and of course all the family, friends, classmates, schoolmates, mentors, teachers and relatives who’ve made me who I am today. I questioned you when I tore my ACL yet you did have a plan! I may not have seen it then but it’s a bit clearer now.

To end I’d like to quote our graduation song “Thank you, Xavier” written by Lorenzo Arceo, “All the memories made, tomorrow’s already yesterday. Our roads will cross again, and we’ll be even better.” “Wherever we may go, whoever we may be, I’ll just let you know. I’ll let my light shine. I’ll be someone greater.”

Thank you again everyone for everything and all the shared experiences we’ve had. This one is for you guys  Wouldn’t have made it if it weren’t for all of you!!

This has been my dad's dream school for me :) super glad that I made it!!

This has been my dad’s dream school for me 🙂 super glad that I made it!!





BRUINS!!! John Wooden is the man!! HAHAHAHA

BRUINS!!! John Wooden is the man!! HAHAHAHA




2013 – A year of lows, A year of highs, A YEAR TO REMEMBER!

I sit here wondering how Christmas could fly by so quickly this year that I didn’t even feel the Christmas vibes at all. Then suddenly, it’s just a few hours before the start of the new year then it’s already the new year, yet how did I spend this day and the last few days at that? Glued to my laptop, drafting up essay after essay in search for the perfect combination of words that would encapsulate my first 18 years of living as I wrote my personal statements for college applications.

I guess that as this year comes to a close and another new year starts, it’s just right that I actually take a break first from finishing all my College applications and pause for a moment to look back at what an incredible year it has been.

A year of extreme lows and extreme highs, a year like no other indeed :)

A year of extreme lows and extreme highs, a year like no other indeed 🙂

Who would’ve imagined that my lowest moment would catapult me into a much bigger world where I got to venture into new countries and exchange stories with newfound friends?

Honestly, the year 2013 has been my most memorable year so far. From experiencing a right of passage in Prom to attending the Ateneo Chemistry Camp to all the SAT review sessions to tearing my ACL to joining Debate to writing for Inquirer to starting my own business to all the other experiences and moments that I enjoyed with both new and old friends alike, this year truly has been a year like no other and I’m glad, I can one day look back at my blog thankful for every single moment of this year.

2013 truly has been one hell of a ride. As I scroll down right now and look through my blog posts, I can’t help but feel nostalgic as I remember all the laughter and the tears this year has brought me.

Yet in all these moments were silver linings that have ultimately made me realize that anything is possible in this world for life is what we make it – something I will keep in mind in the new year, which will hopefully be just as memorable or even more. Ultimately, no matter how dim and hopeless a moment can be, there’s always light at the end of the tunnel for things do work out for the better!

“Don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened.”

Fleeting Moments, Eternal Memories – A Summer to Remember :)

Looking back, Summer 2013 was such a surreal and amazing journey in itself. It was the best summer I ever had and definitely one of the most memorable 3 months in my life.

It a was a summer full of first times and new experiences. It was a summer full of smiles, laughter and tears. It was a summer that brought out the best in me. I truly learned so much about myself and all the high and low experiences I went through this past summer helped me see life in so many different perspectives.

Summer 2013 number 2

These are just a few of the many experiences I had this summer but these were definitely the highlights that stood out. These are moments that I will never want to forget. These are moments if I had an opportunity, I’d like to experience once more. These are moments that changed my life in so many different ways.

My summer just wouldn’t have been as surreal and as phantasmagorical if it weren’t for these moments. Moments that I want to eternalize, and moments I’ll forever look back to when summer 2013 is mentioned. So without further ado, here are the 8 highlights of my summer.

1. Anvaya Bonding withthe Backyardigans – March 10-11

There’s nothing like going with your friends to a beautiful resort to relax, have fun, try out new things, and off-course enjoy each other’s company!


2. Europe Trip – March 24 – April 8 

Every country has its own unique culture and exploring these countries and immersing yourself in these cultures is simply a breathtaking experience. When in another country, don’t be afraid to explore, to try out new things, to take pictures, to buy souvenirs, to eat exotic food and off-course to enjoy the culture!


3. HKUST campus visit – April 10

This was honestly the first time I visited a University and really explored it and man, I was amazed and blown away. HKUST had such a beautiful campus that I actually wanted to stay right there and start studying. No joke, the atmosphere was just that fervent and inspiring. I honestly can’t wait for college!


4.  Ateneo Chem Camp – April 15 – May 3

This was arguably the most memorable experience of this summer. I learned so many new things not only about Chemistry but about life. Chem Camp made me realize that learning can be fun and that knowledge truly is power. The importance of learning, curiosity, perspective and the way we see things are things that I will forever carry with me for the rest of my life.


I also met so many amazing, vibrant and talented individuals that in a span of 3 weeks became friends that made Chem Camp such a surreal and unbelievable experience. They were friends I shared so many smiles, laughter, joy, and in the end, tears with. Chem campers whom I will never ever forget for the memories we shared will always be one of the most transcending and surreal moments of my life! Once a Chem Camper, always a Chem Camper!

5. Xavier Basketball Summer Varsity Training – April 15 – May 8

My senior year stint with the team may have been a short lived but without a doubt, Xavier Basketball will always have a special place in my heart. All the grueling practices, bonding moments, tough losses and fulfilling wins are things that I will forever remember.

I’m really thankful that I got to be part of the team one last time and it was really one hell of a journey. It was also such a honor and blessing to be part of a team of such amazing individuals who strived each day for one goal. My basketball career not have turned out the way I expected but the values I learned, the memories I gained and the bonds I formed will be things that I will treasure for the rest of my life.


6. Tearing my ACL – May 8 

One of the lowest and at the same time highest moments of my life. Tearing my ACL was really an eye opening experience that truly changed my perspective in life. At first I was really devastated, but then I realized that things could be worse and that I am still very lucky. I really learned how to appreciate the little things and be thankful for my blessings.

Everything happens for a reason and tearing my ACL may just have been and blessing in disguise from God and a chance to start a new and try out new things.

7. Hands On Manila Orientation and Kindness Revolution 

Joining Hands On Manila was definitely one of the best choices I’ve made this summer. Hands On Manila opened the door for me in so many ways and is an outlet for me to share my blessings with the less fortunate through volunteerism. I also realized that we are all gifted individuals and the best way to use these gifts and talents of ours is to pass it on by volunteering.


8. Reviewing and taking the SAT – April – June 1 

Reviewing for the SAT was a completely different journey in itself. I’ll admit it, reviewing for the SAT was a really arduous and tedious process but looking back, it was definitely a memorable experience. It truly was a test of hard work, perseverance, critical thinking and discipline. It was the hardest I ever studied for a test and I really dedicated a lot of my time and effort in preparing myself.

Towards the end, I was actually enjoying reviewing and answering practice tests and seeing my score improve each time. Reviewing for the SAT at one point became a habit of mine. You’d see me bring around my vocabulary notebook everywhere I went. Those truly were fun times and no matter what score I got in that test, the build up to the testing day and all those hardcore review sessions will always be fond memories of mine.


My summer just wouldn’t have been the same if it weren’t for these 8 highlights. As summer 2013 comes to a close, I’m glad to say that I made the most out of this summer. It truly has been a summer filled with fleeting moments turned into eternal memories, a summer to remember indeed!


No Such Thing As A Wasted Moment

I was honestly a bit burned out after all the hardcore marathon review sessions for the SAT

I was honestly a bit burned out after all the hardcore marathon review sessions for the SAT

It’s been a week since I last blogged and this past week after taking the SAT was really a chance to start exploring again, preparing for Senior Year and also taking time off to reflect. To be honest, after taking the SAT, I felt really relieved but at the same time a bit burned out after all the marathon review sessions I went through the past month just to put myself in the best position to get a good score. I really needed this week where I had to cut back on studying and I just had to slow down a bit since I was probably reaching max speed already and I wouldn’t have wanted to go overdrive yet at this stage.

The ball that showed me how round the world is...in other words, you can be on top one second, then at the very bottom the next!

The ball that showed me how round the world is…in other words, you can be on top one second, then at the very bottom the next!

Aside from having my energy at a low after the SAT, I also had to face the decision this past week whether or not to go through surgery and have my ACL reconstructed. Previously, although I was really ambivalent about going through the process, I was all set to get the surgery over with however after long talks with a few doctors and also with my parents. However, I ultimately decided not to go through with the surgery for several reasons. First of all, my growth plates were still slightly open according to an X-ray. Second, even if I went through surgery, I probably still wouldn’t be able to return to the court this senior year of mine for it takes 6-8 months of rehab before I can go back to ball sports so the hassle of going through the process was looking more and more tedious. Third, the surgery process is really complicated and there are several risks that I deemed unnecessary since either way, basketball isn’t my future career.  So with all those uncertainties and ambivalence, I think I made the right choice not go through with it for now.

Sometimes, we just need to reflect upon life....

Sometimes, we just need to reflect upon life….

These last few days though, I couldn’t help but feel nostalgic as I weighed my options, talked to the doctor, discussed with my parents and in the process, looked back at my basketball journey and everything I went through the past years. I couldn’t help but shed a few tears and think about the what ifs. What if I decided to spend my time on something else? What if I was more open minded and not closed up in my own small world because of basketball? I was actually ranting at my parents how I wasted my teenage years so immersed and engrossed in basketball only to end up tearing my ACL. However, this is life. You can’t have everything and sometimes, things just won’t go your way. Those years I spent playing basketball seemed like such a waste but then I realized I learned so much from the journey. It truly was a humbling experience that taught me a myriad of things about life. Like the saying goes, “It’s not about the destination; it’s about the JOURNEY!”

322470To honest though, I regret alienating myself from almost everything and everyone during the previous years just to focus on basketball. The past is the past though, and all I can do is learn from my mistakes and look forward. This is what I’ve been doing the past few days, looking ahead and trying to prepare myself for one hell of a ride, SENIOR YEAR.


The past few days, I’ve been contacting friends, working on projects for my Committee and Club and at the same time, reading as much books as I can. Aside from that, I also recently tried out for the Debate Team. A lot of these things I probably would be too busy to do if I was still part of the basketball team. It’s truly amazing how the saying, “When one door closes, another opens.” In my case however, I’ve come to realize that there are so much more doors out there that I can open. Maybe injuring my knee truly was a blessing in disguise from God and everything will work out in the end. Right now, I’m just thankful to God for all the blessings He has given me and hopefully, this is just the start of more amazing things to come!

There will be really high moments and there will be super low moments, but I’ve come to realized that there’s no such a thing as a wasted moment for no matter what happens, there’s always a silver lining behind it. We may not realize it in the moment itself, but as long as we believe and are open to the possibilities, things will eventually work out for the better. 


Blessings in Disguise – When One Door Closes, Another Opens!

“How did you find out about this?”

That was question that I was asked yesterday during the Hands On Manila Volunteer Orientation that I attended. I didn’t want to explain the whole story so I simply said that I googled it out of curiosity during my free time. To be honest, this answer was very vague and superficial, and does not fully explain how I really ended up finding out about Hands On Manila and the orientation.

Screen Shot 2013-05-17 at 10.00.32 PM

That lackluster answer is actually half true and half false. There are times where the vapid answer is the safer answer especially when you just met the person who’s asking you the question but her follow up question really struck me, “Why did you search for something like Hands On Manila?”

9780874478525_p0_v2_s260x420Obviously, my friend and I were the only high school students there so they must have been really shocked and at the same time intrigued as to why we were there. The first answer that popped out of my mouth was because I had some free time that I didn’t know how to kill but the truth is, I’m actually really busy right now reviewing for SAT, answering practice tests, writing blog posts, planning projects for my committees and clubs and other things, but I nonetheless decided to go.

comfort-zone To be honest, I wasn’t really planning to attend because of all the aforementioned things I have on my plate and to add to that, I’m still recuperating from the knee injury I suffered and I can’t really walk properly yet but there was just this little voice inside me saying why not, it might be an opportunity of a lifetime. Aside from that, I recently wrote a blogpost about “stepping out your comfort zone, taking the initiative, being the change and volunteering” and I wanted to walk the talk especially since I wrote that blog post in support for the organization that was hosting the orientation.

Looking at it from a different perspective, if I had not tore my ACL, I probably would have been coming home from practice at the time of the orientation and I probably wouldn’t have gone to the orientation. Actually, I probably wouldn’t have even searched for volunteer organizations, let alone find Hands On Manila. But because I did tear my ACL, I realized how unpredictable life is and how anything can happen in an instant.

tumblr_lbf0c1DYVk1qahvtyo1_5001At the same time, I learned how to accept my situation, appreciate what I have and count my blessings. It occurred to me that there are a lot more people out there in a worse situation. Because of these realizations, I wanted to make the most out of my injury, find a way to make a difference in the society and share my blessings.

Because of a bit more free time I have for I can’t go to practice, I ended up finding the Facebook page of Hands On Manila, participating in the Bloggers for Social Change Project and going to the Volunteer orientation.

The orientation really opened my eyes and introduced me to the different philanthropic organizations out there. I also got to meet several convivial and amiable people who were very easy to approach and talk to. I really learned so much last night and I’m really happy that I decided to join the orientation.


So far, the fulfillment and genuine happiness I’ve gained from doing the aforementioned has really been priceless. However, for now, I’ll have to focus first on reviewing for the SAT since I have two weeks left before one of the biggest tests in my life! Nevertheless, I’m really pumped up to share my blessings and talents and I really can’t wait to start volunteering in the different projects!

Attending the orientation is definitely a step forward to my goal of making the most out of this year by losing myself in the service of others and really making a difference in the lives of the less fortunate! 🙂