Meet the NY Knicks’ Fil-Am doctor

By Don Tagala, ABS-CBN North America Bureau

Nov. 3, 2014

TARRYTOWN, NEW YORK – It’s one Filipino’s ultimate American dream, 20 years in the making.

After 13 years of education in four countries and seven U.S. states, this New Jersey-born and Davao, Philippines-raised Filipino American has had an eight-year stint in the U.S. Major League Baseball as rehabilitation director of the Pittsburgh Pirates.

Now, Erwin Benedict Valencia is the first-ever Filipino American to be on the medical teams in both the MLB and the U.S. National Basketball Association (NBA).

He is currently the New York Knicks’ physical therapist and assistant athletics trainer hired last September.

Since joining the Knicks, he has been on duty for the last three NBA games.

“I think it was disbelief, I think even when it was happening I wasn’t sure whether I was there, to see Heidi Klum in the corner, Justin Bieber, Taylor Swift. Where am I? Am I dreaming of this? Is it real? So now that you are experiencing this, really enjoy it for every moment,” Valencia said.

Getting this dream job was no accident for this UP, LA Salle Zobel and Ateneo de Davao Alumnus.

Valencia said at the age of 18, he already made a decision that he would become the first ever Filipino medical professional to work full time for the NBA.

“I saw myself standing in front of a crowd inside an arena in an NBA game. You visualize it, prepare for the path that gets there and you manifest it,” he said.

From then on, Valencia said everything he did was aimed towards this ultimate goal.

He is well-educated with 11 professional credentials to prove it — a bachelor’s degree in physical therapy from UP, a master’s in athletic training and sports medicine from Plymouth University, a Doctor of Physical Therapy degree from the University of St. Augustine, to post-graduate studies at Yale, among others.

But for a moment, it seemed those titles were not enough.

“You don’t know if it’s ever gonna get there, and whether the steps you’re actually taking are the right steps so there’s inevitably a humongous amount of risk for a dream that you’re not sure, even possible,” Valencia admitted.

So earlier this year, instead of asking for gifts to celebrate his 38th birthday, Valencia decided to give back and spend three hours hugging over 300 people, both tourists and locals in Prague, Czech Republic.

Oddly enough, he says, days after his birthday “hug-a-thon” he started getting calls from NBA teams.

“Like I said, I manifested it. You ask the universe for something, you make sure your skills are prepared for that day when it comes, so when it comes you’re ready,” he said.

Valencia said never dream for the impossible, make sure you live your life with purpose, get yourself ready for that moment when your dream comes face-to-face with you and that you will be able to handle it.

You may contact Don Tagala at for more information.

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