(AUG. 11)—The UP Fighting Maroons Men’s Basketball Team finally ended a 2-year drought of losing games last Saturday, Aug. 9, defeating Adamson University 77-64 in the UAAP (University Athletic Association of the Philippines)competitions.
Euphoria broke out at the Mall of Asia Arena, on the Internet social media sites and, finally, at UP Diliman itself, where a controlled bonfire—using a cauldron from the 2008 UP Centennial—blazed through the night at the Sunken Garden.
The UP Diliman Information Office (DIO )ambushed Chancellor Michael Tan at the bonfire, who has been quietly supporting the basketball team through the months, getting them invited to an international tournament in Taiwan in July and dropping in at their practices for pep talks. Here he offers some behind the scenes glimpses into the team.
DIO: How are you feeling?
CMLT: Just overwhelmed. Just yesterday I finished a blog for GMA on our monsoon sunflowers and “predicted” a win soon, which we now have. It’s not just the victory but the responses. The game ended around 4 p.m. and I got to Diliman a bit past 6 and the Sunken Garden already had at least a hundred people waiting to celebrate. The posts on the Internet are very revealing: it’s not just UP alumni and faculty and students celebrating but the nation. I liked one tweet: tagumpay ito ng bayan. We’ve shown our iskolar ng bayan can excel, mind and body, brain and brawn.
DIO: What made us win?
CMLT: The team itself, of course, with Coach Rey and Coach Ramil. They practice daily, for hours and you know, each defeat can be draining and demoralizing. The temptation to just stay at the bottom of the cellar is very real but no, they’ve climbed out of it.
Then there’s the alumni. Dan Palami, known for building up the Azkals football team, has come in to help our basketball team. Poch Juinio, an alumnus and an Alaska PBA star player, is there too for the team. Renan Dalisay and his friends – there are so many – put up (the website) nowheretogobutup, donating a bus, equipment, and mobilizing alumni to host dinners and attend the games. There are so many other people behind the scenes. Marty Paz, Tita Marty, shepherds the team players through their academics. UP will be forever grateful to them because they came in when we were down, the butt of jokes even.
And again, I really think the nation was behind us, grieving with us whenever we’d lose, and cheering us on as we played.
DIO: Any secret formulas to winning?
CMLT: Siempre, kung meron, we’re not publicizing baka magaya pa ng ibang teams. But you know, there’s something in that victory game about the way they’ve been pep-ing each other up after a break. You’ll see them huddled together then they almost have this collective shuddering before jumping into the air. Reminds me of Papua New Guinea highlands rituals. Maybe it helps, like motor rewinding or something.
DIO: Favorite players?
CMLT: I can’t play favorites. I know each and everyone gives their all for the game.I do want to say, like a parent, each of them is so different. Mikee Reyes brought in the most points this last game, but I like him because he’s actually an underdog in the team, always being teased and he’s a good sport with the teasing. JR Gallarza has also been a top scorer, but I’d like people to know he’s running for honors at the College of Education, majoring in early childhood education. Kyles Lao and Jarrell Lim. . .great players, just watch out for Jarrell, a rookie right now who will go places, as an athlete, and someday, an electrical engineer. I have bragging rights since both come from Xavier, where I did my high school.
You know this is a very shy team, no star complexes. Yet.
Mo Gingerich, the captain ball, is the most unassuming guy you can imagine.
Sige nga, if you ask me for favorites it’s Ensoy Asilum and it’s not just because he’s a fellow Davaoeno. I heard Coach Rey praise him once, after a game in Taiwan for being selfless. He’s an excellent player and scores many points but he also dances with the ball, passes the ball to team mates whenever possible. Watch him, he has this body language with fellow players to encourage, console them. That’s the Bisaya touch and I wish we played basketball more that way.
DIO: Message for UP?
CMLT: Nowhere to go but up had this symbol, one finger pointing to the air. Now it’s two fingers: we aim for a second victory. But let’s not lose sight of the bigger picture: at UP we’re proud of all our varsity players. We celebrated the basketball team’s victory, as well as the women’s badminton team, who just defeated Ateneo, the current champion. We lead the way in showing what it means to be atletang iskolar ng bayan!