UP Maroons elate loyal alumni overseas
SAN FRANCISCO — “That’s why they’re here. They are proud of you!”University of the Philippines (UP) Fighting Maroons head coach Bo Perasol said of fans as he boosted his boys’ morale, shortly before the team lost to the Ateneo Blue Eagles in the duel for University Athletic Association of the Philippines (UAAP) basketball title.
Perasol was right about the Maroon fans, including UP alumni in the United States, Australia and other places overseas.
Among the proudest alumni is former Maroon point guard, now Sydney, Australia-based Randolf “Alfie” Manlulo, a UAAP 1986 Ateneo High School basketball champion team leader, who joined the much sought after 1987 Maroon squad after its 1986 conquest of the crown.
Manlulo remembers that after the 1986 championship – against then three-peat seeker University of the East (UE) led by the PBA premier player Jerry Codiñera, who played opposite ace player Benjie Paras, another legend who became the only PBA Rookie of the Year and Most Valuable Player in the same year — the Maroons could not get to the finals in the next years, hovering around 5th or 6th place, not because of loss of talent but because of poor funding of the sports program.
“We had limited resources back then. I remember there were games where literally you could count with your fingers the number of people watching. We had to be transported by our families or take public transport to games as there was no dedicated bus for the players,” recalled Manlulo who finished with an AB philosophy degree in 1992.
Manlulo said that the prestige of playing for the state university was what kept the players going, that and being challenged by great coaches like Joe Lipa and support shown by the UP community across the globe for the team.
“Being in the finals after 32 years is a championship by itself. Watching the games live and streaming online is the biggest support we can give to the team! The alumni can help by rallying and petitioning the University board to develop the sports the programs, increase funding and support the players’ potential through training and development courses,” Manlulo beamed.
Also rooting for the fighting Maroons was Philippine Consul-General in San Francisco Henry Bensurto Jr., who follow the finals together with wife, Mariz, who is an Atenean.
Bensurto noted that the UAAP basketball finals became a showcase not only for the teams’ prowess, but also the spirit of unity the competition generated among their respective academic communities.
“It brought to the fore the best of the two teams, but it also served as a rallying pointfor their respective supporters to unite, to work together and try for victory. Imagine, if this sense of self is translated to the level of a nation,” mused Bensurto, a 1985 AB Political Science minor in Economics graduate.
“I cheered for Ateneo and I am very happy that we won the championship,” said the ConGen’s wife, Mariz. “There was just all good-spirited cheering. He must have been sad for the Maroons, but he did not show it to me,” wife she confided.
BS Foreign Service 1977 graduate Jojo Alonto always the UP basketball teams even after college, as a way of getting together with schoolmates and feeling, the unity among iskos, besides loving the Maroons and having a former Maroon player as a good friend and batch mate.
“I watched closely as they reached the finals this 2018 and felt the revival of the glory of the fighting Maroons some years ago. An isko stands firm always despite the challenges and difficulties, like during my college days,” Alonto declared. “I am so proud of the team. and providing their materials needs would be great. Perhaps they will do better with this kind of support. Mabuhay kayo!“
New Jersey resident Maria Clara Silang, a BA Communication 1987 graduate, was as senior in college when the Maroons won the 1986 UAAP basketball title. She was able to watch the championship game at the ULTRA in Pasig with some UP friends as well as a sister studying in the University of the East.
“The student athletes showed determination, dedication, perseverance, the will to win and ‘keep the dream alive’ despite all the hurdles and obstacles they faced.
Sadly, she said, the university has not invested to improve or develop its athletic department and the athletes have to live with limited means, take public transport to and from games, don’t usually have even a merienda and evaluation after games, had to practice half-court during the rainy season when their home court roof leaks.
“No wonder it took 32 years for them to win another UAAP. So, win or lose, I salute these players, and yes, they deserve the support of the UP community. They showed the character and determination to win right until the end.”
Silang hopes that this journey to the finals has a long-term effect but sees that the problem is that usually there is a short-term memory loss and after the game everything is forgotten.
“Alumni from all over can surely donate money and then specify that the donation will only be allocated to the athletic program or for the gym and equipment. The university must start getting creative in looking for funds to support the better the athletic department. Truth is, there is money and profit for the universities from all these,” advised Silang, who worked at UCLA where sponsors, not only alumni, give financial support to the athletic department and the school is aggressive in reaching out to sponsors like Gatorade and NIKE.
She thinks UP may be getting a lot of financial support but may not have the athletic department as a priority.