Please win Ateneo

Ateneo Campus, Quezon City
April 26, 2016
Please Win Ateneo

This is a story of life.
It happened more than a decade ago. I was here at this exact same place where my youngest brother, Jerson Villar, graduated from college in this Jesuit-ran school with a degree in BS Biology.
Stop there.
I’m not here to tell you that we’re rich and we can pay our way to an expensive school like Ateneo. It’s the other way around, in fact. I studied at a State-run university as an athletic scholar (chess) while my siblings attended private colleges way, way cheaper than Ateneo. My parents, in fact, were buried in debt just supporting our education but with the grace from Up There, we all managed to pull through.
Iton, as we fondly called Jerson, is a product of Ateneo’s “Tulong Dunong,” a program giving scholarships to poor but intelligently deserving students from select public schools. In the case of Iton, he studied in an elementary public school in Marikina City and graduated with honors. He passed the exams required and mercifully made it to Ateneo, which shouldered practically everything. Of course, there is a catch. He needs to pass the school’s stringent academic requirements year after year and along the way, return to public schools to teach younger children.
What’s extra-ordinary about Iton is that he played for Ateneo’s high school volleyball team during that same span. The time when there was still no support for athletes like him. It was the dark ages for Ateneo volleyball back then. He played for the school just for the love of the game.
He graduated by juggling both volleyball and his academics.
He never pursued volleyball in college and just concentrated on his studies. Yes, in Ateneo again as an academic scholar. Passed it all with flying colors.
He wanted to pursue medicine but we have no money to support him. He decided to teach instead.
He passed away five years ago at a very young age of 25 years old.
April 27, 2011. The day, my elder brother, Kuya Jojo, and I whispered in his ear on his deathbed that it’s okay to rest now because we know deep in our hearts he wanted to return every good thing our parents did to him. We knew him as a stubborn person, a fighter. He would have wanted to live and be with our Mama and Papa in their old age. But we knew he could no longer hold on. My exact words to him: “Sige na tol, pahinga ka na. Kami na bahala kina Mama at Papa.” After that, we saw his eyes shedding tears. And then he was gone.
He died with a broken heart.
If he was still alive today, he would have tirelessly cheered for Ateneo, his alma mater. I’m sure he would have adored, perhaps worship, Alyssa Valdez, one of the greatest athletes Ateneo produced. He would have jumped with joy at every championship Valdez and the Lady Eagles won. Perhaps, he would debate me about my proclamation of La Salle’s Kim Fajardo as best setter. He would have stubbornly insist Jia Morado should be it. His heart would have been shattered watching Ateneo lose to La Salle in Game One. So I have a plea. Please win Ateneo.
I know I’m just a voice in the wilderness.
But please Ateneo, win.
Just for this once, win.
It would have put a smile on Iton’s face.

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Follow me on Twitter: @JoeySVillar

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