An Open Letter to the UAAP from an Alyssa Valdez fan

The Arena, San Juan
May 22, 2016
An Open Letter to the UAAP from an Alyssa Valdez fan

Dear UAAP,
First of all, I want you to know that I love your league even though I wasn’t an alumnus of any of your member schools, current and past.
But I covered you in the last 20 of your 78 seasons and saw some of the downs and many of the ups during that span. Saw a school suspended for a year for eligibility violations. Wrote both memorable championships and forgettable ones. Made some exposes about game-fixing that led to a referee being banished for life. Broke the news of a UAAP player surviving a gunshot wound in front of his school. Eulogized some of your past members who passed away. Awed by the games regardless of the sport. Cringed at the sight of some. Gained multitudes of friends and made a few enemies from here and there. Applauded some of your past decisions, booed some.
But overall, you rock.
And I congratulate you guys.
So forgive me if I tell you that we have a different opinion about the recent decision you made awarding La Salle’s Ian Lariba of table tennis, Adamson’s Queeny Sabobo of softball and Ateneo’s Jessie Khing Lacuna of swimming and Alyssa Valdez of volleyball the UAAP Athletes of the Year honor
You see ladies and gentlemen of the UAAP board, my belief is Ian Lariba should be the lone UAAP Athlete of the Year.
I mean alone.
Don’t get me wrong sirs and ma’ams of the UAAP, but I believe all four mentioned are winners in their own right.
I mean Sabobo is a Southeast Asian Games gold medal winner aside from being the most decorated softball player in the land today, not just in the UAAP,  while Lacuna is a former Olympian who has raked in a whopping seven gold medals this season.
Valdez, for her part, should be given credit for elevating the sport of volleyball to what it is now–a multi-million industry. That is not counting her two UAAP titles and three MVP awards. Never mind that her Ateneo lost to La Salle this season. Admittedly, yours truly is a fan. Who isn’t? She’s the Michael Jordan of Philippine volleyball. She’s the biggest reason the sport is so widely popular right now.
They’re all champions in their own right.
Undeniably, what the three did pale in comparison with what Lariba has achieved. Or as Reuben Terrado of spin.ph put it, Lariba is “a cut above the rest.”
Consider these:
Aside from helping La Salle win three championships, Lariba has never lost a single game in her four years in the league. As in never. Who can do that?
She made the Olympics for crying out loud. Oympics. Not Southeast Asian Games. Not Asian Games. But the Olympics. And she made it by beating people. Not by wild cards nor by free rides. Even Manny Pacquiao, an already accomplished boxing champion, is dying to represent the country in the Olympics.
What is more impressive about Lariba’s feat was that she did it in a sport where we don’t really care about. Admit it. You think of table tennis and the first thing that comes to mind is Forrest Gump. Guilty, right? We all are. We didn’t give her nor anyone from table tennis a chance of making it big in international competitions. We see only basketball, boxing, volleyball, taekwondo, track and field, wushu, swimming as potential goldmines. Not table tennis.
But Lariba did it anyway.
She made the Olympics while some failed at it miserably. Look at our Gilas Pilipinas? We’re hoping against hope that our team defy the odds and qualify to Rio. Slim hope.
And Lariba did it anyway.
She will be in the Olympics wearing the country’s blue, red and white uniform and represent us Filipinos.
Us.
Not jus La Salle.
Not just the UAAP.
But the whole Philippines.
I know that what has been done, can never be undone. So I sincerely congratulate, Sabobo, Lacuna, Valdez and Lariba for all being achievers. 
My only hope is that if another Ian Lariba comes out from the ashes somewhere in the future, you will make it right by making the right decision.
Thank you from the bottom of my heart.
Sincerely yours,
An Alyssa Valdez fan.

Follow me on Twitter: @JoeySVillar

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Photo from Manila Bulletin

The Shortest Alyssa Valdez blog ever

Lipa City
May 21, 2016
The Shortest Alyssa Valdez Blog Ever

Life is short.
Like this blog.
So I’m going to make it real quick.
The 13th Shakey’s V-League will start on May 28. Actually, it’s on May 22. But no games, only introduction of teams and players. There will be eight V-League teams and six Spikers’ Turf squads. All of them exciting. So be there.
Alyssa Valdez is playing. And so is Denden Lazaro and a lot of former Ateneo almuni, including playing coach Charo Soriano. Reigning NCAA MVP Gretchel Soltones is there. Janine Marciano too. The team will be called Bali Pure.
Another player who was supposed to join Bali Pure was also mentioned by Tony Liao. But something happened along the way and she tweeted she’s not joining. The player has so many fans, so popular, so beautiful, so many….finals appearance. Championships? It will come, just wait.
I know the true story, but I will not tell.
Truth be told, I trust my sources. You can hang me to a tree but I will still believe my sources. Period.
Wait, isn’t Tony Liao the first one to say Alyssa Valdez is playing in the Shakey’s V-League even before Alyssa herself said it? And Denden Lazaro. And Soltones. And everyone in Bali Pure right now. Who said Charo Soriano is going to be playing coach of Bali Pure? Tony Liao again. And yes, when no one knows what’s the name of Valdez’s team, guess who bared it first? Clue: It’s not you nor the player. It’s Tony Liao. So how can he go wrong with this one player?
Now you get it.
As they say, life goes on.
So there.
I told you this is the shortest Alyssa Valdez blog ever.
I mean ever.

P.S.
Michelle Gumabao.
Melissa Gohing.
Jaja Santiago.
UP.
They’re all playing.
Oh?
Not.

Follow me on Twitter: @JoeySVillar

alyV

The Big Difference

Rizal Memorial Coliseum
May 15, 2016
The Big Difference

Let’s play a game.
It’s called question and answer.
I ask one question and you answer. Simple.
Are you game?
Yes? Yes. So good luck.
Who is the greatest Filipino basketball player of all time?
Millenials, as they call the youth now, will probably answer Junemar Fajardo or Calvin Abueva or Greg Slaughter or Japeth Aguilar or Mark Barroca. Maybe a James Yap or an LA Tenorio or an Arwind Santos. I’ll probably get Beau Belga as an answer from some.
Stretching to an older group, they’ll probably go for Mark Caguioa, maybe a Danny Ildefonso or a Danny Seigle or an Asi Taulava.
Or we can go straight in my age bracket where we’ll probably give names like Ramon Fernandez, Sonny Jaworski, Benjie Paras, Alvin Patrimonio, Allan Caidic or Samboy Lim.
We’re all wrong.
I mean no disrespect because all of the aforementioned are greats or at least worthy to be mentioned in the conversation. But the answer is someone who played when there was still no facebook, or youtube, or Twitter, or Instagram. Heck, most of us were probably not born yet when this mythical figure wreaked havoc in the local and international basketball scenes.
His name is Carlos “Caloy” Loyzaga.
I have no videos to back up my claim nor have I collated actual game stats to strengthen my case. What I have are his accomplishments. And they are appenty. 
Loyzaga is part of the national team that took the bronze in the 1954 World Championship in Rio de Janerio, Brazil. This is the single biggest accomplishment by our basketball-crazy Philippines in the international stage. Ever. Bronze medal? World? We can’t even make it to the Olympics so you can just imagine the magnitude of the accomplishment.
Apart from it, Loyzaga also spearheaded the country to four gold medals in the Asian Games in 1951 in New Delhi, 1954 in Manila, 1958 in Tokyo and 1962 in Jakarta and two more mints in the FIBA-Asia Championship, formerly Asian Basketball Confederation, in 1960 in Manila and 1963 in Taipei.
To top it all off, Loyzaga, is the only Filipino to make it into the First Mythical Team of the 1954 FIBA Worlds.
So I rest my case.
I was blessed with the opportunity to meet the guy several times. And usually, I always had goosebumps whenever I’m in face to face with someone of his stature. I mean, you’ll just know if the guy is great. I feel it in Eugene Torre, Paeng Nepomuceno, Efren “Bata” Reyes or a Sonny Jaworski or a Ramon Fernandez to name a few.
The last time I saw the guy was last year when he was honored and rewarded a P1 million pension by the Philippine Sports Commission at the Rizal Memorial Sports Complex in Manila. In fact, I popped this photo below, which came out in The Philippine STAR and philstar.com with my accompanying story.

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Carlos Loyzaga passed away early this year. Sad. 

The greatest Filipino basketball player of all time deserves the greatest respect and recognition.

And Loyzaga, considered as the best Filipino to ever play the game, will be honored once more as the NCAA and San Beda have announced it will retire his No. 14 jersey he wore during his varsity days in the 50s, an era where he won three championships including a back-to-back in 1951 and 1952. He will be the first player in the NCAA, perhaps the whole of Phl college basketball, whose number will be retired.
The jersey retirement ceremony, according to NCAA Management Committee chairman Jose Mari Lacson of San Beda, is set at the opening of the 92nd NCAA season on June 25 at the MOA Arena in Pasay City. No less than Loyzaga’s family will be there to witness the momentous event.
And it is just a simple gesture to show how appreciative, not just San Beda nor the NCAA but the whole Philippines, of the honor Loyzaga gave for the country.
So thank you Carlos Loyzaga.
For putting the country on the world basketball map.
For showing us Filipinos that we are capable of making a difference out there.
I mean big difference.

Follow me on Twitter: @JoeySVillar

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Evergreen

Manila Doctors Hospital
May 1, 2016
Evergreen

On Saturday, La Salle brought down archrival Ateneo, 19-25, 25-21, 25-16, 25-16, to snare the UAAP women’s volleyball title before a sea of green and blue at the Smart-Araneta Coliseum.
It was a fitting ending to what had been an epic season as a screaming crowd of 22,848 watched two of the league’s best teams fight it out to the end. Of course, after all the smoke of battle dissipated, only one remained┬ástanding. And La Salle ended up the triumphant one, bringing down the once mighty champion in Ateneo.
The epic finals series added another chapter to what has been a legendary rivalry between the two traditional foes. For the record, it was their fifth straight title duel with La Salle winning the first two in 2012 and 2013 and Ateneo the next two in 2014 and 2015. And then the Lady Archers reigned supreme this year to break the tie.
It was also La Salle’s ninth UAAP crown, the third highest behind only Far Eastern U (29) and Santo Tomas (14).
And I have several thoughts:
1. Little that everyone know, La Salle put a salt at the corner of the door outside their dugout leading to the coliseum lobby as a lucky charm. It was done to send away bad spirits and vibes. Nothing wrong with being superstitious, I guess.
2. Alyssa Valdez, one of the most charismatic and popular players in the country today, bid the UAAP goodbye with her last game. In her five years, she won three MVP trophy and help the Lady Eagles make the finals five straight seasons and win their first two women’s volley championships. She will be missed.

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3. There were so many players from both teams who also played their last game including La Salle’s Mika Reyes, Ara Galang, Cyd Demecillo, Maria Esperanza and Carol Ann Cerveza and Ateneo’s Amy Ahomiro and Mae Tajima. Parting is such sweet sorrow indeed.
4. Kim Dy drew a lot of praise from Valdez for winning the Finals MVP, saying the third-year player should be a star next year, if she hasn’t become already.
5. We overheard Ateneo’s Bea de Leon before Dy’s name was named Finals MVP that it should be Dy that should win it. De Leon was correct. Wait, is she related to Madam Auring?
6. Some experts, including Sportsmaryosep, made a case for Kim Fajardo as Finals MVP having dished out 51 excellent sets and added 11 digs and six points. But hey, the league had decided already so congrats to Dy, who was just an unstoppable force in this finals.
7. Speaking of Fajardo, we asked her directly if she’s returning for her fifth and final season next year. She said she hasn’t thouight of it yet. But we heard word, including our resident expert Benggadora, that she may not comeback. You know what we think? Well, that’s another story.
8. Back to Valdez. Sources revealed to us that she will play in the Shakey’s V-League’s season-opening conference unfolding on May 15. It is not yet known what team she’ll play. She’ll also looking to play abroad after the V-League. Her potential destination includes Maldives, Indonesia and Thailand.
9. No disrespect to Ateneo coach Tai Bundit but we think the victory of La Salle mentor Ramil de Jesus is also a victory for local coaches. He showed that Filipinos are equally capable of winning championships just like anyone else. So kudos to coach Ramil.
10. We ran into Ateneo men’s coach Oliver Almandro and he personally congratulated de Jesus, his mentor. For the unitiated, Almandro served as an assistant to de Jesus for a decade when La Salle made it to the finals nine times and won four titles along the way. Almandro then went on to steer Ateneo’s men’s team to its first two UAAP championships.
What are your thoughts?
Follow me on Twitter: @JoeySVillar

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(Photos courtesy of Joey Mendoza of The Philippine STAR)