Lucky Friday the 13th

April 13, 2018

Philsports Arena, Pasig City

Lucky Friday the 13th


Today is Friday the 13th.

If you’re a superstitious person like yours truly, you may have been on high alert, doing almost every trick in the book to keep the bad side of the universe at bay.

Thankfully, it turned out the opposite. At least as far as Philippine volleyball is concerned because (FINALLY!) the national women’s volleyball team is revived with a new coach in La Salle’s Ramil de Jesus and the players who attended are the best of the best from different school affiliations and leagues, not just one.

And we have several thoughts:

If there is a coach that deserves to get the call, it should be someone who had done and won it. And De Jesus fits the bill as he has won championships for La Salle in the UAAP and F2 Logistics in the Phl Superliga. Interestingly, De Jesus will return as national team mentor 13 years after steering the country to its last medal in the Southeast Asian Games—a bronze in the 2005 Southeast Asian Games in Manila. You see, there is that No. 13 again.

Alyssa Valdez is part of it. I can’t imagine a national squad without the country’s best player. It’s like the Cleveland Cavaliers without LeBron James.

Kim Fajardo and Jia Morado, the country’s top two best setters, are present. It means we have an assurance that we will not have problems in that positions in case (knock on wood) an untoward thing happens. It’s like Russell Westbrook and Stephen Curry are playing together. I’m already feeling ecstatic just thinking of it.

Ms. Everywhere and the Ninja are there. Since we’re bringing in the best, we might as well get the best liberos in there. And Dawn Macandili and Melissa Gohing fits the description.

Jaja Santiago, who is tipped to win the UAAP MVP plum this season, is also present and a must for a team needing one of the country’s top players.

Deep bench. Imagine de Jesus having the luxury to have every weapon and artillery at his disposal. Name it. Almost everybody is there. Aby Marano. Dindin Manabat. Cha Cruz. Kim Dy. Majoy Baron. Sisi Rondina. Ara Galang. Maika Ortiz. MJ Philips. Rebecca Rivera.

Ateneo’s Bea de Leon, Jho Maraguinot and Maddie Maddayag must show up next time. The country needs you.

If we want more firepower, we should not miss on Myla Pablo and Grethcel Soltones.

Although I felt, we should have a sustained volleyball program similar to Gilas Pilipinas in basketball, I’m happy that this is a good restart for the Larong Volleyball sa Pilipinas, Inc. (LVPI). We got to start somewhere. And this is the best way to do it. The harder part is getting someone to bankroll this team and sustain the momentum.

Don’t expect big things in the Asian Games just yet. I mean four months of preparation won’t get you anywhere. The endgame is the Southeast Asian Games. If we medal there next year here in Manila, assuming the LVPI keeps the team and the pool, then we think of bigger things like Asian level competitions.

I commend the LVPI for getting players from both ends of Phl volleyball spectrum. For flag and country, let’s set aside whatever differences between the warring factions and just focus on the goal at hand, which is reclaiming whatever we lost in more than a decade of decadent volleyball. We won a SEAG gold in the past, I’m sure we could do it again. Just keep the faith.

Follow me on Twitter: @JoeySVillar


(Photo by Jerome Ascano of


Ayo the Tiger

San Juan City

January 5, 2018

Ayo of the Tiger


Who is Aldin Ayo?

This was the first question I asked when Letran announced it has appointed Ayo as coach of its men’s basketball team four years ago

Of course, everyone knows Ayo now.

Winning two championships—one with the Knights and the other with the La Salle Archers—and three straight finals appearances in three seasons will do that to you. I mean, Aldin Ayo, is now a household name in collegiate basketball.

And most recently, the guy hugged the limelight again after transferring to another school, this time to University of Santo Tomas, which would be Ayo’s third team in the last four years. While he had a brief stint with La Salle (two years) and a briefer one with Letran (one season), there were reports from the Varsitarian–UST’s college publication—and the Tiebreaker Times’ Matthew Li that Ayo will stay longer and reportedly signed a six-year pact with the pontifical school.

Before we wish Ayo luck, let’s see how he would fare with his newfound school.


Sportsmaryosep’s prognosis:

Ayo will be coming from a La Salle team that has a supernova import Ben Mbala and a battery of lights-out shooters and scorers that even the bench players could get bigger minutes in other schools. Not to mention limitless support, financial or otherwise.

And it is inexcusable if Ayo didn’t go home without a crown. Heck, La Salle could win every single game if the stars aligned for Ayo and the Archers. But yes, Ayo did a tremendous job keeping the team together, big ego and all. A championship, a runner-up finish and a 46-12 (win-loss) record aren’t bad.

Now comes the million-dollar (that hated million word again) question—Can he weave the same magic with a UST team that is coming off back-to-back last place finishes when it won just four games in 28 games?

Our answer is a resounding YES.

I mean, Ayo turned Letran from a rag-tag, import-less and vertically-challenged team to perhaps one of the most memorable champion teams in league history. I mean, I was there and saw it with my bare eyes from the first game to the last–Game Three of the finals–when the Knights slew giant of all giants–the Ola Adeogun-led San Beda Lions.

I am a living proof that Ayo is for real. The guy made a believer out of a disbeliever like yours truly. I’m not saying it would be easy. I’m telling you it won’t. In fact, I see a rough sailing for Ayo and the Tigers. With a little patience and a dose of faith, I know he will get there. Because this I tell you, UST is a perfect fit for Ayo. If he could put Mayhem in Letran, he would with UST. Just keep the faith.

To close, let me share this to you:

“It’s the AYO the tiger

It’s the thrill of the fight

Rising up to the challenge of our rival

And the last known survivor

Stalks his prey in the night

And he’s watching us all with the AYO the tiger..”


Follow me on Twitter: @JoeySVillar

(Photo is from Abante)

Love Never Dies

Lucena City
February 11, 2017
Love Never Dies

“If people we love are stolen from us, the way to have them to live on is to never stop loving them. Buildings burn, people die, but true love last forever.” The Crow

I saw people cry because of that recent Jollibee commercial that has gone viral on social media.
Truly it hurts.
But this one hurts more.
You see, Arellano U coach Obet Javier’s wife, Amy Marie, passed away due to cancer while he is steering the Lady Chiefs to two straight wins over the San Sebastian Lady Stags in the NCAA finals and one win closer from booking their second championship in the last three seasons.
On the outside, Javier was his usual fiery self that you couldn’t notice that his heart is bleeding. For the whole season, Javier has worn that same mask knowing his wife his suffering. Making it worse, as Meilin Lozada of reported, is that Javier is waiting for ashes of his beloved half from Spain where she worked as a caregiver.
It will be more painful the her passing came on Heart’s month. Valentines Day may never be the same for Javier again.
Death is just painful no matter what circumstances.
For the weak-hearted, it would be hard to keep that facade. But like a professional that he is, he soldiered on.
God moves in mysterious ways though. An NCAA championship would be God’s nice way of somehow soothing some of the pain Javier is feeling. It will surely serve as a balm.
So my prayers go to coach Obet Javier.
To close, let me offer this quote to Javier that is long been embalmed deep down in my heart when my little brother passed away six years ago.
“It can’t rain all the time.” The Crow.

Follow me on Twitter: @JoeySVillar


(Photo courtesy of Jerome Ascano of

Ayo for Gilas Coach

Greenhills, San Juan
December 8, 2016
Ayo for Gilas Coach

Who is Aldin Ayo?
You’re a recluse if you still don’t know Aldin Ayo. I mean, he just won his second championship after steering La Salle to the UAAP Promised Land. It came a year after he also engineered an NCAA crown for Letran following a series victory to remember against a heavily favored San Beda. Who the heck can do that?
Two titles with different teams and two different leagues in two seasons? The late great Baby Dalupan perhaps.
Ayo is truly one of a kind.
There are doubters. Yes, there are. But you’re a miserable frig if you can’t appreciate greatness. Doubters argue that Ayo inherit a Ben Mbala, Jeron Teng and an ultra-deep team from June Sauler. But I think its full of garbage. It is hard to win a title out of a few talents (Letran) and harder handling a strong team that is either uninspired or bloated with egos (La Salle). But Ayo successfully weeded through the intricacies of both and ended up hoisting the championship trophy on both occassions. So let’s give Ayo that.
He did wonders that a lot of people didn’t expect when he came into the collegiate scene as its fair-haired boy seeking the big one.
And I think you will all agree with me that Aldin Ayo is for real. Pardon my French, the fucking real deal.
So I got this realization.
If Ayo can turn a no-star team like the Knights and a loaded but undisciplined Archers into champions, I think he can do well handling the national basketball program, specifically Gilas Pilipinas. I mean let’s admit it. Ayo has won in the NCAA and UAAP both. And expect more to come in the UAAP thanks to that Avengers-like team he got with La Salle. There are probably PBA teams out there salivating about getting Ayo. And I think Ayo will get to the PBA soon and eventually win there also, which is a huge possibility.
But I think Ayo is better fit with Gilas.
It excites me to think that Ayo’s “Mayhem” basketball will be applied to the regrouped Gilas cadet squad. Ayo’s basketball principle is a perfect fit to a Gilas team loaded with young talent.
Consider this also: Ayo beat Ateneo’s Tab Baldwin, former coach of Gilas.
So yes, I think it will be cool to have Ayo as the next Gilas coach. If not now, at least in the near future.

Follow me on Twitter: @JoeySVillar


(Photo courtesy of Aldin Ayo)

The Legend of the ‘Kangkong’

ELJ Building, Quezon City
May 19, 2015
The Legend of the ‘Kangkong’

I don’t usually write two straight blogs about the same topic in a span of hours.
On this day, I will make an exception.
You see, sports anchor Aaron Atayde made this “kangkong” joke that has enraged the Barangay Ginebra fandom. And it happened while Atayde was interviewing Dylan Ababou in his TV5 show Sports 360. It came after Atayde waved kangkong when Ababou was about to answer an online query if the latter would still return to Ginebra if given a chance. Atayde was actually alluding to Ginebra being in the gutter, or to borrow it from Atayde, kangkungan, which means in the bottom or being dead last.
Ababou, who was traded by Ginebra to unbeaten Barako Bull, found Atayde’s joke funny.
The Ginebra multitudes aren’t laughing though.
But let’s give it to Atayde. It’s his show. And this is a democratic country. And, we have to admit it, he’s right. Ginebra is down there with recent conqueror Blackwater (Yes, Blackwater!), polishing all the other team’s shoes. And Ababou is up there with Barako Bull, the last remaining unbeaten team after prevailing in its first three games, and probably thankful he was traded to a winning club.
Truth hurts, I guess. Sarcasm too.
Here’s a piece of advice though.
Instead of making a furor out of Atayde’s joke, why not make this a personal challenge. To Frankie Lim. To Mark Caguioa. To the whole Ginebra team. And yes, to us, dear Kings fans. Channel it by keeping the faith, staying patient, strengthening our resolve and praying harder that things are going to change for the better.
And it will.
After all, life is like a wheel. Always turning, always evolving. Sometimes you fall down, sometimes you deflate, but you always manage to keep going, supporting others, and staying strong. Some journeys are longer than others. Some are bumpier than others. But the load of life is a lot easier to bear with a few friends helping out. And those friends are you and I, Ginebra diehards.
So let’s turn this around.
It can’t rain all the time.
We will just all wake up one day with Ginebra hoisting that PBA championship trophy.
And if Ginebra’s time comes, let’s give it back to Atayde and thank him. Because if he hadn’t made the kangkong joke, it wouldn’t have spurred this legend.
Again, relax and stay calm. Someday, somehow Aaron Atayde will eat his words. Or shall we say, his kangkong, adobo-style.

Follow me on Twitter: @JoeySVillar


(Photo courtesy of and TV5)

Why People Didn’t Wear Black

MOA Arena
October 5, 2016
Why People Didn’t Wear Black

I was close to writing a basketball blog about Ginebra turning kangkong into gold. Or Norman Black and his overachieving Meralco Bolts finding their way back to the PBA Finals. Or Jamike Jarin silencing his detractors, mostly Bedans who can’t be satisfied nor be pleased no matter what good you do with the Lions. Or about Jio Jalalon and the menacing Arellano U Chiefs who could be on the verge of winning their first ever NCAA championship. Or Ben Mbala being the most dominant force in the UAAP planet today.
But I decided not to.
Because when I woke up on this one gloomy October morning while reading news online, which has become my daily habit, I ran into this fan article why he was glad to have worn black.
For those hiding in their mama’s skirts, there was this circular released on social media by officials of bitter rivals Ateneo and La Salle right before their game just this last weekend encouraging their throngs of fans to wear black in protest of what they perceived as extrajudicial killings and the possible burial of former President Ferdinand Marcos in the Libingan ng mga Bayani.
We all know what happened, right? Only about 20-percent of the 16,000-plus paying patrons wore black, most of them from Ateneo including the Eagles of Tab Baldwin. They were utterly drowned by a tidal wave of green, La Salle’s colors.

I will not stoop down and mock the Eagles and the people who decided to wear black to make a stand because I love people who make a stand and fight for something they believed in. Ours is a democratic country, anyway.
In fact, I admired the Black Power Salute in the 1968 Olympics where Tommie Smith and John Carlos raised their fists with a black gloves on the podium right after the two took the gold and silver in the 200-meter dash to protest against African-American oppression back home in the United States.
I admired the Toronto Raptors for linking their arms together and some even bowing their heads during the singing of both the Star-Spangled Banner and O Canada ahead of the NBA’s first pre-season game versus the Golden State Warriors in Vancouver as a sign of protest to the recent shooting that is happening in the US. It was an offshoot of NFL player Colin Kaepernick’s protest a few weeks back. Interestingly, the Warriors showed apathy by not joining in the protest.
I also respected Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf, formerly Chris Jackson before converting to Islam in 1993, and his decision to not stand during the national anthem in 1996 because he has this personal belief that doing so was a form of “nationalistic ritualism.” He was eventually suspended since the NBA forbids it. But he sent his message and the NBA heard him and the two ended up with a compromise.
Who would forget Muhammad Ali? He who began the separatist stand that marked his storied career. He who chose to glorify his blackness, to revel in the darkness of his skin and accentuate the difference it caused. He who refusted to be drafted in protest of the Vietnam War.
I mean, we all have this right to protest as mandated by the Constitution. That’s democracy, my friends.
But you got it all wrong.
Protest you want. Wear black all UAAP game and the rest of your lives. Go ahead. Do it. It’s your right. Fight for something. I encourage you. Make the most out of the democratic process we’re enjoying. You will not be mocked. For those mocked these people, be ashamed of yourself. You are vile, miserable creatures.
But you see, people are just plain tired. Tired of the prolifiration of drugs, “Tanim Bala,” corruption in government, heavy traffic, poverty, and just the unforgivable indifference by the past administrations to these problems that people are willing to accept sacrifices just to make this world a better place to live in.
And that is the reason they didn’t wear black.
It’s also a form of protesting. Only the opposite or “anti-black.” Or call it acceptance. I think its a triumph of the spirit because, finally, someone like President Duterte dared the establishment and made a move to change our lives for the better. Duterte is no Saint but people, at least majority of the Filipinos, think he has good intentions and are embracing what he is doing. Because admit it or not, things are getting better.
Change has indeed come.

Follow me on Twitter: @JoeySVillar


(Photos courtesy of veteran Philippine Star lens man Jun Mendoza)

In Chess We Trust

Malate, Manila
September 14, 2016
In Chess We Trust

It’s a happy and sad day for Philippine chess.
Sad because our men’s and women’s teams lost their 11th and final round matches in the just concluded 42nd World Chess Olympiad.
Our men’s team fell to Australia, 1.5-2.5, and into 58th place with 12 match points, one of the worst performances by the country in the biennial meet considered as the strongest chess team tournament in the world.
Our women’s squad bowed to 12th seed Lithuania, 1-3, and skidded to 34th place with 13 points.
But I will not dwell on the bad and just talk about the good, which I feel are many.
Janelle Mae Frayna, for one, is the best thing that ever happened to Philippine women chess. Frayna has left her mark by becoming the first ever Woman Grandmaster from our country. Not yet contented, she clinched the men’s International Master the next day. That’s another first, actually, since no Filipina has ever accomplished such feat.

Let’s talk about the women’s team.
Had the squad won in their last round match, we would have finished 10th at best and 18th at worst. We came just a one stroke of luck of making it that far. Imagine that. This same bunch of lady woodpushers have the talent. In case you’re hiding in a cave, these same team stunned fourth seed Georgia and faced several other teams in the Top 10 and 20 in the world like India, Hungary, Italy, Mongolia and Lithuania. Given the proper support, training and international exposures, we could make it to the Top 10. The cornerstone is Frayna. Count in Jodilyn Fronda, who held her own on second board. And this 19-year-old girl named Shania Mae Mendoza, who impressed with her attacking flare and daredevil style of play. We could build on these three players, whose average age is on the early 20s. Catherine Perena-Secopito is 32 years old but she’s good for many more Olympiads to come after she scored seven points of the possible 10.

Oh blessed Julio Catalino Sadorra.

He showed he could stand his ground against the best of them. He sent reigning world champion Magnus Carlsen of Norway backpedalling before settling for a draw in the end.
Saving the best for last is Eugene Torre.
He who scored a scintillating 10 points out of a possible 11 on eight spectacular wins and two fighting draws. And at age 64. Who could do that? For his feat, he took the bronze medal on board three, his first medal since snaring a silver in the 1974 Nice Olympiad where he also became Asia’s first ever GM.

Proud also of all the players, the captains and the delegation team members for just going there and wearing the flag on their blue jackets and shirts and just representing us.
Thank you all.
Don’t mind the doubters, whiners and doomsayers who ridiculed the team and hoped and prayed for a worst finish. You got your wish now and I hope you are all happy.
But no matter what they say, I will always keep my faith on Philippine chess. Because I know there is hope. And hope springs eternal.

women's team.jpg

(Photos courtesy of

Follow me on Twitter: @JoeySVillar