Revised version of “Breeding Champions: The Story of Ateneo Sports
as told by a True Blue Alumnus” The GUIDON Vol. LXXX No. 10
Sixteen years in the Ateneo taught me to be one thing: a champion. From the exhilarating rise to the inevitable fall, the same story is told over and over while only the characters change. Out of all the stages wherein this story is told, the one of sports is my favorite.
This university has one of the most celebrated sporting histories in the country and it deserves its glory. We treat our athletes as parents treat their children. We train them hard and teach them well. We push them into battle when they are ready. We cry with them in their victories as well as their defeats. We breed champions. A sports team winning is the school winning. The school’s name along with everything it stands for is what our athletes wear on their chests. This is why winning feels so good and losing hurts so bad. Our athletes stand together and celebrate each other’s victories, and we stand right behind them. Our sports teams are extensions of our “Ateneanism” and this I understood better in my four years in the Loyola Schools which included two years as a Guidon sportswriter.
When we were defeated in the basketball finals of UAAP 69, it was not just the Blue Eagles who lost, we all did. Students, teachers, and the rest of the community wallowed in a shared unspoken sadness in the days following the defeat. Heads hung low, but things returned to normal after a while. And it’s on to the next game for Ateneans.
The following year, the defeat in basketball hurt even more as our rival won the championship. The two years after that saw the decline of some varsity teams but also the rise to new heights for the Blue Eagles, the Judokas, and the Tracksters. There have also been significant achievements and milestones for softball, swimming, rowing, golf, and cheerdance among others. Two bonfires later, and the alumni felt like it was 1989 again.
This is the Atenean story of champions. It does not end in the fall, but only gets better in the resurgence. As the famous Japanese proverb says, “Fall seven times, stand up eight.”That is the Ateneo way.
As a Guidon sportswriter, I watched sports teams lose game after game. What started as a job for me became something more. I welcomed the challenge to write about the essence of a champion emanating from those losing teams, like waiting for a phoenix to rise from the ashes.
In the Ateneo, we are indebted, as we are raised in a culture of champions. Excellence is the standard. Everyone is challenged to be a winner. We are disciplined to persevere and pursue our dreams. I learned to be a champion not just in sports but in everything I do. Alongside me were my professors and my colleagues excelling in challenges they faced inside and outside of the university, above and beyond academics and sports.
I recall one of my earliest and fondest sports memories to be when I watched Enrico
Villanueva stand atop the scorer’s table, as he raised his arms and screamed wildly with the rowdy Araneta Coliseum crowd after they won the UAAP 64 basketball championship. That was my introduction to the culture of champions.
I recall my conversations with Gino Tongson, former captain of the Blue Booters. In those dark days of Ateneo football, I could still see the heart of a champion in him every time he spoke of getting the next game. One game at a time and one loss after another, he stayed at the helm. There was no way but up for him and his teammates, and he knew that. He just kept on fighting. Gino Tongson was a champion. That was when I learned that not all champions win games.
When I had the privilege to interview former Blue Eagles point guard Olsen Racela, he shared with me his memories of winning back-to-back titles for Ateneo, and how those rings were sweeter than the ones he won in the professional league. That was when I knew I was going to keep the championship spirit in my heart through my future endeavors.
When I graduated and went down from the hill, I took what I learned from this school and told myself that I will try to be a champion-for-others. I want to inspire others to become champions themselves as my sports heroes have inspired me. As an Atenean, I seek to tell the world our story of champions. This is what our country needs, and our mission of service to our fellow Filipinos should involve this spirit of championship.
We have a wonderful story to tell, one like no other school and no other community has. Speak of it to your children, to your friends, and to everyone else. Tell them of the buzzer-beating shots, the off-the-field drama, and all the joys and tears. Tell them about how our sports story is what sets the Blue and White apart from the rest. Tell them we breed champions. Tell them of the Ateneo way.