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Category: newsSource: manila_shimbun manila_shimbunNov 8th, 2019

ONE Championship: Brandon Vera preparing for new kind of challenge: fatherhood

Reigning ONE Heavyweight World Champion Brandon "The Truth" Vera should be at the peak of his training camp right now.  With a title defense against Canada's Arjan "Singh" Bhullar scheduled for May 29th in Manila, Vera should be deep into his preparations for his first fight back on home soil since 2018.  Instead, the 42-year old Fil-American mixed martial arts star is in his farm in Guam, staying home and under quarantine like most of the world, thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic. “I’ve been waking up early before the chickens and working on clearing the farm, since we have a lot of time. I’ve been doing some stocking, clearing, cutting, digging, and dumping the junk that was dumped on our property before we owned it," Vera shared via ONE Championship.  With May 29 less than two months away and the world still seemingly nowhere near returning to normal anytime soon, Vera's scheduled title bout appears to be an uncertainty at the moment, but “the Truth” is still preparing for a whole new kind of challenge that he’s about to undertake: fatherhood.         View this post on Instagram                   This has been something I have wanted to announce and tell the world THE exact moment I found out, but, according to the S.O.P. you should wait till the 1st trimester is over. (Which now is over) ??????????????????????????????????????? . I am so so very proud of you my @n_e_n_j_a you have already given me so very much. Since day one of putting me back together to giving us a chance at our own family. You WOW and Aww me at every turn. . Getting here has not been an easy feat, I’ll say thank you for walking the long walk w me over and over forever. Also, thank you KATO Repro Biotech Clinic for making this dream a possible reality!!!!! . I love you ALL!!!!!! Welcome to the #veraclan baby Vera!!!!!! ???????????????????????????????????????????????????????? Thank you @frankthecrank for always being with us all the time! Luv ya fam! ???? @caughtbycrank Also, thank you for Doc @totoabalajon this entire journey started w you po!!!!! ???????????????????????????????? A post shared by Brandon Vera (@brandonthetruthvera) on Jan 28, 2020 at 6:55am PST Vera and his wife Jessica are expecting a baby boy in mid-2020, and while this will be their first child, Vera says that this is something he’s been preparing for his whole life. “I’ve been preparing for fatherhood my whole life, with my nephews, nieces, and family. We have just been making plans and we just need to follow through when the time comes.” Jessica is due in July, and while the initial plan was have the baby in the Philippines, with the Enhanced Community Quarantine still in effect and likely to be extended, the Veras are making emergency plans for the baby boy to be born in Guam.           View this post on Instagram                   I had to wait from the hospital, thru traffic, and everything else for this....... ????????????????. . I love you lil mamma???????? @n_e_n_j_a Super congratulations to us both????. . @khaladkharen and friends thank you for this last second set up!!!!!! Love y’all!!! A post shared by Brandon Vera (@brandonthetruthvera) on Feb 13, 2020 at 5:04am PST As the due date draws closer, Vera can’t help but get more and more excited to become a dad. “I didn’t realize how excited I would be, and it increases every day, and it does not stop! It’s like going unlimited, super-Saiyan mod, without all the screaming.” What Vera says he’s looking forward to the most is being able to spend time his son and mold him into an amazing person. “What I’m most looking forward to is hanging out with my son and seeing if I can help mold him into a better man than I could ever think of becoming,” he said. Of course, the excited parents to be already have a name for baby “Truth”, but like the rest of the world, we’ll all have to wait to find out what it is. “Yup, we’ve already thought of a name, but we’re not telling anyone! Not until we announce it the day he’s born…but it is a classic!” .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsApr 2nd, 2020

2 PMA swimming instructors punished over cadet’s pool death

  Two civilian swimming instructors of the Philippine Military Academy (PMA) were punished over the drowning of a plebe two weeks ago, the academy announced on Friday. Instructors Robert Bete and Antonio Catalan were found “negligent and imprudent” in the conduct of the course “Fundamentals of Swimming”, which led to the drowning of Cadet Fourth […].....»»

Category: newsSource:  tempoRelated NewsNov 22nd, 2019

Another cadet dies, body found in PMA pool

Another cadet dies, body found in PMA pool.....»»

Category: entertainmentSource:  pepRelated NewsNov 9th, 2019

Another PMA cadet dies, body found in pool

Another PMA cadet dies, body found in pool.....»»

Category: newsSource:  cnnphilippinesRelated NewsNov 9th, 2019

PMA cadet drowns, found in pool after swimming class

MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – A freshman at the Philippine Military Academy in Baguio City was found dead at the bottom of the campus swimming pool on Friday afternoon, November 8, the PMA said in a statement. Cadet 4th Class Mario Telan Jr, 20, attended his swimming class from 11 am to ........»»

Category: newsSource:  rapplerRelated NewsNov 8th, 2019

PMA cadet found dead

Authorities on Friday reported that another cadet of the Philippine Military Academy (PMA) died within the institution’s premises in Baguio City. Initial reports said that the victim – identified as Mario Telan Jr., a 4th class cadet — appeared to have drowned in the campus swimming pool. Investigations revealed that upper-class cadets searched for the […] The post PMA cadet found dead appeared first on Daily Tribune......»»

Category: newsSource:  tribuneRelated NewsNov 8th, 2019

PB(A)BL: Christian Standhardinger adds to own hype with Hong Kong stop

Not all players take the same route going to the PBA, each player will have his own story to tell. This series will be about those who chose a different path, those who had to hustle overseas at one point in their careers before eventually landing in the PBA. Here, we take a look at current big-name PBA players who spent some time in the other major basketball league with Philippine teams in the region: the Asean Basketball League. They don’t have to play for a Filipino team, after all, the ABL is a great place where Filipino talents can shine even while playing for other countries. [Related: PB(A)BL: Like a Dragon, Matthew Wright brought fire in Malaysia's dream season] The penultimate entry to the series is about Christian Standhardinger and impressive season with Hong Kong Eastern.   Stop and Go Christian Standhardinger became one of the busiest basketball players in the region by the time he travelled to Manila in mid-2017 following his call-up to Gilas Pilipinas. The Fil-German forward became the national team’s de facto naturalized player during that year’s Jones Cup, FIBA-Asia Cup, and SEA Games. After Gilas was removed from medal contention in the FIBA-Asia Cup in Lebanon, Standhardinger left to join the SEA Games team in Kuala Lumpur. In between, Standhardinger found the time to sign with the ABL’s Hong Kong Eastern and make himself available for the PBA Draft (more on that later). Standhardinger officially debuted for Hong Kong Eastern on November 19 2017, scoring 26 points and grabbing 14 rebounds in a win against Alab Pilipinas. Hong Kong entered the 2017-2018 season as defending champions and with Standhardinger, the team obviously targeted back-to-back titles. Unfortunately, HK couldn’t keep its success against Alab. Despite taking home-court advantage, Hong Kong got swept in the semifinals by the Philippine team led by Justin Brownlee and Renaldo Balkman. Alab would go on to win the championship, beating Mono Vampire in five games. Standhardinger played a total of 22 games in his lone ABL season for Hong Kong, shooting 50 percent from the field for 22.5 points per game on top of 11.7 rebounds, 2.3 assists, and 1.3 steals. He had his most productive outing in Thailand, posting 40 points, 17 rebounds, three assists, and five steals in a Hong Kong win over Mono Vampire.   Gilas to ABL to PBA Christian Standhardinger officially made his Gilas debut in July 2017 in the Jones Cup and would eventually help the team to a fourth-place finish. Exactly one month after his Gilas debut, it was reported that he would suit up for Hong Kong Eastern. In early September, Standhardinger declared for the PBA Draft and was taken first overall by the Beermen on October 29, 2017. The Draft became infamous as San Miguel made a deal with Kia to acquire the number 1 pick. The deal, approved by then PBA Commissioner Chito Narvasa, caused enough controversy that the PBA Board actually separated into two separate factions. The deal also paved the way for Narvasa’s resignation and Willie Marcial stepping in to become the new PBA Commissioner. But back to Standhardinger, CS didn’t immediately join the Beermen as less than a month after the PBA Draft, the ABL season would start. After months of anticipation, Standhardinger finally debuted for San Miguel in the 2018 Commissioner’s Cup but the Beermen failed to defend their mid-season title, losing to Ginebra in the Finals. Despite a rocky stint with San Miguel, CS would win two championships with the team in the 2019 season. But even as the Beermen went through all that trouble to acquire the rights to pick him first, Standhardinger only lasted four full conferences with the team. Standhardinger’s trade away from San Miguel made big news late in 2019, but the move pretty much “freed” the hard-working forward. With Northport Standhardinger led the Batang Pier to the Governors’ Cup semifinals, having a better finish than San Miguel. CS also won his first-ever Best Player of the Conference award after an incredible breakout performance for his new team.   — Follow this writer on Twitter, @paullintag8 .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsMay 8th, 2020

PB(A)BL: Like a Dragon, Matthew Wright brought fire in Malaysia s dream season

Not all players take the same route going to the PBA, each player will have his own story to tell. This series will be about those who chose a different path, those who had to hustle overseas at one point in their careers before eventually landing in the PBA. Here, we take a look at current big-name PBA players who spent some time in the other major basketball league with Philippine teams in the region: the Asean Basketball League. They don’t have to play for a Filipino team, after all, the ABL is a great place where Filipino talents can shine even while playing for other countries. [Related: PB(A)BL: Chris Banchero's hot streak with San Miguel Beer] Today, we focus on Matthew Wright and his incredible one-and-done season with the Westports Malaysia Dragons.   Enter the Dragon Long before he ended up being a regular to Gilas Pilipinas, Matthew Wright actually already suited up for the national team via the U-18 squad in 2008. The Fil-Canadian then went home to Toronto and played in the NCAA tournament via St. Bonaventure. As a 25-year-old shooter, Wright got close to his other home when he suited up in the ABL for the Wesports Malaysia Dragons with his future Phoenix head coach Ariel Vanguardia and another prospect in Fil-Am Jason Brickman. With the Dragons, Wright set the ABL on fire with his scoring exploits. In his lone stint during the 2015-2016 season, Wright set the league record for most three-point shots made in one game at 10. He also set the record for most three-point shots made in a single season at 71 and his total points of 461 were the 4th highest of all-time and most by a non-World Import. Wright ended up being the ABL’s first-ever Heritage MVP, leading the league with an average of 23.1 points on 41.8 percent shooting from deep. He also added 4.2 rebounds and 3.4 assists. More importantly, Wright helped the Dragons to the no. 1 seed in the 2016 season with a strong 16-4 record. The crowning achievement was Malaysia winning its first, and so far, only ABL title by taking out the Singapore Slingers in the Finals, 3-2.   ABL to Gilas to PBA After leading the Westports Malaysia Dragons to the ABL championship, Wright was added to a Gilas Pilipinas pool that included guys like then amateurs Kiefer Ravena, Mac Belo, Ray Parks Jr., Kevin Ferrer, and Jio Jalalon. Wright was later named to the actual Gilas Pilipinas Cadets team and entered the PBA through the 2016 Draft. While no order was revealed, Wright joined the Phoenix Fuel Masters, reuniting with Dragons coach Ariel Vanguardia. Once in the PBA, Wright’s scoring exploits continued, in one game scoring 42 points, which was the most for a rookie since Eric Menk scored 43 for Tanduay since 1999. He finished second in the Rookie of the Year race and was part of the All-Rookie Team. The Fil-Canadian sniper also became a regular for Gilas Pilipinas since, consistently making the final team for tournaments like the SEABA Championship, the FIBA Asia Cup, and the FIBA World Cup Asian Qualifiers. In the 2019 season, his third with Phoenix, Matthew Wright led the Fuel Masters to a breakthrough semifinals appearance in the Philippine Cup as the no. 1 seed. He also ended the year as the league’s no. 2 scorer.   — Follow this writer on Twitter, @paullintag8 .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsMay 6th, 2020

When We Were Volleyball Queens (Part 1)

(This story was originally published on March 23, 2015) "Pinays down Thais, bag Southeast Asian Games gold medal." This headline or anything close to it made the sports section of newspapers as one of our contingent’s shining moment in the 1993 biennial regional meet held in Singapore from June 12 to 20. Though given smaller treatment than the meteoric romp of the then Asian sprint queen Lydia De Vega in the century and 200 meter dash events, it gave pride to local volleyball.  Days before the birth of this generation’s most popular volleyball player, our national women’s team stood tall and proud as they wore their gold medals around their necks. Stepping on a platform higher than the region’s powerhouse team. It has been 22 long years since, and three months before the 28th SEA Games starts its fourth staging in the tiny island in the southern tip of the Malayan peninsula on June 5, Rosemarie Prochina recalled the campaign that brought Philippine volleyball to its highest peak. Talking with the Mane ‘N Tail coach during the Philippine Superliga All-Filipino Conference launch, ABS-CBN Sports was taken back in time when the likes of Thelma Barina-Rojas, Zenaida Ybanez, Arlene Apostol and Leonora Escolante were the darlings of volleyball much like what Alyssa Valdez, Ara Galang, and the Santiago sisters, Dindin and Jaja, Denden Lazaro of today.    She said that their road to the SEA Games gold started when she and five other tall players from Cebu were brought to Manila for the national pool of the Philippine Amateur Volleyball Association headed by Victorico Chavez and Secretary-General Ramon “Tats” Suzara. “Ano kasi yun e, 1991 kinuha kami from Cebu. Mga tall players, tall na kami dati, may 6-foot-2, may 5-foot-10,” said the 5-foot-10 Prochina, who was recruited as a middle blocker from Southwestern University. “Pagdating namin sa Maynila parang ano, total makeover kasi galing kaming probinsiya ganyan,” she added. “Anim kaming dumating sa Maynila.” “Pagdating namin ang program nina Sir Tats hindi kami magtsa-champion agad kasi magte-train pa kami tapos may mga (nauna) sa amin sa Maynila na mga seniors na. May kasama kaming taga-FEU, at UST kasi sila yung mga darling dati,” said Prochina.     Sharpening the saw  Once under the program of PAVA, Prochina said they went through rigorous training under the tutelage of Stanislav Lyugaylo, who was part of the then Union of Soviet Socialist Republic national team that won gold in the 1964 Tokyo Olympics and was tapped to handle the team in 1993.  “That time training kami ng training. Nagkaroon kami ng Russian coach tapos nu’ng SEA Games ng 1991 nag-bronze medal kami,” she further explained. “Yun lang ang aim nu’n dati ganoon lang muna kasi bago lang kami e. So yun itinulu’y-tuloy lang yung programa.” The national team was given the much needed support and were even sent overseas for international exposure.  “Marami kaming pinuntahan para mag-training. Nag-Japan kami. Noong 1992 yun maraming competitions abroad, yun tulu’y-tuloy kahit maraming nag-tryout-tryouts na ganyan still yung team dinadagdagan lang,” Prochina continued. “Noong 1993 yun na yun may Russian coach kami tapos nag-training kami for one month sa Japan.” Prochina said that their Japan stint was through the initiative of Chavez and Suzara. The Filipinas were pitted against the best squads from the land of the rising suns.  “Sila yung instrumental sa team namin na pinadala kami sa Japan for one month,” she said. “Umikot kami sa mga club teams sa Japan. One month yun, rigid training yun kaya pagdating namin ng Maynila mapuputi kami na payat, as in talagang (fit).”    Adversities at home and in Singapore Prochina recollected that the team had a share of doubters and haters.    “Sa laro namin sa Singapore, dito pa lang sa Manila may mga (nagi-expect) na baka mag-champion or baka ma-disappoint lang,” she said. Some believed that it’s improbable that a group of girls can topple the Thais, who that time were aiming for a three-peat.   “Kasi nga alam mo naman, siyempre may mga detractors din kami talaga,” according to Prochina. The team proceed with their mission armed with optimism that they are ready and more prepared than in 1991. “Pagdating namin dun (sa Singapore) ang (gusto) ko lang sa team namin ay sobra kaming mag-teamwork. Kasi kaming mga baguhan tapos half naman ng team mga seniors, sina Thelma Barina, ganyan,” she said. “Magaling silang magdala ng juniors. So kaming mga bago talagang sumusunod sa kanila.” But they had a rude awakening. “Pagdating sa laro doon, actually sa first na laban namin sa Thailand talo kami e. Under four sets yata or something basta ganoon, parang marami kaming naging (pagkukulang),” she recalled. Though suffering an opening game loss, the coaching staff were solid in their faith with the team. “Pero ang coaches namin very positive sila,” Prochina said. The team got up to their feet running over their next opponents to take a finals berth. “Pero after (ng talo), panalo na kami nu’n against Singapore, Myanmar, Vietnam kasi hindi rin sila ganoon kalakas,” she added.   Shopping, seriously? Prochina said that though the team racked up victories, they still felt the sting of their loss against the Thais. They were even demoralized going to the championship with Thailand, who was then lording over the competition. “Bago kami mag-champion hindi kami ganoon kapursigido, yung nag-eensayo kami pero ensayo lang,” she said. Sensing his team’s low morale, Lyugaylo asked his wards something that nobody expected.   “The day before the championship sinabihan kami ng Russian coach namin na “O you go shopping”, Prochina continued. “Kami naman “Ah, shopping lang. Bakit ganito ‘to?” she said. The day of the finals, there were no pre-game preparations, the Russian mentor asked them to go in deep meditation and after that just dance. “So nung umaga ng championship, kasi hapon yung championship against Thailand, ang sabi niya, “You go into one room and then you dance. Be happy,”” Prochina recalled. “Pero before noon pala may mga meditation na rin kami. Malaking bagay yun,” she said. “Yun yung isang nakakatulong sa team naming talaga. Yung relaxation sa mind kasi nga fit na (ang katawan namin).” And dance they did. “That morning pinasayaw niya lang kami. So kami naman walang KJ (kill joy) sa team namin kahit may mga edad na yung iba,” Prochina further related. “Sayaw-sayaw kami.” After that as they say the rest is history. “Tapos nu’ng hapon nangyari na yung nag-champion kami,” the PSL rookie mentor said. “Four sets yun at ang Thailand nun malakas, as in sobrang lakas.”   (to be continued)  .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsMay 3rd, 2020

CAMPEONE: Year of the Tiger (2010)

(This story was originally published on May 09, 2019) University of Sto. Tomas head coach Shaq delos Santos looked at his squad inside the dugout of The Arena in San Juan one last time. It was a cool Saturday afternoon. He took a glimpse at his graduating hitter Angge Tabaquero, who was all pumped up, but was feeling under the weather and could barely speak because of a sore throat. Delos Santos then shifted his eyes towards fourth-year team captain Aiza Maizo, Maika Ortiz, libero Jessica Curato, then to his prized rookies Dindin Santiago and Maru Banaticla. From their closed locker room, the Tigresses could hear the drums outside and felt the vibration that followed. The weekend crowd packed the venue in a sea of yellow and green. Excitement filled the air. It was electric. Less than an hour before, coach Emil Lontoc celebrated the Tigers’ conquest of Far Eastern University to complete a three-peat in the men's division. With his eyes closed, Delos Santos murmured one last prayer. Then there was a soft tap on their dugout door. It was time to march to the court for the official warm-up for Game 2 of the UAAP Season 72 women’s volleyball tournament.   THE YOUNG AND THE BOLD Delos Santos knew that they’re in for ride in Season 72.   They prided themselves with three pre-season titles, but those conquests meant nothing when it comes to their mother league. “Before mag-start (ang season), for me, hindi ko napi-feel na magtsa-champion agad kami,” said Delos Santos. “Kasi ang adjustment kailangan makita mo muna ang lahat ng naglalaro. So depende pa rin sa nilalaro ng every team na makakalaban mo.” And besides, the mentor will be navigating with a young crew, mostly in their early collegiate careers save for Maizo and returning Tabaquero, two of the remaining heroes of UST’s Season 69 championship run. Maizo was named team captain while Tabaquero, who skipped Season 71 for personal reasons, brought in the needed veteran presence to guide the squad. “Ako personally ang mindset ko sobrang hungry lang rin ako personally and I think si Aiza rin kasi halos pa-exit na rin siya nun,” said Tabaquero. “Ako sobrang gusto ko lang for myself na maka-graduate sa UAAP on a high note.” “On a high lang ako nun kumbaga, ‘Last playing year ko na ‘to wala na akong balikan pa, ibubuhos ko na lahat,’ she added. “Plus the fact na hindi ako nakapaglaro noong Season 71 dagdag gutom sa akin ‘yun.” But then again, the Tigresses remained relatively young. Dimaculangan was just in her third year, her first two saw the bitter memory of losing the title in the semifinals at the hands of the Rachel Anne Daquis-led Far Eastern University and then another Final Four heartache against the same tormentors the following year. Ortiz, Hannah Mance and Curato barely had enough experience on them so did Judy Ann Caballejo.   Then there were the young bloods. UST got a pair of blue-chip recruits in a small but high-flying power-hitter in Banaticla and a lanky 6-footer Santiago.   The Tigresses were parading a decent squad, but not a super team that they had before with Mary Jean Balse and Venus Bernal.       “Nagkaroon kami ng mga rookies noon,” said Dimaculangan. “Nu’ng time na ‘yun kumpiyansa naman ako sa team kasi bakit ka pa maghahanap ng mga wala o bakit ka pa hahanap ng mga naka-graduate na? So kung ano na lang ang meron kami siguro doon na lang.” Delos Santos, himself, was just on his second year as head coach after taking the reins from legendary mentor August Sta. Maria, who suffered a stroke in 2008. Expectations were high from the UST faithful. For the Tigresses, they just have to deliver.   STRUGGLE WITHIN The Tigresses began the season with an early litmus test. Their first game: against the defending champions De La Salle University Lady Spikers. UST faced a squad assembled to build a dynasty. DLSU was denied of a four-peat three years ago when the league suspended the school in Season 69 because of an eligibility issue with its men’s basketball team. In Season 70, the Lady Spikers were forced to forfeit games because of another eligibility issue with Jacq Alarca. The following year, in Manilla Santos’ final year, DLSU reclaimed the throne. Now, looking to for a repeat, the Lady Spikers just need to break the will of one of their threats. DLSU paraded a formidable team centered on its ‘Big Three’ in Alarca, skipper Paneng Mercado, daughter of Asia’s Sprint Queen Lydia De Vega-Mercado, and versatile hitter Cha Cruz. Then there’s the great wall of Michele Gumabao and rookies Aby Marano and Joanne Siy, who would eventually win the Rookie of the Year and Best Blocker awards. UST was facing a nightmare. But the Tigresses were undaunted. They clung on the confidence of bringing down the same giant they slew in the UniGames championship before the start of the season. With guns blazing and adrenaline in their veins, the Tigresses were able to control the match as they led, 2-1. Then comes their Achilles’ heel. UST was a determined team, but the Lady Spikers had in them the championship experience, the veteran composure of a battle-tested squad. The Tigresses had no answer to that. DLSU walked away with a 20-25, 25-20, 22-25, 25-22, 15-11, victory to start its amazing elimination round winning streak. UST recovered in the next three games, walking past University of the Philippines, a rebuilding FEU, and cellar-dwellers National University. Then came another big challenge. The Tigresses collided with a feisty young team in Ateneo de Manila University bannered by a hyped Fab Five of sophomores Gretchen Ho, Dzi Gervacio, Fille Cainglet, setter Jem Ferrer and A Nacachi. The result was a shocker: the Lady Eagles upset the Tigresses. It may not show inside the court, but the Tigresses were struggling from the inside.   Delos Santos admitted that being a Tigress under his watch was not for the faint of heart. His relationship with the players was not smooth. He was a blacksmith trying to sharpen a deadly weapon. He needed to put his players into the blazing fire of his Spartan-like training, hammer them into shape and sharpen them into a weapon ready for brutal war.       “Napaka-strict ko kaya medyo ano sila sa akin pero at the end of the day na-realize rin nila na ang lahat ng sinasalihan naming tournament, lahat ng paghihirap namin, kapag naglalaro kami talagang quality,” he said. “’Yung pinaghirapan namin talagang nilalabas namin sa game.” Dimaculangan recalled that that season was marred with conflicts within the team. “’Yung year na 'yun ang dami talagang pinagdaanan. Ang daming naging issues,” she said declining to divulge what the problems were. “Lahat kami takot sa kanya (Delos Santos). Tapos my time din na feeling namin nabe-burnout na kami.” “Baliktad nga eh kasi kung kailan ang dami naming issue doon pa namin nasabi na ‘Ay kailangan nating mag-champion.’ Ganoon ang feeling namin,” Dimaculangan added. Tabaquero would simply describe that Tigresses team as ‘shaky’. “On the rocks ang team and noon may internal issues din,” she revealed. “Medyo magulo siya pero as players, ‘Kung may mangyari man dyan, labas na sa volleyball ‘yan. Kung ano ang pini-perform natin maglaro tayo ng maayos.’ Siguro yun na lang ang tumatakbo sa isip namin.” Whatever the issues were inside their team, the Tigresses were able to put them aside as they made an amazing run to close the eliminations. “Nagulat kami kasi sobrang nakasabay ang mga bata,” said Tabaquero. “Kami ni Aiza halos ang nag-lead sa team na ‘yun pero kasi experienced na ang mga bata na ‘yun kasi coming from UST program sila eh.” “So medyo kumbaga ang pinanggalingan nilang team mataas din so I guess doon na lang din sila humugot from their experience sa high school. Nadala na lang din siguro pagdating nila,” she added.   ENTERING THE END GAME Valentine’s Day. With most of the country looking forward to celebrate that special Sunday, the Tigresses were preparing for something bigger. It was their most-awaited rematch with the Lady Spikers, who heading into that game were already ravaging the league with 13 straight victories. One win and DLSU will enter the Finals outright armed with a thrice-to-beat advantage.   The Tigresses didn’t allow that. UST prevented a Lady Spikers elims sweep by slipping past DLSU in a thrilling five-setter. The Tigresses avoided a stepladder semifinals. UST ended the elims with a nine-game winning streak and second-best 12-2 win-loss record. From there everything changed. “Kasi nakuha nila (ang panalo) sa first round then February 14 tinalo namin sila so dun tumaas ang kumpiyansa namin na ‘Ah kaya namin itong La Salle,’” said Tabaquero. The Tigresses came in the Final Four armed with a twice-to-beat advantage against Ateneo. They split their elims head-to-head but now UST wanted to settle an old score. It was Maizo and Tabaquero who did most of the damage in the Final Four as the Tigresses crushed the Lady Eagles, 25-12, 25-23, 25-20, all while playing without starting libero Curato, who was out because of typhoid fever. “I guess kung ikaw mayroon kang chance na makapasok sa championship siguro ibibigay mo ang lahat. Laban kung laban,” said Tabaquero. “’Yun talaga ang mentalidad namin nu’ng time na yun. ‘Yun ang nag-push sa amin na, ‘For championship ito, ibibigay namin ang lahat 110%.’” Earlier that playdate, the Lady Spikers took the other Finals berth after booting out Adamson University, 16-25, 25-16, 25-22, 25-22.         "EH ANO NGAYON KUNG DEFENDING CHAMPION KAYO?" Maizo and Tabaquero were UST’s contrasting leaders. They're yin and yang. Maizo was a silent operator. She would rather let her work do the talking. Tabaquero was from a different world. She will get under your skin, play with your head and she was just plain nasty. “Season 69 pa lang salbahe na ako maglaro,” she admitted. “Dun lumabas ‘yung moniker ko na ‘Pamewang Queen’. Sobrang intense lang din ng game namin ng FEU nun. Parang sobrang thrashtalkan. Hindi mo man makita on-cam pero doon pa lang talagang may verbal.” She’s no different in Season 72. “Hindi naman sa mayabang ako pero nasa utak ko nu’ng time na yun, ‘Ay kaya namin kayo kasi tinalo namin kayo nu’ng eliminations,’” Tabaquero continued.  “Doon ako humugot ng lakas na, ‘hindi tayo papatalo rito.’ Sobrang inspired lang din siguro akong maglaro noon kasi ang daming tao nun. Grabe puno itong San Juan Arena,” she recalled.    Facing DLSU, Tabaquero knew they can rip the crown off the Lady Spikers’ heads. “Ako personally, ‘Eh ano ngayon kung defending champion kayo?” she said. It was 2010 and UST just needed to look at the Chinese calendar for an inspiration.    “Year of the Tiger yun, sumakto,” said Dimaculangan. “Iba ang kompiyansa namin na parang amin ‘to.” The Tigresses could see the stars aligning for them, the opportunity was there. Then came the best-of-three series opener. Delos Santos was not new to the Finals. He worked as Sta. Maria’s deputy before. But this was his biggest challenge. His shining moment. Looking back, he felt that Sta. Maria molded him for this situation. “Before nakakuha rin kami ng isa pang championship eh. Sina Bernal, Balse pero si Coach August ang head coach pa nun that time,” he said. “Ang ginawa niya that time sobrang gusto niyang mag-grow ako. Noong Finals namin against FEU, umalis siya. Hindi siya nagpunta ng game tapos nung mag-start na ang game hinahanap ko siya,” Delos Santos continued. “Tinawagan ko siya, sabi ko, ‘Boss nasaan ka?’ Nasa norte siya eh parteng norte." "Sabi ko, ‘boss nasaan ka?’ Sabi niya, ‘kayang-kaya mo na ‘yan. Ikaw ng bahala dyan,’” he said. “’Yung time na yun doon ko na-feel na grabe ang tiwala niya sa akin.” Against a taller Lady Spikers side, Delos Santos needed just one key to success: speed. “I think that time sobrang lucky ko rin kasi ang mga players ko. Yun nga sina Rhea na, sina Tabaquero, sina Aiza. So that time yung system na gusto naming mangyari, more on lalo na kailangang maging speedy kami. Mabilis kami, nakuha namin that time. Siguro yun ang naging key,” he said. “Kasi knowing La Salle ang no. 1 weapon nila is blocking eh. Bukod dun sa service nila na napakabigat, yung blocking. Mayroon silang malalaking players and ang ganda lagi ng line-up nila,” Delos Santos said. As the battle ensued, Delos Santos felt that they had the upper hand. “I think nu’ng time na ‘yun medyo na-feel ko na makukuha namin,” he said. “That time na naglaro na kami sabi ko, sa galawan na nangyayari nakuha namin yung magandang diskarte.” And that strategy was to exploit the height disadvantage of DLSU setter Kaye Martinez. For Delos Santos the best way to stop the Lady Spikers’ deadly arrows was to break their bow.  “That time malalaki sila pero meron silang maliit na setter. Maliit ang setter nila so more on dun kami nagsi-set play ng nagsi-set play,” he said. “Nagkaroon din kami ng magandang receive and then si Rhea nabibigay niya ng maayos sa mga spikers.”  It was shocker. UST recovered from a set down to beat DLSU, 24-26, 25-23, 25-16, 25-21.   For the first time in Season 72, the Taft-based squad got its back against the wall.   SHAQ THE WORLD The Tigresses were on a high as they arrived at the game venue in the last weekend of February just three days after shocking the Lady Spikers in the series opener.     Entering the venue, the Tigresses were greeted by a huge crowd of UST faithful, all hoping for the clincher.  Tabaquero was feeling ill that day. “Naalala ko may sakit ako nu’ng Game 2. Wala akong boses nun,” said the senior, who skipped Thursday’s practice to rest. But Tabaquero was determined to play one last time, give her team the firepower and angst it needed, to finish her collegiate career on top.   “Wala ng sakit-sakit, di pwedeng may sakit. Di ko na siya nararamdaman. Minsan napapagod pero wala kailangang magsakripisyo. Saka yung adrenaline ko sobrang taas nun,” said Tabaquero. As the Tigresses trooped to the court for the warm-up, they were showered by loud cheers from the UST fans. “Go USTe! Go USTe!” echoed inside the arena like a rolling thunder signaling the arrival of a storm. A serenade for conquering heroes. There was a huge banner that read: ‘Kami po ang University of Sto. Tomas.’ It added fuel to the Tigresses’ burning desire to reclaim the throne. The squad came into the venue brimming with confidence but with their supporters egging them on even before the opening serve, the Tigresses felt invincible. They were. UST dismantled the confused Lady Spikers in the first two sets, dominating DLSU with sharp angled attacks and frustrating its blockers. Defensively, the Tigresses were punishing DLSU’s attackers. “Dumipensa lang talaga kami noon saka nagkaroon kami ng first ball. ‘Yun talaga ang edge namin nun,” said Dimaculangan. “Kumbaga parang hindi ako masyadong nahirapang dumiskarte kasi alam kong darating sa akin ang bola.” The Lady Spikers’ defense was also in disarray. Even DLSU’s celebrated libero Mel Gohing, the rookie of the year the season before, was already struggling to keep up with the Lady Spikers’ net defense collapsing. “Yung mga spikers ko ang gagaling din dumiskarte and alam din nila kung ano ang gagawin nila sa bolang ibinibigay ko sa kanila,” added Dimaculangan. The Tigresses were already smelling blood.   But the Lady Spikers regrouped in the third as hitters Cruz and Mercado’s hits found their mark. Gumabao, Siy and Maarano were holding their own. DLSU took the third frame in dominating fashion. It may have turned the tides around for the Lady Spikers. It didn’t.      DLSU built an early five-point cushion in the fourth frame, but the Tigresses raced to a 16-11 lead before Gumabao stopped the bleeding with a crosscourt hit.  Maizo then landed an off speed hit over blockers Siy and Martinez, then the lefty again scored another heady off speed this time over Alarca for an 18-12 lead. Then came the deluge of errors by DLSU. The Lady Spikers crowd went quiet in the pivotal run of the Tigresses. A kill block by Ortiz put UST at championship point, 24-13, as the DLSU faithful froze, seemingly awaiting an inevitable defeat. “Parang pa-last point pa lang ata naiiyak na kaming lahat,” said Dimaculangan. An overexcited Tabaquero sent her serve long then Maizo’s attack was turned back. Two match points saved by DLSU. The Lady Spikers tried to hold on. But it was too late. Nerves got the best of Emeli Zuno as she made contact with the ball at the service line.       It sailed long. Pandemonium broke out. “Nagtatalon na kami nu’ng moment na yun, na ‘Heto na ang pinaghirapan natin.’ Ang sarap sa feeling na mag-champion ulit,” said Tabaquero after the final whistle of the season was called with UST completing the sweep with a 25-18, 25-14, 16-25, 25-15, victory.   For Delos Santos that championship was the fruit of their hard labor. “Sobrang happy kasi siyempre nagkaroon kami ng championship sa UST,” said Delos Santos of his only title for the Tigresses as head coach. “Sobrang memorable. Marami rin kaming pinagdaanan (bago makuha),” he added. UST accomplished a double-crown feat in volleyball that year, its fifth since the 1976-77, 1985-86 at 1987-88 and 1992-1993 seasons. As a reward the Tigresses earned a trip to Hong Kong. But even that trip had some good anecdotes for Delos Santos, Dimaculangan and Tabaquero. “Nag-trip to Hong Kong kami for two to three days sa Disneyland at Ocean Park,” said Delos Santos. “Sila lang mahilig mag-rides eh. Ako may phobia ako sa heights. Nung sumakay kami ng cable car para akong mahuhulog na ewan dun sa cable car.” Dimaculangan remembered vividly their flight. “Nag-Hong Kong kami noon tapos sakto pa na bumabagyo noong umalis kami noon. Buti nga natuloy kami noon eh,” she said. As for Tabaquero, unfortunately, she had to skip the trip. “Nagpunta sila ng Hong Kong pero ako di ako nakasama kasi late yung Hong Kong trip. Di ako nakasama kasi na-ACL (left injury) na ako nun sa Shakey’s V-League, yung sa championship ng San Sebastian,” she said. “Naka-schedule na ako ng surgery nun sa UST hospital kaya di ako nakasama.” “May incentive naman ako nun kahit di ako nakasama nun,” Tabaquero cleared. Ten years ago, UST ruled Season 72. It was the year of the Tiger. The year of the mighty, mighty Tigers.   --- Follow this writer on Twitter, @fromtheriles.....»»

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