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Waiting to cheer ‘UP Fight!’ again amid the Covid-19 pandemic

Sadly this year, fans have to content themselves with past photos as the Covid-19 pandemic has disrupted several sporting events, including the UAAP games.
The Maroons’ Juan Gomez de Liaño and the Blue Eagles’ Thirdy Ravena

Photographs of past basketball games of the University Athletic Association of the Philippines (UAAP) have been appearing on my Facebook memory feeds in recent weeks.

Sadly this year, fans have to content themselves with past photos as the Covid-19 pandemic has disrupted several sporting events, including the UAAP games.

UAAP Season 82 was officially dropped last April as government continued to ban mass gatherings as part of the community quarantine measures imposed in Metro Manila.

University of Santo Tomas was officially awarded as overall champion for Season 82 in a  “virtual” closing ceremony held last June. No Athlete of the Year was named.

No opening ceremony for Season 83 was likewise held last September as traditionally done in the previous years as the start of the annual intercollegiate sports event.

Varsity teams from the member universities compete annually in the league’s 28 events from 15 sports to vie for the overall championship title, namely, badminton, baseball, basketball, beach volleyball, chess, fencing, football, judo, softball, swimming, table tennis, taekwondo, tennis, track and field, and volleyball.

The eight UAAP member schools are Adamson University, Ateneo de Manila University, De La Salle University, Far Eastern University, National University, University of the East, University of the Philippines Diliman, and University of Santo Tomas.

One of the options being eyed for Season 83 is shortening the schedule through the alteration of the tournament formats akin to the Southeast Asian Games (SEA Games).

The 2019 SEA Games held in the Philippines only took 20 days to complete the 56 sports tournaments.

Another idea that was floated was a “bubble” scenario. All the players, coaches, and staff will have to stay inside the “bubble” for the duration of the season with stringent quarantine measures, a robust testing program and strict mask protocol.

However, legal, logistical and financial constraints were raised, including the issue on the capacity of the UAAP and its member schools to shoulder the expenses of a “bubble city,” including food and accommodation in hotels near the playing facility.

The UAAP games galvanized an extraordinary sense of solidarity for the denizens of the University of the Philippines, often described as the microcosm of a highly diverse nation.

An academic community all too easily fractured by politics and personal interest, the cheer “UP FIGHT!” reverberated during the past UAAP games as the UP Fighting Maroons fought UP style—“may giting at tapang.” 

The Fighting Maroons Men’s Basketball team had been branded as “Cramming Maroons” by fans due to their nail-biting, cardiac victories the entire Season 82 as three out of the nine wins have been one-point advantages. Cramming is life for the UP community—even basketball games are no exception in that habit.

UP’s bid for the championship trophy unfortunately ended when it lost to UST during the Final Four stepladder game on November 13, 2019 at the Mall of Asia Arena with the score of 68-65.

However, the Maroons had their best record yet with a 9-4 win-loss last season, with the support of groups such as Nowhere To Go But UP. A campus anecdote was that the varsity team was once known as the UP Parrots. It was replaced with a new moniker that revived the old (circa 1920s) name Maroons along with the adjective “fighting” to describe the sportsmanship attitude that the UP varsity teams must possess during the games.

 In 1986 when Edsa Revolution happened, UP won over UE Red Warriors under the guidance of legendary coach Joe Lipa with star players Benjie Paras, Ronnie Magsanoc and Eric Altamirano.

A year later, I entered UP Diliman as a freshman in 1987 but I still felt the championship euphoria as I often see Benjie Paras around the campus.

 As chief photographer of Philippine Collegian from 1989 to 1991, I remember my coverages of the games with very few, if none, UP denizens inside the playing venues.

Almost 30 years later, securing tickets became a challenging feat in every game due to the increasing number of enthusiastic fans eager to shout “UP Fight” as the maroons battle it out to earn the spot for the final games.

Each game became mini-reunions of Titos and Titas with endless photo-ops and reminiscing of college days memories over coffee, lunch, merienda or dinner.

UP lost last year but we will continue to shout “UP Fight!” once the games resume for Season 83.

Kule is the monicker of Philippine Collegian, the official student publication of UP Diliman. Atty. Dennis R. Gorecho heads the seafarers’ division of the Sapalo Velez Bundang Bulilan law offices. For comments, e-mail [email protected], or call 0917-5025808 or 0908-8665786.

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