A Bonfire in March

UAAP Season 76 Women’s Volleyball Finals

A Bonfire in March

By Joseph W Buduan

This is usually held in October, but this time around the University decided to hold it in the second semester as a general thank-you to all of the Ateneo athletes, and as if on cue, the Lady Eagles provided a fitting centerpiece to the Bonfire by completing a monumental upset of archrival La Salle

Ateneo Grade School Grounds, 15 March 2014 – “Mamaya ka na mag-interview, ito, uminom ka muna.” And with that the tone was set for the rest of the evening’s feasting and jubilation.

Lawyer Jay Lopez and his lovely wife Sheryl had set up a tent right behind the Loyola Center (Blue Eagle Gym to those of you who weren’t in the Ateneo yet in the 1970’s) with a bad view of the stage. Jay and Sheryl are the de facto “guardians” of Team Glory B, the official Ateneo basketball developmental team that sees action in the Fr Martin Cup.

This evening was extra special for the couple: Glory B was one of the teams being feted tonight for winning the tough Fr Martin Cup Second Division championship over a hard-fighting San Beda Team Behold during the first semester. As both of them are friends of 12 years I of course made my way to their tent first. And as is our custom, they put a plastic party tumbler of beer right in my hand just as I was about to ask them about their Glory B “wards.”

There were other alumni harboring at their tent. There was plenty of lechon, pancit, barbecue, pizza, chips and yes, free-flowing beer to go around anyway. Glory B head coach Yuri Escueta, a mainstay of the 2008 championship team that started the 5-Peat was also at the tent, with his wife Monet and assistant coaches Bacon Austria (another member of the 5-Peat dynasty) and Jutes Templo, who used to help handle one of the age-group teams in the Grade School. Jay and Sheryl also had a VIP guest in Fr Nemy Que SJ, head honcho for Admissions and Aid in the College.

“Can you believe it? Kasama pa sa mga io-honor sa bonfire ang Glory B,” Sheryl exclaimed with a broad smile.

Just across the Glory B tent was the tent for the volleyball teams. Holding court was former Ateneo champion volley belle Mitchie Lugtu Castaneda, and Fr Adolfo Dacanay SJ with his signature cigar and single malt (neat and straight up). “Tito Joe, kunan mo naman kami ni Fr Dacs,” cried Mitchie, never someone to be kept waiting so I happily obliged. Mitchie called the men’s volleyball team over for a snapshot as well. “Tito Joe, make yourself available if these boys need a communications tutor ha!” Yes ma’am, said I. I had a few more drinks and munchies at their tent before I made my way to the Irwin Theater front courtyard area to finally get some pictures of our newly-crowned champions.

I did get a few pictures in, but I was so taken in by the atmosphere and the spirit there, with a lot of the athletes either dressed in evening wear or in their varsity uniforms, while the Lady Eagles were all wearing their blue Heart Strong championship t-shirts. Matt Laurel, star of the back-to-back champion baseball team was mingling with other athletes and fellow students. Kiefer Ravena, Chris Newsome, Kris Porter, Poy Erram and Earl Murphy all probably got a little blinded with all of the flashes snapping away as fans came to them in droves for pictures.

Pretty soon each of the teams was presented onstage.  We gave our loudest applause for our Glory B guys of course, and we seemed to be the only tent whooping it up when they were called onstage. Of course the crowd pretty much went full-on nuts when the Lady Eagles were presented. Head coach Anusorn “Tai” Bundit brought the house down by doing his signature jogging dance punctuated by the fast-pumping fist of victory. Captain Alyssa Valdez, gave a joyous, emotional speech thanking the entire Ateneo Community.

When the fire was finally lit, the crowd all broke into the “Song For Mary”, followed by a gorgeous fireworks display at the periphery of the Erenchun football field. Some of the people started making their way to their respective rides. No doubt a number of them had been up early to line up for tickets to see the championship game live.

I was among the last to leave, with but a small pocket of revelers still pretty pumped up in the area behind the Loyola Center. Koko Pingoy, the star pointguard of Glory B decided to pop a beer can and spray his fellow athletes with it champagne-style. That was my cue to go. This night was about more than just athletic championships. This was night was about the Ateneo Way.

I hitched a ride with another old friend. On the ride home he said it best. “Win or lose it’s the school we choose.”

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Atty Jay Lopez (far right)being a gracious host at the Glory B tent to (from left)Ed Lim, Alan Taule, Marlo Rustia and ME Jalandoni. Note that each of these senior alumni is all holding their favorite accessory.

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Former NCAA volleyball champion Mitchie Lugtu Castaneda (in blue championship t-shirt wearing a medal) and senior alumni Oman Tanchinco are surrounded by the runner-up men’s volleyball team.

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Fr Martin Cup champions (from left) Jino Labao, Mikey Cabahug, Joma Adornado and Miko Sollano of Team Glory B with significant others. Photobombing behind Sollano’s shoulder are 2008 champions Mike Baldos (in glasses) and Yuri Escueta, the Glory B coach.