Someone asked me how my blog and newspaper column came to be titled "Bleachers Brew". It's like this, it's an amalgam of sorts of two things: The bleachers area in the stadium/arena where I used to sit when I would watch baseball, football, and basketball games and Miles Davis' great jazz album Bitches Brew. That's how it got culled together. I originally planned on calling it "The View from the Big Chair" that is a nod to Tears For Fear's second album, Songs from the Big Chair. So there.

Monday, February 24, 2014

The way we were: There was a time when Ateneo ruled NCAA volleyball.

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The way we were: There was a time when Ateneo ruled NCAA volleyball.
by rick olivares

With the Ateneo Men’s Volleyball Team in the finals of the UAAP Season 76 for the first time in its history in the league, it’s time to take a look back at the last time a team from Loyola Heights brought back volleyball glory. And that was nearly 40 years ago when the Blue Eagles were in the NCAA and ready to bolt the senior league (but the last time an Ateneo team played for the men's volleyball title was in 1981 when the blue and whites were in the UAAP).

I spoke with then men’s volleyball team’s captain Jimmy Javier who made a name for himself as a sportscaster during the nascent broadcasting years of the UAAP and is a brother of Danny Javier of the APO Hiking Society.

What follows are his memories of those years when the blue and white won back to back titles in 1975 and 1976.

Jimmy Javier: “I was captain with now Secretary Butch Abad as co-captain. Louie Gepuela (who once coached Ateneo and Miriam College) was the setter backed up by Butch and Rasty Rastrullo. Also on those champion teams were Choy Cojuangco, Kokok Aquino, Boy Ramos, Eddie Apacible, Levi Encinas, George Price, Andy NaƱagas, and Ging Ruedas. Levi was a hitter and libero on defense. The late Pitong Custodio was our coach.

When we won the first championship, we had done so ahead of the men's senior basketball squad (their own finals wasn’t finished). During the bonfire to celebrate the twin championships, with a pile of wood ready for a bonfire, we were asked to go up to makeshift stage fronting the then track oval across the Loyola Center (now called the Blue Eagle Gym). I was asked to say a few words. I went up to the microphone, paused a bit, and said 'Thank you.' After a short pause, I went down and joined my team. No frills. (laughs).

Having won the volleyball championship, it was a very lonely road to get there. In my freshman year, only the drivers and one of the senior member's girlfriends would watch. The number of people watching increased by a handful in my sophomore year. There were a little over a dozen supporters on our junior year and then, boom! on our senior year, team members by the time were coaching girls' high school teams on the GAL league and they'd watch.

In the final four games, it was the first time that family members  (with my father whistling his heart out & my mother watching, my brother George doing halftime cheering) attended the games in good numbers.

King Yabut Jr. was a generous team manager, inviting the team to their Calatagan farm for bonding time. Choy Cojuangco was also a kind team member, treating us to Club Filipino for merienda or lunch and making his car available for driving practice. He overextended his credit card limit to the consternation of Ramon Cojuangco, Sr.  Eddie Apacible provided the shuttle going home from practice for Cubao residents.

For two weeks during the final four series, the Jesuit fathers allowed us to be quartered in Eliazo (then the men’s dorm as co-eds were still new to the Ateneo). What a difference that made to bond the team together. Of course our girlfriends were not restricted from visiting!

The first volleyball champion team was a confluence of the successful Ateneo high school volleyball program anchored on their setting skills and the hitting & blocking talent already in the college team. I think the teamwork from camaraderie developed by the long friendships within the team (the senior and junior teams always saw each other in practices in the high school gym) bode well for the successful volleyball program.

Former senior team member Tomas Santamaria, who left to coach abroad, recommended Pitong Custodio to replace him. Pitong's military type coaching style, tempered for the Ateneo players, was a good fit.

When our first NCAA seniors volleyball championship was in the bag, for the first time in our college years, we turned overnight from nobodies to campus figures. Maybe because it was the year of the double double championships in high school and college volleyball and basketball programs and since we hit the tape first, bringing the first championship that year to the table.

The late Fr. Cipriano Unson, S.J. and our then school president the late Fr. Jose Cruz, S.J., came for the first time ever to be with the volleyball team and just in time for the photo op! So perhaps the simple 'thank you', on a late Sunday afternoon when no one was yet inclined to light a bonfire for a first time  volleyball was enough for me to say on that stage.

It has been sometime since that championship, and some of us have been inducted into the Ateneo Sports Hall of Fame partly because of that unprecedented sporting achievement. Reminiscing that time is a wonderful, pleasant memory. Evolving from consistent also-rans to NCAA champions is a feeling we still cherish to this day.”


The Ateneo Men's and Boy's Basketball and Volleyball Teams won in 1975 and 1976. They all contended for the 1977 titles but all teams save for the Juniors basketball team lost in their respective championship games.

In 2008, I interviewed Jimmy Javier for a documentary I shot for the Ateneo Sports Hall of Fame. We've been friends since. Most recently, we were up in the bleachers of San Beda Gym watching the Seaoil MMBL games. This interview is new and was conducted only the other day. Then we go right to the UAAP team that will be playing for a championship for the first time since 1977.

Read Part Two: The way we were: Ateneo Men's Volleyball 2005-10


  1. Hi Rick, Sherwin says Mon Daez' team played in a UAAP finals in the 80s also. Baka there are two runner up trophies in Loyola, somewhere. Hopefully your readers can support the boys when they play for the title. One big fight!

  2. I heard they lost back to back finals series against UP during the 1979 and 1980 seasons. :)

  3. I heard they lost back to back finals series against UP during the 1979 and 1980 seasons. :)

  4. According to a friend, Mandy Asperas, he was part of the 1981 mvt which contended against UP for the championship. It was a "controversial" 5-set loss in UP gym. So that may have been the very first finals in pre-F4 UAAP. If the format then was like that of basketball, then only the top 2 teams play in a best of three.

  5. Previous format had teams playing for two pennants, round one and round two. If you sweep all games; you are declare champion. If you get one pennant, and someone else gets the other one, there is a best of three. If you win both pennants, but lost a game within either rounds, you get a twice to beat advantage in the series. I believe this is how it was. This was also the format when we won our first back to back titles in MBT. Tama ba iyun, Rick?