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The volleybelle is also a mayor
The volleybelle is also a mayor
by rick olivares
The Iriga Lady Oragons spotted the Baguio Summer Spikers a two-sets-to-none lead. By no means, however, was the second set a gimme. The team from the northern highlands actually had a sizeable lead until they collapsed.
In the third set once more, the Summer Spikers led and look on their way to sending the match to a fourth set with the score 20-15. Incredibly, Iriga head coach Elvis Pabilona sent in a most unlikely player who didn’t look at all like the younger, sleek, and svelte set of players who were seeing action.
It was playing-mayor-manager — if there is such a thing — Madeleine Alfelor-Gazmen. She held her own with some nifty digs as the Lady Oragons rallied. She dug, received, and even had an attack. A couple of balls went past her but overall she did well. And so did her team that took the set, 26-24, for a tidy sweep and their first win of the Shakey’s V-League Open Conference.
“I think people from Iriga were watching us during our televised game,” she said. The mayor checked her phone and noted that there were a lot of tweets from her fellow townsfolk about the big win. “This was was like a reversal of our match against Laoag. They were leading, we rallied then fell short. Took a lead, lost it, and they won. So this is a lesson for us.”
“I was nervous,” put Alfelor-Gazmen who won her re-election bid in the city of Iriga in the Bicol region. “After a minute or so, I think I settled down. But I don’t want to think that I am treating this like some playground game. We in the team and its management are very serious about the sport. We hope to win a few more games too."
Growing up in Iriga, Alfelor-Gazmen played the game of softball. “There was something about the game that I enjoyed. It isn’t as easy as hitting the ball. You don’t just hit it. You try to place it to advance a teammate across the bases. There’s a lot of thinking that goes into the game. You think about whether you should run the bases and steal the ball. To give sacrifice yourself to advance a runner. It appealed to me because you are constantly thinking and on the move. I think the sport helped me a lot in other aspects of my life especially now in politics. You try to think two, three, four steps ahead. It is a challenge.”
And now there’s volleyball.
The province of Camarines Sur made its name recently for its advocacy for triathlon and other water sports. Yet in Alfelor-Gazmen’s city, she hopes to restore volleyball as the locale’s most popular sport. “Aside from the popularity now of volleyball, this idea of promoting the sport or passion for the sport started when we had this inter-agency sportsfest that involved the Fire Department, PNP, Regional Trial Court, and other local government agencies where the major sports are basketball and volleyball. That’s where the passion for the game started.”
"And watching Alyssa Valdez."
The Mayor admits that she is excited about playing Valdez’ team, Bali Pure, and meeting Valdez. “I think I would freeze,” she enthused. “I’d be star-struck.”
When she was younger, Alfelor-Gazmen said that she would wake up early in the morning to catch all of Michael Jordan’s games. “I loved watching him. He showed a lot of heart and desire. A passion for the game that meant he always gave it his all.”
Now, there’s Valdez. “Yeah, I try to catch all her games. She is an inspiration.”
Suddenly, her phone rang and buzzed. More congratulatory messages and Tweets. Alfelor-Gazmen smiled. Even as her team washed and showered; changed into casual clothes, the mayor stayed in her game uniform. “I can’t believe we won,” she said like a kid inside a toy store. “I hope this inspires people from Iriga to get into sports and an active lifestyle."