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.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Reminiscing with the 1982 UP volleyball Champion team

L-R: Stella Locsin, Lyra Resurrecion, Ese Dans, and Pia Cayetano. Slice, UP Town Centre Feb. 22, 2017

Reminiscing with the 1982 UP volleyball Champion team
by rick olivares

They never wore the same kind of shoes. Never had the same color of socks. Sometimes, they didn’t wear kneepads. The only clothing that they wore and had in common was what they jokingly called “panty shorts” because of their skimpy design and their jersey that had “UP’ on them.

“Now there was this one time though where we wore all the same kind of white rubber shoes (the Dragonfly brand that was more associated with badminton and casual wear than for volleyball),” related Pia Cayetano.

“That was the time this person was courting a teammate of ours and it was an expensive courtship as he gave the entire team Dragonfly rubber shoes,” chimed in Ese Dans. “He gave them – you know, to get our favor.”

Did that teammate of theirs ever say “yes” to the guy?

“No” chorused everyone in unison as Lyra Resurrecion and Stella Locsin joined in. And that was followed by even more hearty laughter.

It has been 35 years since these four ladies along with eight others won the University of the Philippines’ last UAAP Women’s Volleyball Championship in 1982. They were coached by Susana Roxas (nee Arrastia) and counted among them Rhoda Alcantara, Ella Basom, Marissa Beltran, Pia Cayetano, Ese Dans, Heidi Juachon, Patty Innocencio, Stella Locsin, Margie Mercurio, Eva Miralo, Lyra Resurrecion, and Bernie Veloso.

Those Lady Maroons lost only one game the entire season (to FEU in the first round) finishing 13-1. During the finals, played at the Loyola Center in Ateneo, the Lady Maroons gained their revenge on FEU, (their tormentor as well in the previous season’s finals) by blanking them in three sets.

Most celebrated the championship at the Balay Alumni at UP minus Locsin who rushed to the hospital to be with her ill mother at that time.

That season bonded them for life. That season taught them so much that years later, the lessons they learned from a hard-fought season served them well in their private lives and in their careers. And although at the most, they see each other once in a year, they know where each and every one of their teammates are even if half the team is now residing abroad.

Their world in 1982 was different and yet in some ways… still the same.

“Basketball, was king,” stated Resurrecion who played middle blocker for UP and the national team that won Southeast Asian Games gold. “Even if some of us experienced winning a championship.”

Resurrecion was a senior on that team and she had helped UP to the 1979-80 title, UP’s sixth in the league.

“Even when we won in 1982, I don’t even think we merited any story on the Collegian,” threw in Dans who played center for that team and later coached the UP team from 1992-96. “Not even in a national newspaper.”

“Basketball was king and it still is,” said Cayetano who was the tallest player on that team.  

“Outside our circle of friends and family, I think people watched us because we were playing in our panty shorts,” Dans continued.

“The level of volleyball, despite lacking in overall attention, was high,” revealed Resurrecion. She was a part of the 1981 Sea Games side that won the gold medal in Manila. The Philippines won the first three Sea Games gold medals and would go on to win three more in 1985, 1987, and 1993 before the sport slid back before the revival in the last nine years.

“our coach – Coach Su – played a huge part in our being champions,” related Resurrecion. “She was scientific before scientific. She really worked on our fundamentals and fitness and conditioning.”

“We had this drill,” added Locsin who played sweeper (the defensive sweeper before the advent of the libero), “where you had to serve 100 times and had to make sure the ball went over the net 100 consecutive times. If it hit the net, then you went back to zero to do it all over again. So it forced you to focus, to really focus.”

Incredibly, the Lady Maroons were without a practice facility that year as the old UP Gym was being renovated. So they took the trip down to the eastern side of Katipunan Avenue where they practiced in the cement basketball half-court near the Jesuit Residence inside Ateneo!

“We didn’t complain,” offered Cayetano. “It was just the way things were. Even as freshman on the team, if our practice in the old gym went past 8pm papatayan kami ng ilaw finished or not finished kasi kailangan na umuwi ng caretaker ng gym. So literally, we’ve had a few practices ending because the lights went out.”

“We never had this chip on this shoulder,” clarified Dans “Despite what was the lack of support. We didn’t complain because it was just the way things were. We accepted it.”

However, when the Lady Maroons bagged the title in 1982 (the games were played in the first semester back then), their one big reward was that… they were exempted from paying tuition for one semester.

“That was arranged by my father (the late Senator Rene Cayetano who was then close friends with then UP Chancellor Edgardo Angara) and Mr. Beltran (noted journalist Louie Beltran),” gushed Cayetano at the memory.

“Big deal para sa amin yun,” pointed out Dans.

How much was the tuition fee in State University that year?

“Four hundred pesos!” cried Dans as the entire group broke out into laughter.

Thirty-five years later, the memories – and there are a great many more – are priceless. The championship somehow, someway, always crops up in conversations. Especially now with the current edition of UP Lady Maroons in the hunt for a title that has eluded them for more than three decades.

“Don’t you think the time is ripe for another championship?” wondered Resurrecion aloud. They’ll be in the stands when their Lady Maroons face the Ateneo Lady Eagles this Sunday at the Filoil Flying V Centre in San Juan.

Where are they now: Pia Cayetano went on to become a law maker and currently serves in Congress. Rhoda Alcantara is a flight purser. Heidi Juachon is a business woman. Bernie Veloso is a housewife. Ese Dans coached UP for a few years and is now engaged in production and entertainment. Stella Locsin has her business in the province. Lyra Resurrecion is into real estate. Marissa Beltran is married to basketball coach Eric Altamirano where she helps manage his basketball projects. Patty Innocencio is into veterinary medicine. Ella Basom is in the medical profession. And Eva Miralo… she stills plays the game of volleyball.

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