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.

Friday, May 26, 2017

Jerrili Malabanan: California sunshine in BaliPure

Jerrili Malabanan: California sunshine in BaliPure
by rick olivares

During the first set of BaliPure’s match with Creamline was Tuesday, the former’s head coach Roger Gorayeb sent in Jerrili Malabanan late in the first set for struggling Aiko Urdas.

“Jer Jer” as her teammates call her, didn’t do too well either. Except she wasn’t yanked even if Creamline took the first set, 25-20. She started the second set where she eventually settled down. Malabanan finished only with seven points – her conference average for BaliPure – but she did contribute in other aspects such as defense.

The Purest Water Defenders won in five sets with Thai import Jang Bualee and outside hitter Grethcel Soltones coming alive late in the match with American import Jennifer Keddy providing steady offense and defense. Yet, during the post-match press conference, Gorayeb made sure to point out how Malabanan stabilized the team with her play in the second set.

The vote of confidence wasn’t lost on Malabanan, “It’s feels good that he trusts me and that he knows that I can contribute. It’s such a nice feeling.”

Transitions aren’t normally easy as one moves from the familiar to the unfamiliar. Malabanan has first-hand experience in that as well. After graduation from high school in California where she was born and spent her first 18 years of her life, Malabanan moved to the Philippines.

“I lived in the US my whole life,” recalled the soft-spoken lady. “I would come here every few years for family reunions but that’s different. Changing addresses and lifestyles was a tough adjustment for me especially because I wasn’t able to see my family and friends. You don’t really know anyone and you’re starting from scratch.”

Her first choice for her college schooling was the University of Santo Tomas but she was late for her enrollment. “I ended up going to FEU because an uncle of mine is a good friend of FEU’s athletic director.”

With the Lady Tamaraws, she has become a key component in their return to competitiveness. Yet this past season, Malabanan sat mostly on the bench. “My sitting on the bench – it was a little bit of struggling with my game and the coach’s decision. It’s hard when you sit. You want to help the team but you can’t. And when you want, the confidence isn’t there. It went really down.”

Signed to BaliPure, her first volleyball team outside FEU, it was quite a smooth transition for Malabanan: “I think I started off well because I wanted to show very badly that what happened last UAAP season wasn’t really me or my game. Coming into this tournament, I wanted to show that I am better than that. When I first trained with BaliPure, I didn’t know any of my new teammates personally. The first day of training, they all made me feel welcome. They were very nice. We’ve all become good friends since.”

For the Purest Water Defenders, she was moved from her middle position – where she was played in FEU – to a utility spot where she forms a tag team with Urdas. And she has shined. “Actually, Jer Jer is very soft spoken. But she is eager to learn.”

Added Bualee who is no stranger to the Philippines volleyball scene having served as an import time and again for Gorayeb’s teams, “Jer Jer is a big help to our team. Ako kasi matanda na.”

Like a ray of sunshine?

Bualee laughed. “Sunshine.”

Now the Purest Water Defenders are in the semi-finals. Following the end of their preliminary round matches, the team is given three days off before returning to practice next Monday. “I think we’re fortunate to be able to top the elimination round,” said Malabanan before their last outing against the Power Smashers. It feels to be able to contribute to the team.”

The girl from California has her confidence back.

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