Sports and politics

RENE SAGUISAG

I WATCHED the Ateneo-La Salle game last Sunday, courtside. I was clad in black, amid the sea of blue and green, just in case Ateneo would reprise what it did a month ago

Then, its Blue Babble Batallion admirably demoed against EJKs and the reduction of the Commission on Human Rights budget to loose change. As it happened, the game itself provided more excitement than seemed possible.

The two schools were among the founders of the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) before they moved to the University Athletic Association of the Philippines (UAAP).

When I was in grade school, 1946-1951, Makati, and in high school, Pasig (1951-1955), I never heard of an NCAA Ateneo-La Salle rivalry. La Salle was champion in 1947-1948 when I read about ManoletAraneta, but the 1950s first half (1951-1955) was Ateneo-San Beda, following Letran’s Murder, Inc. 1950 dominance, led by Bay Mumar and TogayAstorga. I had to wonder whether La Salle was still in the league, ha, ha.

No foreign coaches

No foreign coaches then that I can recall nor any foreign player. All homegrown. No imports even if some native-born players have foreign names, e.g., San Beda’s Charles Borck and Charles Dodd. Of course, the athletically inclined priests American Jesuit were “imports” but not in the sense we say so today. There was Ateneo’s Fr. Edgar Martin and there was our Bedan Father Beda del Hoyo. Both athletic moderators.

Look at our coaches today, not only in the NCAA. Where are our Gabby and FelyFajardos, Herr Silvas, Arturo Riuses, Baby Dalupans, et al.? Even in coaching the Pinoy is going south? American players, and now, Africans, go north.

As I recall Al Dunbar starred for Chelsea and later moved to Ateneo (Chelsea teammate Lou Pucillo starred and introed the then novel behind-the back-dribble in the Manila Inter-Commercial Athletic Association). Al supposedly married a crush-ng-bayan (CS?), per campus talk. Kurt Seeberger played for the 1949 Mapua champion, skippered by Ben Gadi. Richard Tillman started for San Miguel in the MICAA, along with Freddie Young.

Last Sunday, I saw Ben Mbala of La Salle who could be Mbalasik enough at times but it was an Ateneo afternoon. Matt Nieto delivered the free throws that completed the merciful extra-judicial killing of La Salle.
Both sides played well, cleanly and gallantly; helping a fallen foe rise was routine, for instance. Nice and easy on the eye.

I failed to follow the game and the NCAA during the Dark Years, when I had to shift priorities. I have no idea who started the practice of both teams staying on court after the game, to sing their college hymns. I think only the winners should be asked to stay. The losers may weep in their dressing room. No need to rub it in.

Rousing songs of yesteryears

I miss today the lilting “Till the End of Time” dance routine of JRC (now JRU). It almost matched our blood-curdling San Beda Indian Yell. Cheerleader Odie Fermin (late) was part of the JRC dance team and taught me how to spin in the boogie (jive), seemingly endlessly, which, on good nights I still can, round-and-round….
Ateneo and La Salle, as above-noted, were founding members of the NCAA. The sainted Fr. Bernardo Lopez, OSB, was active from the start (my wife Dulce and I met him in December 1970 in the Abbey of our Lady of Montserrat in Barcelona, where there is now unrest).

Last Sunday the MOA Arena was a sea of blue and green. I had a neutral black jacket and a Bedan T-shirt. Unobtrusive. My son, Rebo, UAAP executive director and commissioner, got me in for free, with a very good seat. Para que estamosenpoder? What are we in power for? Rebo told me that Manny V. Pangilinan was somewhere there but the only Bedan in the packed arena I met was his Bedan grade and high school classmate, Compañero Reggie Ukol, whose mother worked with my late wife, Dulce, in grade and high school activities in Mendiola.

After the game, I saw Chair Comelec Andy Bautista, an Atenean, with an orgasmic smile. I wished him well but I hardly expected that an Ateneo win would make him resign from the Comelec. Andy, Godspeed, on your journey home, to your family, which must survive its crises, mend the ruptures of discord and resume, if possible, living as a unit, so to speak.

I am among the old-fashioned geezers who miss our rousing songs of yesteryears.Ateneo’s“Fly High,” La Salle’s “Cheer, Cheer for old De La Salle,” Mapua’s “Trail the Eagle” and San Beda’s “Red and the White”.
Reminiscing deeper on sports, softball was also big in my youth (so was soccer, and I recall TurbaSalvaje), more so in Pasig than in Makati. However, it was in Guadalupe in Makati down by the riverside where I watched Stanvac pitcher Jim Turner’s windmill pitch in one of his widely anticipated duels with San Miguel’s Gorio, with his celebrated occasional change of pace (bentot), causing the batter to swing prematurely and awkwardly. My eldest apo, Rene 3rd, 9, is an avid Cleveland Indians fan (and plays baseball), now rooting for the extra-judicial killing of my beloved New York Yankees.

(Sorry, Tres, the Yanks won yesterday, eliminating the Tribe. Wait till next year.)

Respect for  anthem and flag

Today an issue is respect for the national anthem and flag, in the US. I am anxiousto see how the NBA players would respond when the “Star-SpangledBanner“ is sung and played when it resumes later this month. I read about Ateneo displaying signs at halftime denouncing EJKs last month. It unnerves that the Palace asks: what EJKs?

The issue is big in the US. And we hold our breath anticipating what will happen in the NBA which resumes later this month. Trump disinvited Stephen Curry, inviting Lebron James to call Trump a “bum”.

Here the war on drugs which I see as war against the poor will continue, says the Palace, despite the drop in Digong’s numbers in the polls. Some say the streets are safer now. But, another son of mine said that at the corner of Buendia and Fillmore, near popular Cash N Carry, and not far from where we live, two bodies were dumped during the wee hours last week or so. Not my idea of a population reduction program
San Beda may find it awkward to criticize an alum who’s Prez, and only Leila de Lima and I may be open and regular in criticizing the drug war. I’ll keep insisting that a violent, messy and bloody policy on drugs has not succeeded anywhere in the world. I don’t believe it will succeed here.

And given the funny way Bato de la Rosa and Mart Andanar define EJKs, we’ll continue a failed policy. Einstein said repeating the same thing or mistake again and again and expecting a different result is insanity. Our beloved AB Dean Recay Enriquez would start any meaningful dialogue with — “define your terms.” I majored in English but now we are divided by a common language in defining EJKs.

PACC what?

Digong has created a Presidential Anti-Corruption Commission (PACC), with a ring of permanence, which bothers me. Only Congress may create a regular office. I headed the Citizen’s Ad Hoc Committee (merely, not commish) to probe the 1998 Centennial. My members were Francis “Kiko” Pangilinan, Cora de la Paz, Toto Estuar and the late Al Llorente. Executive Secretary Ronnie Zamora assured me we weren’t vulnerable to a challenge, which never came. PNoy’s Truth Commish was thrashed by a divided Supreme Court on December 7, 2010 for singling out GMA, violating the equal protection clause.

Where will PACC hold office? How much will it cost? Who will be appointed for this expensive additional layer that minimizes the Ombudsman, the Department of Justice, the NBI, the PNP, the CIDG, etc., institutions whose work would be sadly duplicated by the PACC?

The positive approach is to improve the working conditions of those in government, with better pay, health care benefits and pensions.

Prosecute, Prosecute, Prosecute is not the way to go—maybe necessary, but not sufficient—but Improve, Improve, Improve working conditions—the secret of less corrupt societies.

* * *

Condolences to the Abads and the Intengans for the loss of Dina and Fr. Archie respectively.And to the family of Barangay KapitanTotit Ocampo of Navotas, interred the other afternoon.

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