The day I let UP down

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    (An Open Letter to Coaches Bo, Ricky, Poch and Rodney)

    WHEN I woke up at 4 a.m. yesterday, Thursday, my thoughts immediately went to Coach Bo and his coaching staff. Especially after seeing the start of what I expect to be a torrent of negative comments from many a disappointed UP fan both here and abroad. So I decided to pen a text to them, which I revised and lengthened a bit to become an FB post and which I reproduce here, with some additions:

    To Coach Bo/Ricky/Poch/Rodney: I can imagine how you’re feeling this morning. I know you have plans for the team, from recruitment to development to training, and I know they’re all up in the air today, the future uncertain. And I know you’ve felt, if not heard or read, the anger being expressed by many a UP fan – student, faculty, alumni – who see no reason why we should go down in defeat and not take home the crown.

    To think that for years we couldn’t even win half of our games and for the last two years straight we’ve finally made it to the Final Four/Finals. I know this. My whole life has been witness to the decades when we were in the UAAP wilderness, save for a year or two of hope.

    This, though, also explains the extreme disappointment. Many an Isko and Iska would like to have the honor of witnessing a UP team bag the championships during their own lifetime! I personally would like to experience that at least once more as well.

    But yes, I know how you feel the day after the dream came to an end because in my own lifetime I’ve let UP down before.

    In 1988 I was team captain of the UP Jessup Moot Court team. Moot Court is a competition between law school teams that take separate sides and argue international law disputes before a panel of judges, first at the national level to select a national team, and then in the United States for the international competitions.

    That year we lost to Ateneo in the finals for the right to represent the Philippines in Washington DC. I remember that I sobbed in private that night somewhere in the campus of Ateneo where the finals were held, as I felt the whole world collapse. It was one thing to lose when you’re competing for yourself, but it was worse for me because I was carrying the name of the only school I’ve known since birth.

    Added to the disappointment and embarrassment of the defeat was a lost opportunity: not only did I let the University down, I also lost a chance to fly to the East Coast and see Washington DC for the first time in my life!

    Lucky for me there were no catcalls or angry posts on social media (which mercifully didn’t exist then) figuratively calling for my head. Or at least no one from among the UP Law community ever said anything to my face. And also at least in my case only the UP Law community was aware of the debacle; in your case it’s the UP community that’s involved, and it’s global!

    I didn’t want to wake up the next day. And the day after and the days after. For weeks I was depressed. Summer came, and I was thinking “The team should have been in the US by now…”

    Then one day that summer the phone rang. It was Divine, the secretary of my ex-boss Rene Cayetano. Cayetano had met Enrique Zobel at a party the night before and Zobel mentioned that he needed an executive assistant. Cayetano had suggested me! He now wanted me to go to his office at PECABAR so we could go to see Enrique Zobel together. So I dressed up, went to Makati and we both drove to Enzo Building.

    After a short interview, Enrique Zobel hired me and the rest, as they say, is (personal) history.

    It’s only looking back, years after the “debacle,” that I could look at that defeat from a different perspective. Guess what: if we had won, I would have been in Washington DC and unable to receive the call from the office of Atty. Cayetano. And so, it is very likely that I would never have worked for Zobel. Working with him is what eventually led me to Coke and Coke led me to the PBA and it was because of the PBA that I had the privilege of meeting and working with all of you.

    And with Gerard Francisco and Franciz A. Allera of UST, James Carlos Yap, Rudy Briones Lingganay and James Vincent Martinez of UE; with Kenneth Celera Duremdes of Adamson and Johnny Abarrientos and Leo Avenido and Cesar Catli Jr. and RJ Rizada of FEU; with Gec Chia and Chris and Charles Tiu of Ateneo, with Jvee D. Casio of La Salle, and everyone else too many to name here.

    Not only that: working for Zobel and for Coke led me to seeing the world, including Washington DC many times over. It was my UP education and training and yes, even that defeat, that got me to where I’ve ended up.

    So yes, I let UP down that summer a long time ago. It was unbelievably bitter then, perhaps the worst day in all my 20-plus years as a proud UP student.

    But I guess there was a Divine Plan?

    I love you all. As a longtime UP Maroons fan I am deeply disappointed we didn’t get as far as I hoped. But as someone who has witnessed the years in the wilderness I am proud of how far we’ve come.

    I, like every UP Maroons fan, will have to learn to accept the defeat. For some of us that will take time. And for sure it will be more difficult for you.

    But life tells me there’s a reason out there.

    Time for golf?

    (PS: The Divine Plan was not just for me: the UP Jessup Team the next year was captained by teammate Carlos Sorreta. They beat Ateneo and moved on to Washington DC. Guess what: they beat everyone else and came home the champions! Oh, and Carlos Sorreta is now His Excellency Carlos Sorreta, Philippine Ambassador to the Russian Federation!)

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