“When I would approach the coliseum, my foolish heart would thump wildly. A loss could mean the campus would be in mourning. The heroes got to the mountain top.”
-Rene A.V. Saguisag
Former Senator, San Beda alumnus
Umpa! Umpa! Umpa! Umpa!
Beda Beda Beda Beda Fight Fight Fight!
Hey U Kim Kum Kawa!
I KNOW SO LITTLE ABOUT BASKETBALL. All my life, I have played hoops but once, and that was in freshman high school physical education. It was a fifty-second stint briefly punctuated by a traveling violation. I never tried again.
But then, in the past ten years, since I stepped in the hallowed grounds of San Beda, I have always been an ardent supporter of the Red Lions and the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA).
Even now that I am working, I would not think twice of taking a leave from work so I won’t miss an important game, the same is true with many of our alumni; PLDT/SMART Chair Manny Pangilinan would certainly agree. And, why not? Some people go to spa parlors to regain spent energy. We go to the NCAA games.
I still know so little about fouls, violations, and the rudiments of basketball. I usually wait for other Bedans to clap before I do. (Sometimes I cheer, by mistake, for the opposing team), but I have mastered the art of shouting “defense!”, have memorized every letter and note of our cheers and yells, and have also gotten used to going home with a heavy heart after watching the Red Lions lose in games that they could have handily won.
For twenty eight years since their victory over Ateneo in 1978, the Lions never won a championship. Those were decades of heartbreak and despair. But even the darkest of sagas do end. The story changed two years ago when lady luck smiled and the opposing team’s buzzer-beater shot failed. We won the do-or-die match by a balding man’s hair strand. We grabbed the championship. Our battlecry, End 28 at 82!, was prophetic. We ended 28 years of defeat in Season 82.
I was lucky to be at the Araneta Coliseum when it happened. For a while, I could not believe that we had actually ended nearly three decades of title drought. I only realized that we made it won when a stranger embraced me tightly and we both wept. Indeed, it was a night when you could embrace anybody in red.
From the coliseum, Bedans trooped to the Mendiola campus where a glorious feast was to happen. Food and spirits were flowing like manna and rain from the heavens. Now proudly hangs in my bedroom is the 2006 championship shirt signed that historic night by our heroic cagers, including the gentle giant from Nigeria—Sam “The Ekwelizer” Ekwe, King Lion Yousif Aljamal, Alex Angeles, Pong Escobal, Borgie Hermida, and fellow Ilocano Ogie Menor, who decided to play for San Beda, turning down (and rightly so) the tempting offers of La Salle. This experience is one of the most ecstatic in my life, and this I will keep on retelling until I fade in the sunset (not so soon, I pray, so I can cheer for many more seasons).
Last year, the San Beda Red Lions duplicated the same feat and, in this 84th season of the country’s oldest collegiate league, are gunning for a third-straight basketball title. With either the Letran Knights or the Jose Rizal University Heavy Bombers (who are still battling it out in the semifinals as of press time) at the other side of the bench, the road to a glorious three-peat will not be a cakewalk. Letran, the league’s winningest, boasts of 16 championship victories against San Beda’s 13. JRU, for its part, is the league’s hungriest, having won their last championship 36 years ago, in 1972. So, the Lions can never be complacent, and neither should we, fellow supporters, if we really want to fortify our basketball dynasty.
Now based in the province, I can no longer see the Lions see action in flesh and blood. I will have to be content with watching the games live on television. But I need folks who will join me in believing. I do not want to commit the same mistake when, in a recent San Beda-Letran game, I turned-off the boob tube when there was less than a minute remaining in the fourth quarter and Letran was up by 6 points. Forgetting the Animo! spirit, I was resigned to a defeat, only to find out in the news later on that San Beda had won by 2 points by virtue of a Hail Mary shot in overtime. San Beda’s neighbor in Mendiola, St. Jude, the patron saint of desperate cases, must have done his part as well.
And so I invite fellow Bedans and their families, Bedan-lovers, supporters of the Red Lions, and anybody whose life has been touched by San Beda, including our lawyers here who took the bar review in Mendiola (like my cousin Erme Labayog): Let’s gather together, cheer together, drink together, and, if we lose (God forbid!), weep together. Even if you are not from San Beda if you love good, intense, passionate basketball, please come… and don’t forget to wear red.
Once a Bedan, always a Bedan. Right now, I only have the following names: former Laoag City Councilor and Ilocos Publishing Corporation President Jay Ramos, National Youth Commission Chairman Richard Alvin Nalupta, K. Reyno, D.A. Bitancor, Badoc’s Atty. Philjer Noel Inovejas, Richard Co, Christianne Flores, Mr. Felipe of NCC, and my nephew Jerome Geronimo. I know that a young Fariñas, a son of former City Mayor Cesar Ventura, and a gorgeous varsity debater also attended San Beda but, alas, their names escape me. I am sure Manong Pepoc (Pastor) would also be glad to come had he not gone to the great beyond. He will be our prayer warrior up there, together with Raul Roco whose composition, the “Bedan Hymn”, we shall sing with pride, win or lose.
It will just be the beginning of a rediscovered brotherhood. I hope Ilocano Bedans can organize a group similar to UP Namnama, and contribute to the development of our locality. In the same breath, I hope our universities and colleges in the province can also fortify their sports programs and create an honest-to-goodness league where stars are born, and where school loyalties run deep.
The powwow can be held in my place or yours. It does not matter the venue for as long as we’re together (and there’s beer… and television, of course!). 09297793969 is the number to text or call.