We Watched Game 3 In Cabanatuan, or Things We Do For School Spirit

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If I were to make a list of “crazy shit I did in the name of school spirit,” running around SM Cabanatuan looking for a TV to watch Game 3 of the UAAP Season 80 Finals would top the list.

We were on the way home from a reunion with college friends Baler. We had all studied in Ateneo during the five-peat years, and we had all been in Araneta Coliseum for Game 2. When La Salle took control of that game, we looked at each other: “Manonood tayo sa stopover.”

Like any Atenean who spent afternoons in Shakey’s Katipunan would, we called up the Shakey’s in SM Cabanatuan to ask if they had a TV. They did, but we should have asked if it actually worked. Ugh. But that’s okay. We magis-ed our own set up, livestreaming the game on an iPad that we had propped up on a pizza stand.

“First year mo ba naman, nag-champion, tapos against La Salle pa? Feel na feel mo ‘yung rivalry,” asked Bernice, a digital team manager at a local TV network. “Actually mahina naman La Salle for most of the time we were in college, pero masaya lang panoorin silang matalo.”

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Like our metabolism, some things changed since we graduated. We used to watch Norman Black coach, now we watch his son play. We used to cheer for Kiefer, now we say “Thirdy, lodi!” But just like our appetite for mojos, some things haven’t changed. Ateneo-La Salle games are still our favorite. We still say “Uy si Fr. Dacanay!” when he appears on TV. Also, um, Kris Porter’s still there!

We still lose sense of time and place during the game. When Ateneo took an early lead, I had a vague sense of hearing, “Paabot ng ketchup. Girl, paabot ng ketchup. Yung ketchup!” for about ten seconds before it registered. When Anton Asistio made that Derek Fisher three to close the first half, we yelled before clapping our hands to our mouths and smiling sheepishly at the families trying to enjoy their Sunday out.

Maybe the endurance of school spirit is a function of nostalgia. We each had our favorite players from the five-peat. “Kiefer talaga,” quipped Guio, now living the corporate life. “Naaalala ko pa yung nag-six three points siya versus NU. Akalain mo, six straight plus a four-point play. Nineteen points sunod-sunod!”

After five title-less years following the five-peat, we’re no longer as belligerent with our school spirit before. “Atin ‘to,” may be the battle cry of many UP fans this season, but after seeing Ateneo lose a 21-point lead in Game 2, we had trust issues going into the second half.

The last truly dominant year of the five-peat was the fourth, AKA Greg Slaughter’s graduating year. “After that, alam mong pahirapan na,” we mused, stuffing our faces with mojos to distract from the Green Archers taking the lead.

“Saan na kape ko? Actually wag na, nasusuka ako.”

When you go from your team basically owning the UAAP for your entire college life, do struggling years bore you or do you become even more invested in the possibility of a comeback? For our group of twenty-somethings huddled around a small screen in Cabanatuan, it was the latter and we were entranced.

It’s one thing to watch Ateneo cream La Salle during their time of weakness. It’s another thing to watch Ateneo fight for every lead change against the defending champs, to scream for Isaac Go clutch shots, to see Thirdy Ravena’s bloody jersey. Or maybe we just missed bonfires that much.

When it became clear in the last minute that our wish would be granted, we started bopping like Norman Black and finishing the last of our food. We pointed our phones at the screen, faking crying sounds: “Thank you Isaac GOAT, Thirdy, Coach Taaaaab!” Then we surprised ourselves with a newfound maturity (?) when talking about La Salle. When their last two threes went in, bringing them within two points by the final buzzer, we weren’t even mad.

“In fairness ha, galing nila,” we said. “Baka kung baliktad, hindi napasok ng Ateneo ‘yung mga tres na ‘yun.” When did we get gracious? But it was only for a moment, and we were back to taking selfies with the iPad and making plans for first bonfire since graduation. As we hit the road, leaving behind the locals laughing at the crazed out-of-towners who lost their shit in a Shakey’s where nobody else cared, we kept cheering.

“Cabanatu-ONE BIG FIGHT!”

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Photos from the author

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