“Honestly, I think this is a bit too much.”
Fil-Canadian JR Gallarza scanned the crowd at the UP Sunken Garden before shouting for drinks, the promised bonfire blazing far out the field. He made 24 points, six rebounds, three steals. 8-for-12 shooting. It’s a high for his career, and a high for his team and the UP community as they snapped a 720-day victory drought in the UAAP.
“To be honest, I feel kind of disrespected and insulted that all the hype was coming to this game when it was two winless teams going at it,” he earlier told media after beating Adamson. “And it took that to bring out all of the UP crowd.”
The bonfire celebration seemed excessive for him. It was just one win, and everyone has gathered on campus as if 1986 happened. Ateneo, known for that brand of sporting revelry, had to win a championship before bringing out the wood and booze at their side of Katipunan.
But as UP Maroons team manager Dan Palami said, the celebration was not for the win, but for a dismal era’s end.
No, it’s not the celebration of UP’s 1st win this season… We are celebrating the end of a 26-game losing streak! pic.twitter.com/gQgvivtupk
— dan stephen palami (@dscpalami) August 9, 2014
“Nalalaman naman ng team na the whole team is supporting them, and that’s what we’ve been trying to drum up,” Palami told media. “That’s why nandito tayo to encourage lahat ng sectors ng UP community: students, faculty, the alumni most especially.
For UP Diliman chancellor Michael Tan, bonfire was an apt celebration “first because it has been so long but it’s also a realization na this win comes because the team worked so hard and everyone pitched in,” citing administration support and a “broad segment of alumni coming in.”
“Let’s face it, naging butt of jokes na ang UP varsity players and I kept telling them na you’re going to win, and they did win today,” he told media.
It’s a grand gesture for a relatively simple feat, with no precedent for teams who have won silverware for the national university in the past few years. But Tan said this celebration is not just for basketball, stating they also intend to highlight achievements made by UP’s other varsity teams. “Pero siyempre ito ang pinaka-visible kaya mahalaga.”
“To survive in UP as a varsity player, you have to have brains and guts and everything else. and that is not an asset in the competitions because in the competitions it’s mainly brawn,” he said. “Ours have shown that you can have brain and brawn.”
Isko and Iska, young and old alike, kept arriving at Sunken Garden even after the UP Maroons have already come gone, long after a euphoric College of Human Kinetics dean Ronnie Dizer quipped “pwede na tayong matalo uli ng sampung beses bago ang isa pa” and took it back, moments after Johnoy Danao appeared with a guitar and sang a handful of songs from the grandstand.
They gathered around the bonfire, took photos, sat on the field, stared at it. Some scratch their heads and laugh that this happened, Nobody knows when this would happen again.
There was a bonfire for just one win, but apparently it was a win that meant a lot.
As game top-scorer Mikee Reyes said on stage, “Kahit isa pa lang iyon, we have to start somewhere.”