A little over four years ago, I poured my heart out in a one thousand-plus word Facebook post about the dire straits of UP’s men’s basketball team, the UP Fighting Maroons. I wrote then about how the team was “playing hungry, literally,” as my eternally cash-strapped alma mater encountered difficulties in providing the players with meals, lodging, proper equipment, and adequate facilities––in short, the basics needed to have a successful athletics program and the resources required to build a contender.
Back then, as that post started to go viral and I began getting inquiries from friends and concerned alumni about how to help the team, I wondered if this would be the beginning of a sustained alumni effort to support the Maroons. I asked myself if it would be wise to dare to dream––dream of Maroons’ games filled to the rafters with UP students and alumni, dream of a competitive squad that would one day end the University’s decades-long title drought.
Last Wednesday, as the final buzzer sounded in the Maroons’ last game this season, I got my answer. Instead of a half-empty arena, I saw and heard a sea of maroon thunderously cheering for a team that had defied the odds to bring UP to the UAAP men’s basketball finals for the first time in 32 long years.
It was a sight to behold. If the scoreboard did not display the game’s score, one would never have guessed that the UP Maroons had not won the championship that day. If there was disappointment on the part of the UP faithful that skipped work and classes to watch the game, I could not see it, much less hear it. All I saw were UP alumni and students who were bursting with pride, volunteers who had worked so hard expecting nothing in return, and fratmen who had set aside their rivalries for a common cause––a UP community united by 16 individuals and their coaching staff who displayed the best of what UP stands for: giting at tapang, honor and excellence.
For those of us who were there when Nowhere to go but UP (NTGBU) was but a social medianhashtag and not the foundation it is now, there are no words to describe how it feels to see UP––and, to a certain extent, the entire country––embrace the team. When I first saw videos of UP students in different UP campuses around the country celebrating our entry into the finals, it gave me chills. When I heard that UP students and alumni were lining up in the wee hours of the morning to secure tickets for the finals games and that the online ticketing website could no longer handle orders, I could not help but remember those days when we were literally giving away tickets to the games to family, friends, and even to people we didn’t know. When I was told that the foundation was being overwhelmed with orders for Maroons’ merchandise, I recalled the plastic swap watches we were frantically selling in 2014 just to raise funds for the team.
After its first trip to the finals in 32 years, it is tempting to say that the UP Fighting Maroons have arrived, and that the journey myself and a few friends began in 2014 is now over. But for the team, the tireless and dedicated volunteers of NTGBU, and the longime sponsors that have stood by the team all these years, this is what we know: hindi pa tapos ang laban.
Our work is not yet done, and we are just getting started. The hope has always been to fill the stands for every Maroons game, not just the Finals. The dream has always been to win the championship, not just compete for it.
Those of us from UP and those who support and love the Fighting Maroons must continue to hope and to dream, and, more importantly, we must all continue to act. Even as we relish the achievements of this year’s team, we must acknowledge that the UPMBT still needs help to compete with the more well-funded programs in the UAAP. We cannot rest on our laurels, as other teams will also work to improve their teams––they will recruit, they will train, they will try to come back stronger; we must do the same.
To do this, the boys still need all the help they can get, and we at NTGBU will continue to solicit and welcome contributions from those who want to support the team.
After seeing the UP community come out in droves for the team the past few weeks, I am optimistic that we will be able to rally support for the Maroons and for the other varsity teams of the University. If the last four years have taught us in NTGBU anything, it is that any individual who cares enough to try to make a difference, can––and there are many who really care.
Because of this, I truly believe that for the Maroons and the iskolar-athletes of the State U, things are finally looking UP.
Donations for the athletes of UP can be coursed through the website of NTGBU, http://nowheretogobutup.ph/ NOWHERETOGOBUTUP Foundation, Inc. (BPI 0993-0113-39)