ONE BIG FIGHT. The Ateneo community comes together to celebrate with their champion teams. Photo by Martin San Diego/Rappler
MANILA, Philippines – Katipunan Avenue was on party mode as the Ateneo de Manila University held a bonfire party in celebration of its UAAP Season 80 first semester champion teams on Saturday, December 9.
Although the bonfire is done yearly to commemorate Ateneo’s champion student-athletes, the university held an extra special first semester-ending bonfire as hundreds of students, faculty, administrators and alumni flocked the university's Grade School grounds to celebrate the Blue Eagles men’s basketball team’s first title in 5 years.
The Men’s Judo Team and the dominant men and women of the Swimming Team were also honored at the event. But as expected from a basketball country, the men’s ballers were the focus of the celebrations.
After a highlight reel featuring every player’s best moments in Season 80, the new champs were then introduced one after the other by Ateneo alum and resident UAAP barker Rolly Manlapaz. Some were cheered louder than the rest, including clutch machine Isaac Go, sharpshooting point guard Matt Nieto and the Finals Most Valuable Player and Mythical Five member, Thirdy Ravena.
Through interviews onstage, the Blue Eagles amused the crowd with stories of their hardships and triumphs, including Matt and Mike Nieto’s own lifelong journey as twins through Ateneo.
“Sobrang sarap ng journey,” said Matt. “Pero pinakamasarap yung bonfire ngayon kasi dream come true sa amin ni Mike ‘to. Kasi nung bata pa kami, pinapangarap lang naming umakyat dito sa stage kaharap ng buong Ateneo community, and now, it’s really happening.”
(The journey is really sweet, but this year’s bonfire is the sweetest because it’s a dream come true for Mike and I. When we were kids, we only dreamed of coming up the stage facing the entire Ateneo community and now, it’s really happening.)
Others like Ravena used their time to shower thanks upon the fans and coaches.
“Marami po talagang pinagdaanan, pero ‘pag iniisip mo na gustung-gusto mo talagang ilaro para sa Ateneo community, ibibigay mo talaga para sa kanila. Gagawin mo lahat,” he said.
(There were really a lot of struggles, but if you think that you really want to play for the Ateneo community, you’d really give it all and do it all for them.)
There were also a lot of lighthearted moments, like the time Gian Mamuyac was asked whether he preferred his block on an NBA MVP (Steph Curry during a Taiwan exhibition) or a UAAP MVP (Ben Mbala during Game 3 of the Finals). Quivering in front of the massive crowd, the 18-year old rookie said, “UAAP.”
After the interviews, graduating team captain Vince Tolentino finally lit up the bonfire before the singing of the school hymn "Song For Mary". The night ended with fireworks across the sky as loud Atenean chants boomed into the night. – Rappler.com