Embrace the challenge

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My rookie season for De La Salle University in the University Athletic Association of the Philippines was overflowing with trials and challenges. But those challenges made me stronger and turned me into the kind of person I am today.

The Philippine Superliga All-Filipino Conference will be starting on Tuesday and I’m really excited to suit up for Petron again.

Yes, we are the defending champions but the previous year is already in the books and it’s now time to embark on a new journey, especially with the emergence of a lot of good teams like Sta. Lucia, Cignal, Foton and, of course, our rival F2 Logistics.

I’m glad that I didn’t give up and became humble enough to embrace and treat them as opportunities for bigger things ahead

As another new conference opens, I just realized how lucky I am to be given this wonderful opportunity of inspiring the youth through volleyball.

Those who know me can attest to the fact that I wasn’t a blue chip recruit.

I was just a typical kid who loves playing “old school” games with my cousins like piko, agawan-base, Chinese garter, chess and scrabble.

We also played badminton and basketball — but never volleyball.

I used to be so skinny and had no trace of athleticism in my body. I grew up not being part of the varsity team until I reached high school.

When I was in high school, they encouraged me to join a sports club — not because I’m good, but just because of my height.

So, I played volleyball.

We were not that competitive. We just trained twice a week and joined in at least two tournaments.

I’ve never been one of the key players of our team. They will just call me whenever there’s a need for a blocker. Even during the Manila meet, the coach of an opposing team, coach Jerry Yee of Hope Christian High School, told me to just simply block it off and put the ball at the other end.

I was a mere bench player.

I was also a late-bloomer because they started fielding me in when I was in fourth year.
Then, a small miracle happened.

Some people were paying special attention on me. If I remember it correctly, the team managers of De La Salle University talked to my parents first before informing me that they want to recruit me to become part of the Lady Spikers.

Ateneo de Manila University also showed its interest.
Suddenly, I was torn.

I prayed hard and asked for a sign whether I would join the Lady Spikers or the Lady Eagles — two powerhouse volleyball programs in the country.

It took only a day before the sign to come.

La Salle told us that the school year would be starting in May so I need to make a decision.

So from there, we talked to Tito Francis Yeung, Tito Irving Sy and Tito Perry Uy, who were all very accommodating.

We had a meeting with coach Ramil de Jesus and coach Noel Orcollo, where they invited me to join them in their finals game against University of Santo Tomas.

It was my first UAAP (University Athletic Association of the Philippines) experience!
But everything didn’t come easy.

At La Salle, I struggled big time because everything was new to me. Contrary to high school in St. Scholastica’s College, training was every day and there were body-conditioning drills in between.

Heck, I even asked the coaches if I could take the water break ahead of everybody because I was so thirsty (LOL!).

I had big shoes to fill, knowing that Jacq is the reigning UAAP Most Valuable Player and Best Server. So, there was a big pressure for me to step up and push myself to the limit.

As time went by, everything got more difficult.

The coaches removed my “rookie discount” and I have to complete all the drills and do the repetitions that my other teammates were doing. Finally, I was part of the team. It’s all for one, one for all.

Personally, I was still struggling.

It was summer and I have to go back and forth from La Salle to our house in Bulacan just to make it to the twice-a-day training.

I had to wake up at 5 a.m. to catch the bus going to 5th Avenue station so I can make it to Taft Avenue in time for the 8:30 a.m. training.

I went home around 7 p.m. just for dinner and rest. That was my routine. It was so difficult.
Another struggle I had was the fact that our key players — Jacqueline Alarca and Stephanie Mercado — were set to graduate.

I had big shoes to fill, knowing that Jacq is the reigning UAAP Most Valuable Player and Best Server. So, there was a big pressure for me to step up and push myself to the limit.

Fortunately, I had very supportive teammates who kept on pushing and motivating me. It was hard to fight alone. But every time I realized that they were at my corner, the burden, the pressure and the struggle of performing my best lightened up a bit.

My parents were also very supportive. They reminded me that nothing comes easy and that I have to work hard if I want to achieve something.

The same with my coaches. They pushed me to my limit, not because they wanted to punish me but because they saw something in me, something that I didn’t see when I was still a skinny kid with no traces of athleticism in my body.

I still vividly remember all those challenges.

I’m glad that I didn’t give up and became humble enough to embrace and treat them as opportunities for bigger things ahead.

Whenever I think of my volleyball journey, I couldn’t help but smile.

I embraced the challenge and learned something from it.

That, for me, was such a golden achievement.

 

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