The University of the Philippines Fighting Maroons pulled off a last-minute miracle against Far Eastern University in the playoffs, but awaiting them in the championship was University of the East. The Red Warriors had won three of the last four UAAP championships, including the last two, and were heavily favored going into the finals. UE had the twice-to-beat advantage by virtue of finishing on top of the elimination round. Even though top gunner Allan Caidic was no longer with the team, the Red Warriors still had the best big man in the UAAP, Jerry Codiñera.
V. “We had to do something to neutralize Jerry Codiñera, so we had to put up a zone.”
Joey Guanio (1st Year Forward): We had a very good record. I think we only had three losses. [But we had] two bad losses from UE na talagang big losses.
Eric Altamirano (4th Year Guard): Nung una tingin namin sa UE invincible, parang hindi namin matalo. Everytime we play them, tambak kami.
Guanio: Yung second round loss namin sa kanila, we really prepared for it in such a way na before the game, they brought us to Westin Philippine Plaza, to Sofitel, just to inhale the breeze of the ocean. Parang ganyan, to relax before the game. Pagdating namin dun all of us were in a bus, we were brought to Rizal Memorial. Yun, tinambakan kami ng bente agad.
Altamirano: UE was the No. 1 team. They were almost unbeatable, so first and second round talagang walang makatalo dyan.
Guanio: Losing twice to them in the regular season and coming up in the playoffs with the twice-to-beat advantage parang it looked so bleak for us to win the championship.
Altamirano: And then, when we came back from Korea, si Coach Joe had a good game plan, strategy, how to beat UE. So for the first time we practiced that. So parang, na-feel ko na, “Wow, maganda ‘to, I think magugulat ang UE.” Parang we’ve never done that against UE before, so I felt confident that this time we’re going to beat them, kasi nga we had a good game plan.
Benjie Paras (1st Year Center): They needed to prove na they’re still the best. So kami naman, parang we’re the challenger. So kami nothing to lose. We just need to play the way we want to play and no pressure. Yun lang.
Altamirano: UE was so good in man-to-man because of Jerry Codiñera. We had to do something to neutralize Jerry Codiñera, so we had to put up a zone. Meron kaming zone defense na pinag-aralan and that neutralized Jerry inside. And then Coach Joe asked us to speed up the game.
Guanio: Coach Joe had to put in some new ideas, we had to cram, we had to practice twice, 7 a.m to 9 a.m. and 6 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. Everyday yun before the UE game.
Altamirano: Game One, I felt we really controlled the game eh. So, again, parang nabulaga yung UE, hindi nila alam what hit them, they could not adjust, so parang, para sa akin, it was a convincing win.
Joe Lipa (Head Coach): Joey Mendoza, I remember, played a very important role in the first game.
Paras: When you win the first game, nasa inyo na yung lahat ng momentum eh. So nasa ‘yo na lahat nung parang pabor. Saka mataas na yung morale namin nun.
Ronnie Magsanoc (4th Year Guard): Fear, pressure, when you make it that far, you are motivated by the chance to win eh. So, alam mo minsan ‘di mo alam kung ano pakiramdam, ‘di mo alam kung ano tawag, kasi bata ka pa eh. All I know, syempre kabado ka. ‘Di naman pwedeng buo loob mo dahil bata ka pa nun
Altamirano: Nung second game na, parang alam na [ng UE] yung ginagawa namin, so the game was close in the first half.
Joe Lipa: Ronnie Magsanoc, I think, was suffering from flu during that championship game.
Chito De La Vega (Inquirer Sports Reporter): Maraming tao nun [nung second game]. Relatively bagong stadium pa noon ang ULTRA, kaya lang malayo siya, wala pang masyadong biyaheng jeep papunta nun e. Hindi nga lang sa Araneta, hindi siya televised live, hindi ko lang alam kung televised siya as it is.
Altamirano: Si Coach Joe, galit na galit siya nung first half, kasi feeling niya niluluto kami ng mga referees, so he was really on his feet, he was shouting to the referees, he was complaining a lot, and he was like [trying to pick] a fight, so it was chaotic in the first half. And then when we went back to the dugout, nagulat ako, nag-iba yung demeanor ni Coach. “Atin na ‘to.” And I heard him say that, I felt more confident, na he knows what he’s doing, and he knew that we could beat this team, that inspired me also na I’m going to do my best in the second half.
Magsanoc: [After the game], nung nagtayuan yung mga tao, si Benjie umakyat din dun sa may officials’ table eh. So yun ang natatandaan ng mga tao. Saka nakita ko yung UP, wala namang pumunta sa ‘tin nun eh [sa simula]. Pero when we started winning, people started coming and eventually they filled up the PhilSports Arena, dati Ultra pa yun. So nakita ko rin sila.
Tessa Jazmines (UP Professor): The hero of that game, yung championship game na yun, was Eric Altamirano. So he won that game for UP. Right after the game, he drove all the way to Rizal Memorial to play another basketball game for the Yco Painters. Sa PABL pa nun.
Altamirano: I think I almost played the whole game sa UP, but because my adrenaline was really pumping, and it was a new team for me, I had to rush to the next game. We were playing Purefoods, team noon sa PABL. And the game went into overtime, and I remember, ako pa yata nag-best player dun sa game na ‘yun. I had to make a three-point shot to tie the game. So parang, “Wow naman,” it was really a special day for me.
Lipa: In the championship series, Benjie Paras was exceptional, and Eric Altamirano. Joey Guanio shot very well, but in the second game, I think most of the workload of the team was taken care of by almost of all the players, everybody contributed well.
Magsanoc: It’s all about team effort and everybody should be credited for what we achieved during that particular year. It was a special time and that was a special group and a very good coach and a very good coaching staff to help us reach the promise land.
Paras: After ng championship, we went to a Chinese restaurant, I forgot the name na. So dun, dun kami pinakain ng alumni. Nagkaroon ng party, parang celebration magdamag.
VI. “It was so big then. Nasa front page kami ng mga newspapers.”
Lipa: [UP president] Edgardo Angara was very happy, and there was one special day for the UP team. There was a parade, and all of the team players were recognized. There was a celebration sponsored by alumni, especially the Sigma Rho fraternity during that time.
Magsanoc: Merong parade, yun naaalala ko yun. Kasi ang UP is not known for sports eh, at wala rin namang recognition sa mga athletes during our time. After we won it, sinara ang UP, sinakay kami sa bus na malaki, lahat kami, tapos din-rive yun dahan-dahan. As usual, yagit pa rin (laughs). Pero para sa ‘min, malaking bagay na yun.
Jazmines: May bonfire, parang yung [UP] centennial [celebration]. Parang ganun kasaya. First time na fireworks syempre, ganun.
Paras: We were recognized in front of the Oblation. Dun kami nag-celebrate tapos dun din ginawa yung bonfire. We were introduced, and that for me is one of the best na naramdaman ko, all of the UP students were there supporting [us].
Altamirano: It was so big then. We were in the front page, nasa front page kami ng mga newspapers, ganun. Tapos nasa column page kami, they were talking about that, kasi nga 48 years eh. So I think for a month ‘ata it was all over the papers, magazines, and we were invited for interviews.
Lipa: It was historic, and everybody was celebrating. We all find the team in the headlines; even non-sports writers and non-sports columnists wrote about the game. One of the most remembered statements was, “It was a victory which was felt in these walls of progress as well as in the Cordillera’s mountains.” Everyone celebrated.
Guanio: It was really big kasi finally, after 48 years of nothing, we finally won something in ’86. After that, yung team, we were brought to Hong Kong. I think may mga holidays tayo nun after nung championship.
Altamirano: What I cherish most is, when we won the championship, sobrang bait sa amin ng UP, na binuksan sa amin yung schedule ng classes. So parang for the first time, “O, pili ka ng teacher mo, pili ka ng time mo.” Eh ako naman, ang goal ko noon, magtapos na ako. So I [took a] full load. Kasi hindi kami allowed mag-full load eh. So when we won the championship, sabi ko, I’ll focus na on my studies, I want to graduate, so full-load na ako, nag-21 units na ako, tapos napili ko ‘yung mga teachers ko, oras ko, kasi alam mo yun, ang hirap kumuha eh, pipila ka eh. Yun yung isa sa mga privileges na na-enjoy ko.
Magsanoc: Noon pa man, maski bata ako nun, naisip ko nun na this could probably be a good starting point para sa mga student-athletes in the future. Finally, maiintindihan ng mga professors na una, meron naman palang sports sa UP. Pangalawa, meron naman palang mga student-athletes na pwede namang mag-excel kahit papaano, at saka pangatlo, pwede nilang suportahan at bigyan ng kahit papanong tulong yung mga atleta na estudyante dahil napakahirap mag-aral at maglaro sa UP.
VII. “My agreement with UP was to deliver a championship. And after delivering the championship, I retired from UP.”
Guanio: After ’86, Eric did not play anymore. He wanted to graduate so he pursued his studies. Todo na. Nag-full load na siya.
Altamirano: I still had one more year, pero I decided nga not to play na, to concentrate on my studies na.
Guanio: Joey Mendoza was a graduate na, wala na siya. Duane Salvaterra wala na. Marami. Tatlo nawala.
Paras: Marami nang nawala and then nag-resign si Coach Joe.
Jazmines: Hindi naman, “I resign.” Hindi naman siya gumanun after nanalo, tapos the next day, [nag-resign]. May kaunting [pagitan].
Lipa: My agreement with UP was to deliver a championship. And after delivering the championship, I retired from UP.
Paras: And then, naging iba na yung sistema, kumbaga parang hindi na ganun kaganda yung pag-co-coach.
Magsanoc: Bumalik pa kami. Naglaro pa ako ng isa pang taon.
Guanio: We were doing well with Ronnie, Ronnie Magsanoc, ako, si Benjie, and the rest of the guys, we were doing well during the season. Si Coach Joe na naman yung naging coach ng national team, tapos nagpa-tryouts sila, tapos nakuha kami. So tatlo kaming nawala: ako, si Benjie, tsaka si Ronnie. We were all included in the national team during the UAAP season.
Magsanoc: Eventually, the scheduling derailed us because there were several games that were scheduled na wala kami, we were in the Southeast Asian Games, but that was no excuse.
Guanio: During that time, we incurred losses that were crucial to our standings. So ang nangyari nun, I think Ateneo was the host that year. May mga games na na-schedule na wala kami. I think that year natalo kami sa NU. Because of the stint in the national team, na-compromise yung standings natin. So ‘di tayo nakapasok.
Lipa: I think they got third place during the 1987 season.
Guanio: The format was top two. Wala namang final four. If there had been a final four, okay sana. Tapos I remember there was a game, we were coming from the SEA games from Indonesia, on that same day, we had a game against Adamson. So, pag-uwi namin, pagdating sa airport, we had to rush sa Rizal Memorial. Ronnie was sick because of the trip from Indonesia, we lost that game. Crucial din ‘yon. So I think we lost two when we were not here, tapos one when we arrived. So yun ang nangyari.
Paras: I played for three years, and then I turned pro.
VIII. “It’s easily ten years behind now compared to programs of other schools.”
Lipa: I would say that the UP program [today] is on the right track. I would say that they are up tuned with the equipment landscape. But as far as the program of UP is concerned, I think it’s easily ten years behind now compared to programs of other schools. Because all other schools like La Salle, FEU, and Ateneo, they have good recruits which would last them for the next eight years, or maybe six years, while UP only started recruiting well only last year.
Magsanoc: I think it all boiled down to understanding that it was so tough to get there, so you might not be able to go there anymore. So you hold on to the belief that you have to make the most out of it, because for all you know you will not be able to go there again. In the last 25 years UP has not been there again.
This article was first posted in InterAKTV.ph.