by Denise Valdez
For the longest time the UP community was accustomed to losing every upcoming game. The University Athletic Association of the Philippines (UAAP) opens in July, but school pride only comes in September, when it is time for the Cheerdance Competition.
One could say UP was at the lowest of lows.
The university was not just the school at the bottom of the basketball rankings; it was also the team with the least number of supporters.
Unless UP students were taking cheerleading for PE and were required to cheer for the team, Iskolars would rather root for other schools during game days. The names of Kiefer Ravena, Bobby Ray Parks Jr. and Jeric Teng were more familiar to UP students than the university’s own Mikee Reyes and JR Gallarza.
But what not many people realize behind UP’s losing track record is the helpless case of its varsity teams. While other collegiate players enjoy the luxury of high-end gymnasiums, our athletes settle with the UP Gym, which has broken lockers, dirty restrooms and damaged equipment.
There was nowhere to go but up, and 2014 signaled the start.
In one of the days of 2014, UP alumnus Renan Dalisay had scheduled a meeting with Poch Juinio. Juinio told him he’s running late because he will still be feeding some boys.
“Sabi ko, ‘Sino ba yang pakakainin mo? Ba’t di mo na lang dalhin sa house?’ So sinama niya. ‘Yung sinama niya, basketball players pala. Assistant coach pala siya ng UP basketball team,” Dalisay said, recalling how it started.
Dalisay was still a student when UP last won the UAAP men’s basketball championship in 1986. He has been a fan ever since.
In that meeting, the players told Dalisay of their plight. They shared the problems they encounter as varsity such as electricity outage in dorms and cuts in their allowance.
“Sabi ko sa kanila, ‘Masarap kayong tulungan kasi you have nowhere to go but up. Zero wins eh,” said Dalisay.
So he committed, “Di kami mayaman, my friends hindi rin mayaman, but I can assure you I can help you build a community that will little by little support you.”
And he did.
Three weeks after that meeting, he wrote about the predicament of the men’s basketball team on Facebook which immediately went viral. Messages flooded him from people who wanted to help.
This incident prompted the birth of nowheretogobutUP, a group of UP alumni who initially supported the men’s basketball team and later expanded to help other varsity teams as well.
They started off as a Facebook page who shared photographs and support statements for varsity teams on game days. They became an easily accessible means to direct financial support from anyone to the Fighting Maroons.
Support used to be as simple as members taking turns in hosting the recovery meal for the varsity teams after their games, but since its formation, the group has now offered as much help as donating a coaster and a bus.
It was not easy, however. As a state university, UP is demanded by the government a financial report by the Commission on Audit of all transactions within the campus.
“Hirap na hirap kami dito sa UP na i-channel ang assistance because of the bureaucracy… Kaya sabi namin, i-formalize na natin ‘to as a foundation,” Dalisay said.
They also built a facility online for the alumni coming overseas to help more easily through PayPal and credit card.
After two years, they finally launched the nowheretogobutUP Foundation Inc. in Aug. 20 at the Bahay ng Alumni.
Both UP alumni and officials gathered to support the endeavor founded by Dalisay and his team.
Up to this date, financial help continue to come for UP’s varsity teams. Some benefactors have even committed to send support on a regular basis.
Compared to two years ago, the attention given to the Fighting Maroons has drastically changed.
All UP teams applaud this initiative run by a group of alumni who simply wanted to pay back to its alma mater.
However, Dalisay’s vision for nowheretogobutUP stretches beyond sports. In fact, to him, the UP varsity teams are the ones to thank for all that has happened since its foundation.
He sees the project as a way to finally unite UP alumni more easily in pursuit of giving back to the university.
Sports is only a uniting factor to grab attention, said Dalisay, but there is much more help that the university could use from its rich and diverse pool of alumni.
Without a doubt, much has changed since that day in 2014 for the lives of our scholar-athletes.
All it took was someone to listen to their stories, and such is the vision for the rest of UP.
Iskolar ng Bayan simply have to remember and live after the words of UP’s own anthem: “Malayong lupain amin mang marating, ‘di rin magbabago ang damdamin.”