Graphics by Renz Palalimpa

Story by Alex Tianco

To address the lack of resources for online classes and training, UP opened its university dormitories to student-athletes for access to stable internet connection and adequate online training spaces.

Out of the 130 student-athletes who applied for a dormitory slot, the UP Diliman Varsity Sports Program (UPDVSP) and team coaches forwarded only 50 names to the Office of Student Housing (OSH) due to strict health protocols. 

But among the 50 athletes approved by the OSH, some opted out of staying after they found out that training in the Sunken Garden and university gyms would not be permitted. 

UP Women’s Football Team member Eunice Eduave was among those who withdrew her name from a dormitory slot. 

Internet connectivity in her province was not stable enough for online training and classes, which pushed her to go back to Manila, Eduave said.

“Knowing then na hindi pwede mag-training doon [sa dorms] parang limited din ‘yung options with how we can train. We can’t even use the facilities [of UP] to train so we decided to try and look for another option,” she added.

In the end, only 27 student-athletes pushed through in the university dormitories since September. 

UPDVSP Chairperson Ralph Ramos explained that the OSH had to select the student-athletes who needed the dormitory the most by taking into consideration their internet access, learning environment and space for online training at their homes.

UP Men’s Baseball Team member Mark Tuballas was among those granted a dormitory slot.

“Hindi kasi ako umuwi sa province [noong nag-start ang pandemic] so sa Katipunan ako napilitan mag-stay pero mahal kasi masyado ‘yung place,… madami pa kami so hindi stable ‘yung internet at wala masyadong space for training,” he shared on his decision to apply for a dormitory slot.

Accepted student-athletes were divided into three residence halls: Acacia and Ipil for males and Balay Atleta for females. Since the OSH accepted regular students as well for dormitory slots, they were forced to open the Sampaguita Residence Hall to accommodate all students and athletes.

With the health crisis, student-athletes are robbed of having face-to-face training. And with the UAAP season on hold, participating universities will have to exert more effort to keep their student-athletes in shape for the possible Season 83 next semester. 

Sacrifices for the ‘new normal’ 

UP Track and Field Team member Peter Lachica has been residing in the Ipil Residence Hall since the start of the community quarantine in Metro Manila.

“Nag-stay na lang ako dito [sa dorm] kahit pandemic kasi mas malaki ‘yung chance ng survivability ko dito. Kumbaga nakakakain ako rito and mayroong matutulugan. Sa amin kasi sa probinsya, wala kaming sariling bahay and ‘yung food doon hindi sufficient,” Lachica said.

Lachica’s plans of coming home to his province were put on hold to attend online classes without adding financial burden to his family.

“Plano ko rin kasi dapat umuwi pero dahil sa ganitong circumstance na magiging online ‘yung class, kailangan mo talaga mag-stay na lang, kasi more likely mas mapapagastos o hindi stable ‘yung internet sa bahay namin,” he said.

Despite the living and lodging accommodations provided by the university, the student-athletes still expressed concerns with the environment and the university’s restrictions. 

Given the noise from construction sites in the university, Tuballas often experienced difficulties in hearing his professor and having his voice heard during synchronous classes.

The University Food Service (UFS) also has limited operation times, posing a problem for dormers like Tuballas.

“Yung dinner usually 4 p.m. dinadala kasi limited ‘yung operation time ng UFS, so pagdating ng mga 8 p.m. wala na ako pwedeng mabilhan kung nagugutom pa ako,” he said.

The current circumstances have also greatly affected their mental well-being, Tuballas added, as he faced the struggles of remote learning and online training on top of the health crisis all by himself in his dormitory.

“Sobrang lungkot na mag-isa sa dorm… may mga times na stressed ka na sa academics tapos wala kang makausap. Mahirap sa online training naman dahil wala kayong physical contact. Iba pa rin ‘yung feeling na may mga kausap ka face-to-face,” he said.

Provisions set by the university

As a safety precaution, student-athletes residing in dormitories would need to follow strict health protocols set by the OSH such as wearing of facemask, sanitizing at the entrance, abiding by the national curfew and using only the room, toilet and shower assigned to them.

They are only allowed to go out for an hour each day to do laundry or buy groceries, since the UFS and UPDVSP managed to make an agreement to provide daily breakfast, lunch and dinner for student-athletes.

Student-athletes can stay at the Balay Atleta for free and at the Acacia Residence Hall at a discount. 

College of Human Kinetics (CHK) Dean Francis Diaz and several varsity teams were able to raise multiple donation drives to provide remote learning resources for student-athletes.

“Ang initiative ng Office of the Dean CHK ay for computers. So basically, naglagay tayo ng mga computer desktops to be shared by our student-athletes doon sa dorms natin ngayon. At least may apat na pwede gamitin ang ating mga dormers na naka set-up doon ngayon,” Ramos said.

The UPDVSP Chairperson also guaranteed that they are doing all that they can not only to help the student-athletes survive, but also to help them flourish in these trying times.

The 27 student-athletes who were granted a dormitory slot are just a few of the many players juggling the demands of being a college athlete during a public health crisis. At the end of the day, the lack of resources to accommodate all 130 student-athletes who requested for a dormitory proves that the university has yet to adapt with the demands of remote learning.

Should remote learning be the primary mode of education in the long run, more student-athletes will be forced to adapt and survive outside the campus given the logistical and financial limitations of the university. 

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