Animus Part 4 – Five Personal La Salle Basketball Heroes

Contributed by Absolut Verde


No names, only numbers, so you can ask about, especially if you happen to wear them.

5. #9, 2003
Easy to say it’s because of what he did during Game 3 of the four-peat Finals: the 22 points and 13 rebounds, the 11-point fourth quarter, the tie-breaking and-one in the last two minutes, all while helping keep his counterpart down to five points, and all as a UAAP rookie. It’s not. The next couple of years, it was butterfingers in the paint, early foul trouble, ill-advised medium jumpers, and yes, a bit of a temper. If you think we were frustrated after seeing what he could do that first season, you can imagine how it must have been between him and one Franz Pumaren.

But at that season-end party in 2003, the year we went out in the Final Four against Ateneo, as he said goodbye likely with thoughts of two fruitless seasons in his head, he turned to Pumaren and spoke quietly, “Coach, alam kong nahirapan kayo sa akin, pero gusto ko pa rin talagang mag thank you sa inyo.”

Maybe you had to have been there.

4. #10, 1988
That one year watching him play was all it took. He gave everything he had – and some say too much. There are two kinds of supporters, I reckon; those that began supporting in victory, and those that had to first swallow defeat. Most of what I feel about La Salle Basketball I owe to him, our greatest player to have never won a championship. The tip of an arrow that flew fast and true, but not far enough.

3. #9, 1990
We’ve had others like him: for a younger generation, it was #4; even more recently, #6. Players come and go, but those who support La Salle know the prototype: preposterously talented, fiercely loyal to team and tribe, speaks softly and carries a big game. And yet there’s never been another like him, who won title after title, MVP award after MVP award yet will still say 20 years after: “Si Danny Francisco? Yun ang idol ko noon; teammates kami sa RP Youth – pero sabi ko rin sa kanya, kahit saan siya pumunta, di ko siya titigilan.” The King Archer who pulled the sword from the stone, and ruled justly.

So yeah, if he happens to say “we are the championship”, then by golly we are the championship.

2. #9 & #11, 2007
Came in a year apart, left together as champions at the end of that utterly implausible season. Bound by a common fate: to come in heavily recruited then spend years in the wilderness, vilified by their own supporters in the brave new Internet Age; supporters who probably figured that playing for Franz Pumaren every day for five years was not test of character enough.

These two overcame everything – whether because of us or in spite of us, who can know? But of this we can be sure: they won’t be the last Green Archers to begin their UAAP careers miserably. Thus perhaps, a test of character for us:

What is harder, to hold off clicking that “Post” button whenever you feel like ripping into one of our own who plays badly – or to play well with hundreds of your own fans on your back?

1. #16, 1989
My biggest personal hero among the La Salle Green Archers. He doesn’t know me, and we’ve never spoken, but for several years in the early 80s, we attended the same small co-ed school in Alabang and shared a school bus: Niño’s Bus #18, the one that served the Pilar-BF Almanza-Moonwalk route. His younger brother Francis sat with us nearer the back and got teased quite a bit, but he always sat up front beside the driver and a big mate of his named Thady Bidayan. Never said a word; just went about his business and was unfailingly polite (the Thady fellow was a bit more jokey, but also more menacing). Everyone knew he was a varsity player, but it didn’t mean much in those days. It would be a few more years before La Salle would enter the league.

In my freshman year, we lost our very first Finals to Ateneo. He didn’t play much then. He didn’t play much the following year either, when Teddy Monasterio stepped in to fill Dindo Pumaren’s enormous shoes.

In Game 2 of the 1989 Finals, with La Salle facing a bridesmaid finish for the second year in a row, Teddy Monasterio fouled out late in the game. The records show that this unheralded senior, all 5’8, maybe 145 pounds of him, racked up seven points, two assists and a steal in overtime. Actually, who knows what the records show? We know what it felt like: it felt like destiny.

He wasn’t done either. The following year, he took over the starting point guard spot and led the most dominant, breathtaking Green Archers team I’ve ever seen. The team that spoiled La Salle fans and set the bar for an entire generation; pinag-uusapan na lang kung ano ang tambak.

There’s one more thing. He wasn’t a blustery, chest-thumping, scores for fun kind of guy. He played the game in his head, he knew how to be quick without hurrying; most of all he knew how to prepare, how to wait, how to accept his role, and how to always be ready for when the moment came. He wasn’t just a Never Shall We Fail kind of guy – he was a To Do All My Actions For The Love Of You kind of guy. And because of that, when he left all those years ago, you always had a feeling. That if the La Salle Green Archers ever found themselves in the wastelands without a leader and staring down the barrel of a gun, he’d come back and stand up for us all over again.

We’re done now. Thanks for listening, I know it’s been a long day for you. Those of us still young enough to cheer but old enough to remember now realise we have a third duty as well: to be patient enough to teach the next generation of players and supporters. Not by preaching to them or throwing a strop when they happen to offend our old-school sensibilities – or worse, by indoctrinating them in classes. I reckon it’s enough to share some stories and what they mean to us. I found out for certain today that just because you play for the Green Archers, it doesn’t mean you’ve watched Aldeguer, or Ritualo or Allado or Casio or Limpot or the peerless legend that was Arnel Guste. There are folks out there far more obsessive about La Salle Basketball than me, so you can imagine how difficult it is for us to believe that these stories somehow don’t get passed on automatically. In the end, aren’t they all we really have?

Here’s to you, and to a season full of stories.

For Gerry Achacoso, manong-in-arms
QueTePasa, compañero extraño
Ceci and Roly FSC, dearly missed

23 June 2012
Tagaytay Highlands

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