On Bonfires, Celebrations and the Fighting Maroons

I feel a need to explain why we’re celebrating the win of the UP Maroons in today’s UAAP men’s basketball game. Not for anyone but for my peace of mind. Or at least for my wife. She had this perplexed look when I cheered with all my heart, and lungs, as the game started. This level of enthusiasm, bordering on insanity, is reserved when her Archers fight for the championship, she must have thought. I would be equally puzzled if it were the other way around. 

I also feel that an isko or iska somewhere out there definitely has better literary skills to write about the reasons for the bonfire, perhaps an isko like Renan Dalisay whose article on how UP basketball players go to games literally hungry served as one of the sparks for the intensified alumni support. Since the article, hashtags started to gain traction in the social media and, more importantly, in the hearts of the UP community — #nowheretogobutUP and #WeBelieve.

By the standards of this material world, celebrating this win is, at best, pathetic. Why would we celebrate a win in a game hyped as the epic battle between the bottom two teams in UAAP Season 77. It’s a battle between two teams with 0 in the win column. The media hype gets worse for the UP Maroons men’s basketball team — it’s an uphill battle by a team with 0 wins in the last 27 games. The last game won by the UP Maroons was in 2012. Are we celebrating mediocrity?

By the standards of the activist world, celebrating this win is, at best, misguided. The Philippines is facing a tsunami of more important issues. PDAF, DAP, corruption, poverty, to name a few. We should not celebrate a win in a basketball game. UP, for all its claim of national relevance, should celebrate more important milestones in our society. A bonfire should be reserved for infinitesimally more important issues like, for staters, the eradication of corruption and poverty. When many are dying in war and hunger, a basketball win remotely deserves a bonfire.

There are a million and one reasons why we should not be celebrating right now. I can think of only one reason to celebrate — #nowheretogobutUP. It’s not about rooting for the underdog. It’s about embracing hope when feeble hearts long stopped believing. Every step forward is a victory. The first step forward rightfully deserves a bonfire.

We should not lose sight of the bigger issues but we must not also forget about celebrating small victories along the way. It’s surprising that we forget to appreciate the little things once we embark on the journey to scale greater heights. It gets harder to pause and smell the [sun]flowers.

There’s nothing wrong in imposing exactly the same rigorous academic standards on athletes and non-athletes alike. JR Gallarza, for one, is running for magna cum laude. But it’s not a good excuse to say that UP has athlete-scholars because trying to carve a distinction between a jock and an athelete-scholar is divisive and, in the end, useless — it still hurts to see our beloved Maroons losing every game. Where excellence is expected, we find that excellence must also be nurtured.

We’ve heard previous UP athletes saying, and rightly so, that they’ve won championships without much help from the alumni. Incidentally, during our law school days, we’ve heard the most senior professors complain that during their time, there was no barops or any bar review assistance from the college, yet UPLaw consistently got 100% passing rate, with topnotchers to boot. We’ve always joked around that the main job of UP Law professors is not to teach, but to terrorize students into learning more. Spoon-feeding is an abomination. The little, yet growing, alumni support for the Maroons is not spoon-feeding. There’s nothing wrong in rallying behind those who are expected to give more in carrying the name of UP in the UAAP.

A win is a win. For me, for those who bravely showed up in the MOA Arena, for those who showed up during the bonfire, for those who painted the social media maroon, for those who vowed to support the Maroons (by donating financially  and physically attending the games), the win is real. Walang basagan ng trip.

Soon there will be more active and visible supporters. Right now we have Senators Chiz Escudero and Sonnie Angara. Or Team Manager Dan Palami who stuck his neck out for the team. Or vocal supporters like Attys. Taipan Milan and Dom Solis. I’m truly sorry if I can’t name every zealous supporter. There are hundreds of them. There will be thousands more.

Championships come at the end. This win is just the beginning. I sincerely hope there is #nowheretogobutUP.

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