My grandfather on my mother’s side was a great violin player, and my grandmother a piano teacher, so if you can imagine notes floating out of their bedroom, warm summer days spent listening to Vivaldi, Bach, Mozart, Beethoven, that was my childhood.
From the day I was born, my grandfather always imagined that I would play the violin. He’d had one sized just right for me, waiting, waiting, waiting. I’d come over, sometimes for a day, sometimes for weeks, and he’d bring it out.
"Do like this," he’d say, gliding his imaginary bow over strings of whimsy and hope, his head cocked to the left and a wide grin aimed straight at my 7 year-old face.
"No," I’d answer every time. "I want like this," I’d say, my arms stretching back and upward, propelling hoop dreams in an arch towards the highest of typical Pinoy adolescent ambitions: to one day be a professional basketball player.
I don’t remember when he stopped bringing it out of the closet.
Every time I hear the purposeful stirrings of string, I’m reminded of those airy melodies and the unclaimed violin that is now twenty years too small.
Last Sunday, I watched the Ateneo-NU game at the Araneta Coliseum with Grace and my parents. It was a close game up until the early part of the 3rd quarter, when Ateneo started to pull away. (Yes, this year’s Ateneo team takes quite a while to warm up.)
With about 5 minutes left in the 4th quarter and Ateneo with an almost 20-point lead (the Blue Eagles would end up winning 61-39), I looked across Araneta and was disheartened to see clumps of NU fans leaving. I felt that way because I have NEVER left a game before I’ve sung the Song for Mary (Ateneo’s alma mater song).
To new converts to Ateneo basketball, especially those who are currently Ateneo students, I have this (echoing my friend Nate) to say: you guys are spoiled. You’ve been spoiled by 3 consecutive championships and the potential for a 4-peat (but oh, wouldn’t that be glorious?).
I’ve been an Atenean since high school but given that my dad was a member of the Blue Babble Battalion for 8 years (and president twice), I knew all the songs and cheers by heart even before my first day as an Ateneo student.
I joined in the whole high school’s festivities when Enrico Villanueva and Larry Fonacier brought their respective Juniors Teams to the Finals and back with glory. My heart ached when BJ Manalo chose to study at and play for La Salle (and yes, I booed when he stepped onto the court). I rejoiced as the high school team continued to thrive while the Seniors remained in what those of us who lived through it call the Dark Ages of Ateneo Seniors basketball.
I watched as Rich Alvarez came in and with Enrico Villanueva began to bring in a brighter future for the team and the school. I screamed my heart out and left in tears in 2001 when La Salle beat us in the finals. I watched the 2002 Finals and celebrated with the entire school, and then wondered if the previous year was a fluke when the team fell to FEU in 2003. Heartaches continued throughout the mid-2000s. Players came and went, and I watched as some matured into the bruisers you now see playing in the PBA.
And then the 2008 season came and ushered in what looks to be the Golden Age in Ateneo basketball. The time to rejoice is still upon us, and I hope our supremacy continues for years to come.
But what if it doesn’t? What if we fail to match the 4-peat record set by La Salle and UST? What if (knock on wood), for some reason, our glory days are over? Will we leave before the games are done when they seem to be hopeless? Will we stop cheering when we’re down by 20 points?
My favorite lines in our alma mater song are the following: “Through joy and tears, through the laughing years, we sing our battle song. Win or lose, it’s the school we choose, this is the place where we belong.”
In 2001 and 2002, when we weren’t as optimistic about our chances as we are now, our crowd at the Araneta always had “We Believe” banners in hand (I think they said “Wala” at the back for when opposing players had to shoot free throws, but that’s beside the point). Let’s believe even when the stats tell us not to. Let’s believe even when it’s hard.
Whatever happens, I think we ought to finish games and wait until we’ve sung our alma maters until we’re on the verge of cramping up. It’s not enough that you wear Ateneo on your shirt or on your face/head/whatever. You’ve gotta scream your lungs out until the final buzzer and keep your head up even when you’re among the sea of green/yellow/red/etc. on the way back to the parking lot. WIN or LOSE.