This is not a story about a championship. It is, instead, the story of a rivalry whose beginnings have receded into mythology – Eagles and Archers, titans of college basketball, fighting for glory and honor in a tradition that has gone down generations. They are the stuff of legend. Gladiators. Heroes. Giants. They are larger than life, in a country where a basketball bounces at every street corner.
Written by Patricia Evangelista, with Rodneil Quiteles and Ryan Songalia
12:59 PM, Nov 19, 2014
Design by Dominic Go
Graphics by Emil Mercado
Layout by Michelle Fernandez
Video by Patricia Evangelista / Photography by Rxandy Capinpin
The bleachers were still full, the lines were just as long, but for the first time in 20 years, the coliseum was empty of blue or green.
The eagles were shot out of the sky – and not by arrows cocked by archers.
But this is not about this year’s games, not even about the game. This is instead the story of a rivalry whose beginnings have receded into mythology. Grown men have wept at the sound of a buzzer. Priests have fallen to their knees. There have been many rivalries in Philippine basketball, but there is only one that has lived as long or burned as bright.
The language swings into hyperbole every time the story is told – Eagles and Archers, titans of college basketball, fighting for glory and honor in a tradition that has gone down generations. They are the stuff of legend. Gladiators. Heroes. Giants. They are larger than life, in a country where a basketball bounces at every street corner.
The players who speak here are some of the best their schools have seen. Their on-court exploits live on in memory. Lim Eng Beng on a scoring spree. LA Tenorio's stepback triple. Jeron Teng going coast-to-coast, slashing through the defense. Kiefer Ravena snatching for the ball, hitting a buzzer-beating, game-winning jumper.
Although many of them have gone on to play professional ball, all of them say their years in college were the greatest and grandest of their careers. They will forever be Eagles or Archers, regardless of which jerseys they wore after. It is an identity, a lasting one, so strong that a dying cancer patient in his sixties will say he is alive because he is an Archer, so deeply that it’s possible to slam a baseball bat into the back of a car because of a green sticker on the windshield.
These are players who have been traded and sold to one team after another, playing to half-empty stands, wearing jerseys stamped with hotdog and beer brands, performing for the cameras as glorified corporate mascots. They may have been mercenaries, but once upon a time they wore green and blue as warriors willing to die for king and country. Every day, they remember how it feels to pound down center court with a thousand voices screaming their names.
The game is always on for the green and the blue. Boom go the drums, swish goes the net, the roaring and the howling and the rubber squeak of nerves on hardwood, seconds ticking, no quarter, no mercy, make ‘em pay, make ‘em weep – Animo, boys and girls. One big fight.
LIM ENG BENG
Point Guard. 1971 - 1974
Brought La Salle its first title in 15 years – as a college freshman
Broke and continues to hold all NCAA records
Believes missing a free throw is a cardinal sin
Has never missed a free throw in his college career
Lim Eng Beng tells Rappler his story
When I was 5 or 6 years old, we were staying in a squatter’s area in Tondo, Manila. I came from a very, very poor family. Basketball changed my life.
I never took advantage of La Salle, all I asked for was a scholarship. And I gave La Salle everything they wanted – championships, whatever. I gave them two championships, two 3rd places. Which is not a very bad record for La Salle.
There was only one dream that I had. I’m telling you now, I never tell anybody. I wanted to give a house and lot to my family, especially to my parents. I couldn’t face my father and mother. I could have asked it from La Salle, but I could never do that, I’m not that kind of player. All I wanted was to win championships – and a house and lot.
That’s what I sacrificed for La Salle. I want to tell you all that I have not only sacrificed myself physically and emotionally during the time in 1974 playing for La Salle. I sacrificed two house and lots for La Salle.
In 1973, before the ‘74 season, I was offered by Crispa a house and lot in exchange for leaving La Salle. It was in Quezon City, in Apple Street. And I loved La Salle so much, I turned down the house and lot.
Not only that, as season 1974 went on, the championship game was between La Salle-Ateneo. A syndicate offered me a house and a lot to throw the game. And I still turned down the house and lot. I gave La Salle a championship.
I’m saying this now because my time is limited already. The doctor gave me three years to live. If I had never been diagnosed with cancer, I wouldn’t have given up basketball. It’s in my blood.
The time I was playing for La Salle, up to when I retired, up to the present time, I never let down La Salle. I always make sure everything that I do would make La Salle proud. That’s why I’m still surviving now, because of my attitude of being a La Sallite. I did not let down La Salle without a fight.
Now I have to fight up to the last seconds of my life. I will not go down without a fight.
Point Guard. 1987 - 1992
Born Rodericko Cesar, nicknamed Olsen because he was born on All Saints' Day
Five-time PBA All-Star. Two-time PBA Mythical Team selectee
Says every player misses free throws
Olsen Racela tells Rappler his story
Of course you're all pumped up. Of course you’re nervous. Of course it's a big game. Every Ateneo-La Salle game is a big game. It’s a jam-packed coliseum. Before you step into the court there’s so much in your mind. But the main thing that you think about is try to beat the other team, the other school.
I miss the school spirit. The alumni watching the games – especially if it's an Ateneo-La Salle game. The cheering – and until now I still have the cheers memorized. The beat of the drums. Every time they played the drums I was suddenly raring to go. I would play for Ateneo again given a chance.
I always take the rivalry seriously. Every time you play La Salle it doesn’t matter if they’re much stronger, or we're much weaker. You always play at your best. Even if they know we’re weaker, they’re still nervous. It’s the same with us. Every time we play La Salle, we’re careful, because whatever happens, we know they’ll be at their best.
I think I was a good basketball player. We won two championships for Ateneo when I was still playing, so I’d like to think I played well when I was playing for the Ateneo.
I want to be remembered as the most hardworking basketball player. A player who doesn’t really just use his skills but uses his smarts and intelligence to play the game. I’ve always played the point guard position so I’ve always been a leader inside the court. So I like to think that I did well in my role leading my team.
I think people who have seen me play know that I always give my best and that's one of the reasons why I lasted and I played for 18 years in the PBA. So no regrets at all.
I retired at 40. That’s one thing that you know not too many people can say. Not too many players can say that, so I'm very proud of what I've achieved in my career.
Shooting Guard. 1997-2001
Was named PBA Rookie of the Year, Sixth man of the Year, and Mr. Quality Minutes all in 2002
Has missed free throws but probably didn’t get enough sleep before the game
Renren Ritualo tells Rappler his story
I never took the rivalry seriously. I'm just out there to win basketball games. I'm from San Beda College, so we're used to winning games against Ateneo. When I entered La Salle, it was, you know, normal.
I remember in high school, every time my friends and I would peek into the La Salle South Gate, I kept seeing beautiful people. That's why I went to La Salle.
No, but really the truth is I went to La Salle because of the basketball tradition. They’re always in the finals. And of course the education was very good. That’s why I went to La Salle. All right, maybe you won’t believe those reasons.
What I like best about basketball is the swish of the net, when your shot goes in. I’m a good player. It’s not an option to be a bad player. I’m a hardworking player. I enjoy playing basketball, and if you love playing basketball, you play every single day, and you just keep getting better and you have no excuse not to be better.
When the crowd screams your name? It feels good. It’s inspiring, you know you have supporters who love you. What it really means is that many people love me.
I won’t pretend to be humble and say I wasn’t a star. I was the star player, but it didn’t mean I thought people should treat me special. I still worked my ass off in class. When I missed class I asked how I could make up for it. My priority was to study – because my mom’s gonna make me quit playing basketball if I didn’t graduate.
It’s always great to have rivalries in sports. That’s what people look for. That’s what fans look forward to. That’s what sells out tickets, fills out the gym, gets everyone talking. That’s a really great thing, especially for the La Salle - Ateneo game. What I remember is that we were the only ones that television networks covered back then.
If the Green Archers of my time played against the current Green Archers, they're gonna have a hard time. Who's gonna guard Mac-Mac? Who's gonna guard Mike Cortez? Who’s gonna guard Don Allado?
Who's gonna guard me?
Point Guard. 2001 - 2005
2012 William Jones Cup Finals MVP
Known for the reverse layup
Has missed free throws
LA Tenorio tells Rappler his story
Maybe the difference between an Eagle and an Archer is that we’re better looking. I’m kidding. Actually there’s probably no difference. Maybe if you ask a Green Archer they won’t be able to answer the question either.
But well, I’m sure the Blue Eagles are better than the Green Archers.
I didn’t come from Ateneo, not grade school or high school. When I went to college, I realized how important that rivalry was, that the game is really different from other games. There was a saying, it doesn’t matter if we’re beaten by anyone else, so long as we’re not beaten by La Salle.
How do I describe the rivalry? It was the most anticipated game of the UAAP. I saw it every time Ateneo and La Salle played against each other, how other schools would watch, even professional basketball players, even celebrities.
You really take it seriously. It’s like you don’t want to screw up because every time you do, you disappoint your whole school.
There’s this one game I can’t forget. It was the time when the rivalry between us was sort of too much to handle. It was in 2003, the first game of the final four. It was a do-or-die game, because La Salle was twice to beat. So in the game I got physical. I got a little physical with La Salle, against Jerwin Gaco.
I think it was after the buzzer, when we won, when we turned around, we saw people behind the bench, in the stands, beating each other up. Just going at each other. It was a real rumble, even in the bleachers. The alumni were just punching away at each other.
I’m really proud to say I started that fight.
Point guard. 2002 - 2007
Led La Salle to a UAAP title in 2007 after the 2006 suspension
Has also missed free throws
TY Tang tells Rappler his story
In a way we felt that we were superstars, but in other ways we also felt normal – especially when we lose the games.
When you turn pro, the fan feeling is way, way different from back when you were in college. In college, there was this community that never, never gave up on you. They just try to push you more and more, even when you are already losing games or your backs are against the wall. There are a lot of people rooting for you, and the other school also has a lot of people rooting for them, so basically you’re in the middle of a gladiator match. It’s uncivilized, almost barbaric, even outside the courts.
Here in the pros, it is strictly professional. After the game, it’s basically you are finished, you are done, pack your bags, go home, go back to your families, there’s no one trying to talk about you anymore, trying to critique you. You get paid and you play, and because you are being paid, you have to win games. If not, then there may be other people who can do it for you.
The Ateneo-La Salle rivalry, I can say, is already a culture in our country. It goes way, way back, maybe two decades or three decades past. Right now, I can’t believe it, but it’s still peaking. It never stopped. The rivalry never stopped. My friends in the corporate banking world or in showbiz or wherever – their worlds stop to watch a basketball game of Ateneo against La Salle. I think it is a debate on which is the best school in the country.
If you compare this generation of Ateneo-La Salle players to my generation, I feel we were more passionate. We had more pride. We wanted to win more compared to today.
One example I can give is that before, if we bring down an Atenean, we’re not going to help them up.
Today, sometimes when I watch on TV, I’m sorry to say, but they help each other out.
Shooting Guard. 2003 - 2008
Sends female fans screaming every time he makes a good play – or when his face is flashed onscreen
One-time UAAP champion. Two-time Mythical Team selection
Hated missing free throws – his father always gave him hell after
Chris Tiu tells Rappler his story
I remember the first time I stepped into the court in an Ateneo-La Salle game. It was me and maybe 20,000 people, packed to the rafters, one side green, one side blue. People warn you to prepare for it, but it’s different when you’re there. Once you walk into that court and you actually experience it with the drums and the cheering, you get goose bumps. Not just the first time, but every time.
For me personally, I have friends from both sides. I have a lot of cousins who went to La Salle. My best friends are from La Salle. Maybe on the court you can get really rough, but outside of that, we're all good.
Any league, or any sport, will create a rivalry that gets two sides involved and that creates interest for the entire community watching. And then they try to build on superstars from both teams, because that’s what sells. That’s what people like; that’s what people enjoy. And because of that, everything is kind of highlighted and magnified.
It opened a lot of opportunities because, I guess, part of it is the hype and the marketing factor of the league. I’m grateful. I was one of those who benefitted from that marketing exposure. And that’s why I’m still here today doing this.
In Ateneo, basketball players were sort of treated like superstars and gods in campus. But for me personally, I tried to break that stereotype because I didn't want any special treatment. I felt like maybe, now you might be able to get away with certain things because you’re an athlete, but when you go out later on in life, it’s not always going to be like that, and you’re going to have to stand up for yourself. You’re going to have to follow rules. You’re going to have to just be like everybody else. So I tried to make that a habit early on.
But anyway, you can’t avoid it, especially when you win games, you win championships. The school, the community will sort of like, you know, glorify you, or pat you in the back. You can appreciate it and enjoy it, but just make sure it doesn’t go to your head. But in the same manner that they can adore us like heroes, they can get cruel too.
If my body can still take it, I’ll go back anytime. The energy is just so unbelievable. The support of the community, the fulfillment you get from winning a game and more so, a championship. It’s just so rewarding. It’s a league of its own. It’s a class of its own.
Forward. 2012 – Present
Defeated brother Jeric’s UST team to win 2013 UAAP title
Season 75 UAAP Rookie of the Year. Season 76 Finals MVP
Says he is known for missing free throws
Jeron Teng tells Rappler his story
That last game, that last shot of Mac Belo was really hard for us. When he made that shot it was hard for it to sink in – that we were really out. It was too early for us to be out of the season. We didn't reach the finals, so I felt we fell short this year. But I still have two more years to make up for it.
I was sort of blamed for it because I walked in a Bench fashion event called “The Naked Truth” and it happened the day before the game. But that was because the game was on a Sunday, and the event was supposed to be on a Friday but it was moved to Saturday because of flooding. On our part – my brother and I – it was a commitment already. I mean, we already signed with Bench so we had commitments we had to fulfill.
It didn’t really affect us because yeah, we appeared in the fashion show but it ended early, around 8 pm, so we still had a good night’s sleep before the game. And I guess it just happened I played badly during Game One because I had just recovered from dengue fever. So I guess people forgot that I had been sick and the fashion thing was more hyped up. That's it.
I think that's normal in basketball. I mean, when you win, everyone loves you and when you lose everyone blames you. In sports it’s really like that, so if you want to be a good player, if you want to be a player, then you have to accept that those things happen.
I think I gave my best this season. I took the responsibility of a leader this year. I was the captain, so I think I did everything for La Salle this year.
After we lost to FEU, the pain sort of lessened because Ateneo didn’t get in either.
Point Guard. 2011 – Present
Two-time SEA Games champion
4th Eagle to win Rookie of the Year
Believes Lim Eng Beng is a master for never missing a free throw
Keifer Ravena tells Rappler his story
This year, after losing the final four, it was really hard. After that devastating loss, it really was terrible. I can’t explain it.
During the game, we were 9 seconds away from making it to the finals, continuing the Cinderella story from the season. But then – we fell short.
After that I was just staring into space. But hearing all the cheers, hearing all the accolades from all the Ateneans, even though we lost, it was really uplifting. They were saying we gave it our best, that we shouldn’t be too hard on ourselves. So that was our consolation prize.
Of course there were other reactions, and we respect that. You get to hear accolades, you also have to accept the criticism.
We moved on. Now it’s a new chapter, a new season.
After we lost we were all there in Katips, watching La Salle play. Katipunan got flooded, literally and figuratively. We kept asking ourselves what happened, what should we have done? We were blaming this, blaming that. So we were watching La Salle – I think they were up by four on the last one minute – and I was telling myself they were pulling one over us this year.
So I was watching the game, and then, by the stroke of something, La Salle lost.
It was like we won. We all cheered when Belo got that three-point shot.
It took maybe 10 seconds, and then my teammates and I looked at each other and said, wait, we’re losers too. So we were sad again after that.
To be honest, when I entered the Ateneo, I really wanted to be remembered as the greatest Ateneo basketball player of all time. That’s one thing that’s still at the back of my head. That’s why I really wanted to win this year. Like if they say, “Do you know Kiefer Ravena?” someone else will say, yes, he’s the greatest Ateneo basketball player of all time.
In my opinion, the greatest Ateneo basketball player of all time is LA - LA Tenorio. Next year, there’s going to be a change.
Next year, it’s going to be Kiefer Ravena.
Editor's Note: We mistakenly reported LA Tenorio's stint with the Eagles was in 2002-2006 instead of 2001-2005 and Olsen Racela's as 1988-1992 instead of 1987-1992. We regret the error.
GROOMING Byron Velasquez, Aries Manal, Julius Villanueva and Clarence Paul STYLING Argie Salango and Benj Rogando CREATIVE DIRECTION Meryll Yan and Drake Dustin Ibay COORDINATION Naveen GanglaniVIDEO
CINEMATOGRAPHY Dom Dycaico and Raymund Amonoy SOUND Adrian Portugal EDITING Patricia Evangelista and Nicole Revita SCORE Fred Sandoval PRODUCTION MANAGER Adrianna MejiaWITH THANKS TO
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