MVP no-show at Ateneo celebration

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Businessman Manny V. Pangilinan, a longtime supporter of Ateneo de Manila University, was absent during the team's historic win and their post-game celebration

MANILA, Philippines – He is a familiar face in Ateneo de Manila Blue Eagles’ basketball games.

But when the team celebrated making history by bagging its fifth straight UAAP men’s basketball crown, he was nowhere to be seen. 

Business mogul Manuel V. Pangilinan, a known supporter of Ateneo who has helped finance many of the university’s endeavors in past years – especially its basketball program – was absent during the post-season thanksgiving mass of Ateneo at the Church of the Gesu on campus. 

When asked if Pangilinan would attend the mass held right after the Blue Eagles won over the University of Santo Tomas Growling Tigers, Ateneo team manager Paolo Trillo said that he wasn’t sure.

“I hope he’ll be there,” he told Rappler through the phone.

“Of course he’s invited, but we don’t know for sure if he’s going.”

During the thanksgiving mass, key personalities address the Ateneo community – typically, head coach Norman Black, graduating Blue Eagle players, the university president, and Pangilinan. In the past, Pangilinan had used the traditional celebration to talk about future plans he has to support Ateneo.

During Black’s speech, he said Pangilinan was not present because he was “not feeling very well.”

Pangilinan did tweet however that he had been with the team earlier that night.

“Joined team for mass at Araneta dugout. My final act. Happy for the players & coaches. I said I’ll be w/ them til the end. Mission accomplished,” his tweet read, posted about an hour before the thanksgiving mass on campus.

Thanking MVP

At the press conference following Ateneo’s historic 5th straight title win, Black paused to thank Pangilinan — whom the team calls by his nickname MVP — for the support he had shown to the basketball team. 

“A special thanks goes out to MVP who has been really supportive to myself and the entire team. You just don’t understand how involved he is with the team and how much he means to us,” he said.

Black’s players echoed their coach’s appreciation at the thanksgiving mass, with most athletes who spoke at the celebration thanking him despite his absence.

I want to thank one more person kahit wala siya dito. Salamat, MVP,” said senior player Justin Chua. 

Black added at the same event that it wasn’t just the finances that made Pangilinan special to them, but emphasized he was truly a part of the team.

Cutting ties

Pangilinan made waves late September when he announced that he would cut ties with his alma mater because of Ateneo’s stand on several controversial issues, including mining and the Reproductive Health Bill — views that he said he disagreed with.

Since his announcement, Pangilinan has been noticeably missing at the university’s basketball games, which he often enjoyed watching before.

Black said that he considered letting go of his post mid-season after hearing of Pangilinan’s decision. According to a memo released by Ateneo university President Jett Villarin, it was Pangilinan himself who urged the decorated coach to stay on board

“We are grateful to MVP for this gesture,” Villarin said.

On Wednesday, October 10, Pangilinan hinted that he would be supporting the University of the Philippines (UP) and its men’s basketball team, the UP Fighting Maroons. 

Black is also on his way out, having announced before the UAAP season that it would be his last with Ateneo. He leaves his post after winning 5 straight collegiate crowns in 8 years of coaching.

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