Ateneo Blue Eagles celebrate their historic 4-peat

Natashya Gutierrez

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Ateneo de Manila University celebrated their UAAP men's basketball team's fourth win in a row.

MANILA, Philippines — Rain or shine, the Blue Eagles soar.

The gloomy weather did not prevent Ateneo fans from coming out and celebrating the men’s basketball team’s fourth championship in a row. Ateneo Blue Eagle admirers of all ages flocked to the Ateneo grade school parking lot by the Henry Irwin Lee Theatre to support the players and their coach in their historic victory.

Ateneo president Jose Ramon T. Villarin officially opened the program to loud fanfare. He jokingly asked the team for a fifth championship for next year and riled up the crowd by yelling, “Ang sarap maging Atenista (It feels great to be an Atenean)!”

Before calling the basketball team on stage, the crowd also praised the successful seasons of the high school judo team who won their sixth championship, the high school swim team for their 7-peat and new records, and the men’s badminton team who won their first championship since 2003.

By the time the men’s basketball teams were called on stage, the rain was pouring.

Fans stayed put however and crowded the stage as Coach Norman Black and his men paraded in, waving and smiling. The players then took turns thanking the crowd.

“It feels great! Especially when we have all you guys supporting us,” said new addition Greg Slaughter. 

When asked if he would stay on with Ateneo next year, he answered with a subtle, “Nothing is sure yet,” but assured the screaming fans: “I love all of you guys!”

Bonfire Next Year

Rookie of the Year Kiefer Ravena also shared his gratitude and hoped for continued support. “Sana hindi kayo magsawa sa pagsuporta sa amin (We hope you don’t tire of supporting us),” he said.

The crowd also honored the three team captains, Bacon Austria, Emman Monfort, and Kirk Long. Black used his time with the microphone to praise the trio for their outstanding leadership, and assured the crowd he will be back next year. Long spoke for all the seniors when he said, “We will miss you a lot!”

But it was Finals MVP Nico Salva, who will be back next year, who got the most screams. He finished off the team’s spiel with a bold promise: “I want to let everyone know that there’s going to be another bonfire next year!”

There was no quiet moment at the bonfire tonight. Bands played music in between presentations, videos of the team amused fans, and the Blue Babble Battalion, along with the cheerleaders and the Ateneo college band, pumped up the crowd with spirited performances.

Fireworks colored the sky after the torch lit the bonfire, and the atmosphere was nothing short of extraordinary.

The question about whether the Blue Eagles can pull off an unbelievable fifth championship next year is a favorite topic of conversation among UAAP followers. But for now, the answer is far from the minds of Ateneo fans.

For tonight, and for this season, they are champions.

Follow the reporter on Twitter: @natashya_g

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Natashya Gutierrez

Natashya is President of Rappler. Among the pioneers of Rappler, she is an award-winning multimedia journalist and was also former editor-in-chief of Vice News Asia-Pacific. Gutierrez was named one of the World Economic Forum’s Young Global Leaders for 2023.