MANILA, Philippines – Who can play softball in an ankle-deep flood and still beat the defending champions?
The Miriam College (MC) Grade School Softball Team can.
In fact, that’s what they did during the Palarong Pambansa 2006.
Rappler sat down with Czar Buenviaje, Lala Cruz and Sella Mendoza, 3 former MC softbelles to talk about their game in the rain, the World Series, and their other experiences at the country’s biggest and most prestigious sporting event.
Through the rain, against the giants
“It was signal no. 2 and it was raining so hard. They couldn’t cancel the game because they had reserved the place only until that day,” Buenviaje said.
That year, Palarong Pambansa was held in Naga, Camarines Sur, a city that is known for typhoon vulnerability.
Their parents were also standing under the rain, cheering for them. Cruz recalled that the game had dragged on to an 18-18 for both them and the team from Bacolod.
“But we had a run-on third, then the catcher did a fastball and she scored the winning run,” Cruz said proudly.
Buenviaje and Cruz, both Palarong Pambansa regulars, name this as one of their most memorable Palaro experiences. The other was in 2010, when they were in their junior year of high school.
It was a close fight between them and the softball team from Bacolod. Bacolod had been winning the secondary level softball championships for almost two decades.
In the end, the odds were in their favor, 4-3. The Knollers from the National Capital Region (NCR) were the first to break Bacolod’s winning streak.
“It was a really huge victory,” Cruz recalled with a smile.
Buenviaje and Cruz were also part of the delegations that won for NCR the bronze medals in the 2007 and 2009 softball championships and the silver medal in last year’s Palaro.
This excellence has taken the NCR softball players to Asia-Pacific tournaments and even to the Softball World Series.
The World Series calls in teams from 10 regions around the world: Canada, Europe-Middle East-Africa, Latin America, USA Central, USA East, USA South, USA Southwest, USA West, Washington and Asia Pacific.
Buenviaje, Cruz and Mendoza have represented the Asia Pacific region in the World Series. Once, they almost made the bronze.
Mendoza cites meeting people from the world over as the best part of the World Series. “It was fun to meet players from different countries and see different playing styles.”
Cruz added that representing the region was a plus. “It’s a huge deal because we were representing not just the Philippines but also Asia-Pacific region,” she said.
The girls differ, however, in how they feel about almost winning.
Cruz was happy about even placing while Buenviaje said coing so close made it worse.
“We could have won but we didn’t win. It’s harder when you get so close but you don’t get it,” she said.
Aside from the 3, other Filipinas who have made it to the World Series are Julie Muyco, Sara Jane Agravante and Sheirly Lou Valenzuela. All are from Region 6 and have also previously played for the Palarong Pambansa.
All 3 agree that unfair officiating is the most common problem in softball tournaments. Buenviaje, however, sees finances—or the lack thereof—as a bigger concern.
The NCR softball team usually has jeepneys to transport the players. Sometimes, the players’ parents rent vans.
But Buenviaje recalls a softball team from Calabarzon who had to pay the tricycle out of their own pockets to take them from the field to their accommodations.
“It’s hard to think that all these people play the same game we play but they don’t have the same resources as we do. They share the one bat, 4 helmets and sometimes they don’t even have shoes.”
Buenviaje has stopped playing softball to focus on her studies. Mendoza plays for the UP softball team while Cruz now plays for the Ateneo de Manila University.
Mendoza asserted that the Palaro experience gives her an edge over other athletes. “It’s part of having experience and that alone give me an advantage. I’ve been exposed to different kinds of players, coaches, everything,” she said.
But Buenviaje’s Palaro experience has touched her in a deeper way.
“It helped me realize that I’m very lucky because I realized that I’m very lucky because I have so many resources compared to other people,” she said. “Even here in UP, there are scholars who don’t pay because they can’t pay. I’m just privileged to be part of a school that gives people that opportunity.”—Rappler.com