Ok, it is only once in a couple of decades that the UP Maroons are able to achieve feats that are unexpected of them. So there is every reason to be part of the merriment over what the old alma mater’s basketball team had done: win two straight games.
The last time we had something (better) than this was when Benjie Paras, Ronnie Magsanoc, and Eric Altamirano led the Maroons to a UAAP championship victory in 1986. This was doubly significant for many of us because the dictator was ousted. When we residents of the historic Narra Residence Hall got drunk that night at the grandstand, savoring the alcohol that was freely flowing all over (they said then it was fully paid by President Edgardo Angara), we were also celebrating Marcos’ unceremonious and pitiable departure from power.
We all had that feeling that we were both getting out of a double Stygian nightmare: UP as the perennial basketball loser and the more than a decade of authoritarian rule. That was truly a great time to celebrate.
Yet by the time the alcohol had completely permeated our blood streams, we became nostalgic of the Maroons of yore – perennial losers to everyone save the NU Bulldogs (and this even occasionally). We felt sad because in a way, a long tradition – that of losing – had also come to an end.
For those long years of getting used to it, we also developed, how would you call it – coping mechanisms to rationalize why it seemed the Fates (God?) were always unfair to our Maroons.
The most popular was to taunt the fans of the winning teams. In my time (gosh, I sound really old!), one could not take advance Physical Education classes unless one passed swimming and the perennially-dull-but-easy-to-pass PE 1. Apart from retraining ourselves on how to brush our teeth or wash our faces, PE 1 also required us to attend all the Maroons’ basketball games – at far away Rizal Memorial Stadium!
As soon as the opposing team began to increase its lead, their fans would begin to mock us with such lines as – “Matalino pero kulelat! Hoy, saan nyo ba ginagamit yang utak ‘nyo? (You’re intelligent but last-placers. Hey, how do you use your brains?)” They were making fun of the portrait (a true one then) of UP students as nerds whose intelligence never extended into the rough world of sports, where real men – and women – were tested to their limits.
The less courageous among us withdrew farther into the density of their thick eyeglasses or slowly scampered out of the stadium especially after attendance was taken. But there were a few of us who fought back.
The one riposte I can never forget was our response to what these hicks heaped on us. It went like this: “Mga p___ ina ninyo, dadating din ang araw na ga-graduate kayo, at pagdating ng araw na iyon magtatrabaho kayo para sa amin! Pagdating ng araw na ‘yan, tingnan natin kung sino ang tunay na matatalino!!” (“You SOBs, on the day you graduate, and when time for you to find work, you will be slaving under us! When that time comes, let’s see who are the more intelligent ones!”)
At that point the frenzied emotions that were associated with sports, the bellicose madness that placed sports alongside wars as a means of rallying the masses, would also envelope us. These bastards insulted the alma mater, so now they had to be put in their proper place. It did not matter if you were a reactionary frat-man, a math wizard, a budding Home Economics expert, a capitalist-in-training, or an activist helping the Communist Party recover its presence inside campus. We were all kapit-bisig as we tried to outmatch the other side with our bile.
(As an aside – this sense of superiority also explained why a man of the masses like Lean Alejandro would shamelessly proclaim that “There are only two schools, UP and others!”)
In that brief moment, after being hit with an insult from the other side, we temporarily set aside our differences and reminded them who we were: the national-elite-in-training lording over the hoi polloi.
This was our consuelo de bobo (consolation), something that made us feel good after we left the Rizal Stadium with the Maroons trailing a school beside Quiapo by 30 points. It was a battle lost, but by the end of the war, we UP graduates would dominate.
Mao Tse Tung had one of those metaphors that every UP activist memorized even in their dreams – that of turning a bad thing into a good thing. Our Maroons lost their games a lot, but we continued to have that limpid feeling that in the end, everything will be right in the world.
For UP rules that world. Then Benjie Paras and company changed all that. We began to entertain the possibility of a UP dynasty. That fantasy lasted for a year and we were back to our losing ways. Many of us heaved a sigh of relief. The tradition has been restored, the normalcy of losing has returned to the Diliman Commune.
Sadly, the elitism that made us comfort ourselves also began to erode, and in a few years the alma mater was producing graduates no different from those who finished in the schools beside Quiapo. – Rappler.com
Patricio N. Abinales is an OFW.
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