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Sunday, October 5, 2008

Blue or Green. Green or Blue

I have always been amused with the unending and ever-in heat rivalry between Ateneo and La Salle. Pit these two against each other on a game of basketball at any given day and you will surely find a jampacked Araneta Coliseum roaring to the top.

Coach Dindo Pumaren (UE Warriors) once said that it amuses him how his Warriors, who just completed a rare 14-0 sweep in the 2007 elimination round of the UAAP men’s competition, have been forgotten in the light of the rivalry.

“Even if both schools are in the cellars, every game will always be like a championship. It’s school pride. It’s all about passion. Their games are just different, their rivalry is different," says Dindo, whose brother Franz is calling the shots for the Archers.

This 2008 UAAP season, The Ateneo Blue Eagles got the edge winning over La Salle via a 2-0 sweep of the Season 71 Finals at the overflowing Araneta Coliseum.

Well, talk doesn't end there, as news after news after news and reactions after reactions after reactions are sure to continue amuse people like me about the famed rivalry.

Raphael Bartholomew, a researcher, writer and lecturer, wrote a very interesting article in the Philippine Daily Inquirer on 2007 about this extensive fight between the green and the blue.

He even discussed how politicians and other famous personalities, alumni of these two Universities, continue to engage battle.

A Nation's Passion Lives in a Rivalry of Green vs.Blue

Senators, foreign diplomats, cabinet ministers, a smattering of Forbes's 40 richest Filipinos, moviestars and enough professional basketball players to play five-on-five. They are the elite of Philippine society, and they all gather at Araneta Coliseum in Quezon City to watch the men's basketball rivalry between the universities Ateneo de Manila and De La Salle.

La Salle Coach Franz Pumaren said, "The janitors in Araneta always say, 'If there's an Ateneo-La Salle game, once everybody's out of the coliseum, it still smells good because of the all the socialites watching.'

Ateneo and La Salle are the most prestigious private universities in the country. The question of which institution provides a superior education is a toss-up; the tie breakers take place on the basketball court.

In 2005, La Salle revealed that two of its players had used phony high school equivalency results in their applications, and the team was suspended for the 2006 season.The teams also play different styles, with somewhat different results. The De La Salle Green Archers won four straight national championships from 1998 to 2001 thanks to its vaunted trapping defense.

Ateneo plays textbook basketball, with man-to-man defense and an inside-out offense that relies on post-up moves and perimeter shooting. The Blue Eagles won the 2002 championship, their only title in the last 17 years.

The frenzied crowds are often led by some of the most prominent alumni. Senator Richard Gordon, a former Ateneo cheerleader, is renowned for sideline antics like jumping on the scorer's table to rile up the crowd. La Salle counts the former finance secretary José Pardo and the shipping mogul Enrique Razon Jr. among its supporters.

The rivalry allows Manila's elites to relive their carefree college days, said Ricky Palou, Ateneo's athletic director. "It's the passion they have for their alma mater," he said. "They become immature. They act like kids."

The fans' excessive behavior is matched by the largesse that the alumni lavish on their teams. A group from Ateneo installed the hardwood floor used for the 2000 N.B.A. All-Star Game at the university gym. Not to be outdone, Razon donated about $1 million, which went toward refurbishing La Salle's sports center and financing athletic scholarships.

The heightened atmosphere of the rivalry puts coaches and players under enormous pressure. When Joe Lipa coached Ateneo in the late 1990s, the former president Corazon Aquino, whose daughter Kris is a 1992 graduate, would call Lipa to check on the team's progress, said Ricky Dandan, Lipa's former assistant.

"You can lose to all the other teams, but not to La Salle," Banal said.

When his team defeated La Salle for the championship in 2002, it was "my most fulfilling accomplishment," Banal said, adding: "After that championship it's like the whole Filipino nation knew me. Like if you go to a restaurant, you eat, you're paying your bill, somebody from Ateneo got it already."

But the shame of losing also haunts players and coaches. In the final game of the 2002 national championship series, the La Salle star Mike Cortez missed 11 of 13 shots. Afterward, La Salle students and alumni accused Cortez of throwing the game. Although Cortez is now an all-star guard in thePhilippine professional league, many fans still regard him as a game fixer.

The rivalry has loosened the bond of friendship between the teams' coaches. Ateneo Coach Norman Black and Pumaren won several professional titles together in the late 1980s with the San Miguel Beermen.

"If you're part of the rivalry, you just don't like each other," Black said."Franz played for me and he was my assistant coach, but that has little bearing on what's happening right now. He's the coach of La Salle; I'm the coach of Ateneo. Let the chips fall where they may." ++++++++++

The following article published in the Philippine Star on October 5, 2008, accounts a personal story of an Ateneo graduate who later practiced his profession at the rival school La Salle. This, again, tells of an interesting story between Ateneo and La Salle from on and off the basketball court.

Blue or Green? That is the question
By Clodualdo del Mundo, Jr.

I first heard about the rivalry between Ateneo and LA SALLE through my eldest sister Ling; it must have been in the mid-50s when I was old enough to play with a mini-basketball, but too young to understand the big fuss over the rivalry between the two exclusive schools. Ling was a fan of the blue-and-white, Hail Mary team. While listening to the radio coverage of the games, she cheered for Ateneo and Ed Ocampo particularly, the team’s outstanding guard then. Her ears were glued to the radio set, listening to a broadcaster named Bobby Ng describing the game play-by-play, in good, straight English. She did attend the big games at the Rizal Memorial Stadium, most probably with my elder brother, until the NCAA (National Collegiate Athletic Association) games were covered on TV.

My memory of the early TV coverage of the NCAA games is of Green Archer Kurt Bach-mann’s mom brandishing her umbrella from the courtside. I don’t remember now what for. Kurt Bachmann must have been embarrassed by his mom’s display of motherly concern.

The funny thing is that when I was in Ateneo, my sister could not care less about the Ateneo-La Salle games. I guess she matured and got over that stage of idolatry. But a lot of adults, especially alumni of either school, seem not to have outgrown the rivalry which continued when the two schools moved to the UAAP (University Athletic Association of the Philippines).

Atenean Richard Gordon, former cheerleader and now a Senator, is a common fixture during a La Salle-Ateneo game. Lasallian Mike Enriquez, popular broadcaster, plays his alma mater’s hymn in his morning program during championship games. The old alumni of these arch rivals continue still to cheer for their teams, competing for bragging rights of being champions.

I confess that I was never fond of basketball games even when I was in college. I did try out to be a cheerleader of the Blue Babble Battalion because I was attracted by the blue-and-white jacket, but I did not make it to the clique. I must have attended two games in my college life; three max. Okay, I was a nerd.

What’s the big fuss? The press is partly to blame. Whenever there’s a game between Ateneo and La Salle, it is always bannered as the encounter between arch rivals, a long, unending rivalry that can be traced to the pre-World War II period. The management of the Araneta Coliseum must love it. The venue will surely be filled to the rafters. The attendance of around 20,000 is close to the population of the two schools. The UAAP board loves it; an Ateneo-La Salle game means a multi-million-peso encounter. It’s crazy to raise the question at all.

Before I continue writing this piece, a full disclosure is appropriate – I finished my undergraduate degree at the Ateneo (notice “the”; it’s not enough just to say Ateneo). I’m a bona fide alumnus, but not a blue-blooded Atenean, if you ask the likes of Mike Arroyo, for the FG, blue-blooded Ateneans are those who finished their primary and secondary levels at the Ateneo.

I’m not an alumnus of La Salle, but I’ve taught there for a little over 24 years, so I’ve developed some loyalty to this school on Taft.

Which side am I on? That’s the question.

Through the years, the rivalry in sports had become heated, and it extended to other fields, like academics and debate. Man for man (and woman for woman, when the two schools became co-ed in the ‘70s), the two schools can match the other school’s leading alumni. Until Ateneo becomes exasperated with the exercise and drops the name of Jose Rizal. That stops the conversation. Lasallians would just say that “Rizal had no choice then; La Salle was established in 1911. If Rizal were born at the turn of the century….”

Ateneo and La Salle were very exclusive schools, especially before the 60s. I remember a cousin who passed the entrance exams at La Salle but failed the ocular visit to their house made by a representative of the school. My cousin’s family lived in an apartment in La Loma, Quezon City. My cousin should have checked the family names of La Salle alumni then. To make a long story short, he enrolled in San Beda instead.

In the 60s, more scholars from both public and private schools invaded the august halls of Ateneo and La Salle and both schools had become less aristocratic. That was how I came to the Ateneo. Soon, the coño boys became an endangered species until the 80s when both schools became more bakya; the coño boys became totally extinct. (I think they moved to the University of Asia and the Pacific.)

Lasallians would argue that Ateneans are more bakya. Need I name names like Boy Abunda and Kris Aquino? But, actually, alumni or near-alumni of either school have invaded the entertainment industry, showing that they are bakya-at-heart. I’m using the word bakya not as a word of derision, but just a word of fact. More and more Ateneans and Lasallians have embraced the hoi polloi by being entertainers.

Lasallians are proven Vilmanians. Two of them even sired children with the Star for All Seasons – Edu Manzano, one of the original bench boys (the students who spent their break-time, and most probably even much of their class time, at the benches in front of the gym), and Ralph Recto, former senator, who is instrumental in guiding the political career of Vilma. Are Ateneans closet Noranians? I don’t know. But Lotlot’s daughter is in Ateneo.

After all is said and done, Ateneans and Lasallians love each other. Before the attack of the coeds in the 70s, how can one explain the Ateneans’ love for Maryknollers, their kapitbahay at Loyola? And the Lasallians’ love for the Kulasas (from St. Scholastica)? After some meditation, I found the answer. It’s the skirt. Maryknollers’ uniform is green and white; St. Scholasticans’ is blue and white. The attraction to the official color of the competitor is a deep-seated love for the other.

La Salle and Ateneo are two illustrious schools. They have produced leading professionals in various fields, artists, and national leaders. But neither school has produced a President. Erap Estrada would have been the first Atenean President, but being an Ateneo drop-out doesn’t count. Raul Manglapus tried to be President, but his Arnneow accent got in the way. The masa could not connect with his “I Speak for Democracy” – kind of English. La Salle’s Jose W. Diokno was “the President we never had,” according to sociologist and political commentator Randy David. Remember Diokno’s challenge, “Why be honest when it pays to be dishonest?”

The closest Ateneo got to the presidency was by being the First Gentleman. We all know now that the FG is more of a handicap than an inspiration to the President. If a bona fide Lasallian can’t be President, being the First Gentleman is the only way to get control of that seat. Vilmanian Ralph Recto is a candidate to this position.

But back to the question, Which side am I on? I’m in a win-win situation. But that’s no fun when watching a basketball game. One must side with one team during a game, especially a championship game; you can’t enjoy the game by being safe. So, did I cheer for La Salle or Ateneo? Let me put it this was – I was more sad than happy at the end of this year’s championship game. I won, but I also lost – big time.

Interesting indeed. However, the latest news have brought sadness to my following this historic rivalry. Reports say that during a bonfire celebration conducted by the Ateneans following the recent championship at the UAAP, some of the firewood used at the bonfire had the names of the entire La Salle roster bannered by JV Casio, Rico Maierhofer and coach Franz Pumaren.

As reports and photos of the incident circulated in blogs and online basketball forums, students and alumni from La Salle, and even Ateneo, branded the act distasteful regardless of the rivalry between the two elite squads.

Ateneo de Manila University president Fr. Bienvenido Nebres said none of the school officials "saw it ahead of time, because the wood pile was covered by a tarp against the rain until the time came to light it."

Nebres recently apologized to the La Sallian community for an irreverent incident during the bonfire on the Ateneo campus last Sept. 30 to celebrate the UAAP championship won by the Eagles at the expense of the Archers.

"Despite our rivalries in sports, we are both committed to Christian values and what was done is certainly a violation of values we share," Nebres said in a letter to De La Salle University System president Br. Armin Luistro, FSC, dated Oct. 2.

"Our community accepted [Ateneo's apology]," Br. Bernie Oca, FSC, La Salle's representative to the UAAP board, said Sunday. "We are also awaiting the results of their investigations which they said they will do."

It was like having to remember the famous Dark Knight movie-a battle between the Batman and the Joker, and a seemingly epic love story between the two, where Joker tells the Batman, ""I don't want to kill you. You complete me."

Whoever is the good guy, and whoever is the bad guy depends on whose side you are in. Are you on the Blue Side? Or are you on the Green Side? The epic duel between Ateneo and La Salle will sure to make history after history on the years to come.

The battle continues on the next UAAP season.

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