I remember watching basketball games of the University Athletic Association of the Philippines (UAAP) in the late ’80s and early ’90s with almost empty seats.
In 1986, the University of the Philippines (UP) Fighting Maroons Men’s Basketball Team, under the guidance of legendary coach Joe Lipa, won over UE Red Warriors with star players Benjie Paras, Ronnie Magsanoc and Eric Altamirano.
A year later, I entered UP Diliman as a freshman, but I still felt the championship euphoria as I often see Benjie Paras around the campus.
Sadly, interest in the games dwindled.
As chief photographer of Philippine Collegian from 1989 to 1991, I remember my coverages of the games with very few UP denizens inside the playing venues, mostly as required for PE classes.
UP is one of the four founding members of the UAAP in 1938. There are presently eight member universities.
From 2007 to 2014, except in 2008, UP was always at the bottom in the basketball category.
And in 2014, UP lit up a bonfire at the Sunken Garden to mark one win after a 27-game losing streak in 720 days.
A UP colleague aptly said that it wasn’t self-deprecation or sarcasm; but more than celebrating that one single win, it was to kick out and say goodbye to the long season of losses and welcome new beginnings with hope and a promise to get out of the slump.
The UP Fighting Maroons won their first title all the way back in 1939 (Season 2), then followed it up 47 years later in 1986 (Season 49). It was the same year when Edsa People Power happened wherein the dictator was ousted. Then there was the 36 years of championship drought, until its third title this year.
The UP Fighting Maroons ultimately claimed their first championship in 36 years when they dethroned the Ateneo Blue Eagles in Game Three of the UAAP Season 84 Finals on May 13, 2022 at the MOA Arena.
Not even the Friday the 13th jinx could spoil that long-coveted bid.
UP won Game One of the finals (81-74); then the Blue Eagles took it back in Game Two (69-66). Game Three was an epic overtime win for UP (72-69), bagging the trophy.
Malick Diouf led UP with 17 points, nine rebounds, and three steals. He averaged 12.3 rebounds, 11.7 points, 2.7 steals, 2.0 assists, and 1.0 block in the series to win Finals MVP.
The breakdown of the winning 72 points:Diouf 17, Cansino 14, Cagulangan 13, Rivero 9, Alarcon 8, Tamayo 6, Spencer 3, Lucero 0, Abadiano 0, Fortea 0.
Quarter scores: 17-11, 31-27, 46-47, 59-59 (overtime), 72-69.
The UP Fighting Maroons have earned the moniker “Cramming Maroons” due to their nail-biting, cardiac victories.
Cramming is life for the UP community—even basketball games are no exception in that habit.
A campus anecdote was that the varsity team was once known as the UP Parrots. It was replaced with a new moniker that revived the old (circa 1920s) name Maroons along with the adjective “fighting” to describe the sportsmanship attitude that the UP varsity teams must possess during the games.
More than 30 years later after the second trophy, securing tickets became a challenging feat in every game due to the increasing number of enthusiastic fans eager to shout “UP Fight” as the maroons battle it out to earn the spot for the final games.
The UAAP games galvanized an extraordinary sense of solidarity among UP constituents, often described as the microcosm of a highly diverse nation.
An academic community all too easily fractured by politics and personal interest, the cheer “UP FIGHT!” reverberated during the past UAAP games as the UP Fighting Maroons fought UP style—“may giting at tapang.” Every point is worth screaming for.
Each game became mini-reunions of Titos and Titas,with endless photo-ops and reminiscing of college days memories over coffee, lunch, meriendaor dinner.
In 2018 Season 81, UP’s bid for the championship trophy unfortunately ended when it lost to Ateneo.
In 2019 Season 82, UP was defeated by UST during the Final Four round.
In 2020-21 season 83, there was no tournament due to the pandemic.
In 2022, the Maroons had their best record as champions in Season 84.
We celebrated with a bonfire the day after to give honor to our boys.
The cheer “UP Fight” resonated inside the MOA Arena in every game as men and women who solidly believed in the team, including the support group Nowhere To Go But UP, stood by their side in their journey.
The crowd was also chanting former team captain Paul Desiderio’s mantra “Atin ’to,” a battle cry that finally has gone full circle.
“UP Fight” was modified this season to “UPink Fight” as part of the systemwide campaign spearheaded by alumni and students calling for the conduct of a clean and honest election. Many wore pink themed shirts and chanted in support of the tandem of fellow alumni Leni Robredo and Kiko Pangilinan.
It was a win as poetic and as heartfelt as the words of UP Naming Mahal, lovingly sang by many generations of Iskolar ng Bayan before the bonfire.
Peyups is the moniker of University of the Philippines. Atty. Dennis R. Gorecho heads the seafarers’ division of the Sapalo Velez Bundang Bulilan law offices. For comments, e-mail [email protected], or call 0917-5025808 or 0908-8665786.