By: Lee Jinjia
Armed with smartphones, cameras, pens and pencils, exhilarated Filipino fans were waiting anxiously for the victorious Men’s Philippines volleyball team to emerge from the multipurpose hall.
High-pitched chuckles and shrieks of adulation erupted upon the sighting of the Season 78, University Athletic Association of the Philippines volleyball tournament (UAAP) Most Valuable Player (MVP), Marck Jesus Espejo and teammate Manuel D. Sumanguid III. Dilated pupils were aplenty especially amongst their adoring female fans.
They charged unforgivingly towards their heralded superstars to grab their autographs and snap pictures with them, as I was just about to begin my interview with them.
Espejo, 19, plays as an outside hitter, while Sumanguid, 18, plays as the team’s libero. Espejo and Sumanguid are also teammates on their university’s volleyball team called the Ateneo Blue Spikers. Interestingly, they were both coming into the 2016 AUG on the back of winning the 2015/16 UAAP title. The importance of and hype surrounding the UAAP is similar to that of the college sports in the United States.
Hence, they were in their own right national icons and superstars. However, for Espejo, Sumanguid and many of their Filipino teammates, they were equally honored to be representing their country and playing in front of their spectators here in Singapore.
“We feel honored to be playing in front of our supporters. Not every Filipino has the opportunity to represent their country,” said Sumanguid.
“The supporters give us strength and self-confidence to play well in our games and I think because of their cheers, we rebuilt our confidence as a team even when we are losing,” added Espejo.
This unique bond shared between the players and supporters was similarly evident amongst the team. They fought valiantly for one another, fighting for lost causes and celebrated every single point that they won. At the end of it all, whether in victory or defeat, they would always remember to give grace and thank their families for giving them the very opportunity to play volleyball.
“We are a very close team.
We treat each other like family, like brothers, we help each other and give grace together,” echoed Espejo and Sumanguid in unison.
There is so much that we can learn from this Philippines volleyball team and it was definitely an experience like none other spectating the match amongst their fanatical fans.