Tai Bundit: More Than Just An Unfathomable Coach

Behind the camera, behind the curtains.

Behind superb players, behind a grandiose team.

Behind a remarkable era, behind noteworthy runs.

Behind all of these, is an amazing man.

A mentor. A father. A friend.

4 Finals Appearance, 2 UAAP championship trophies, a Back-to-Back title.

As he steps down as Ateneo’s head coach, let’s revisit the road this amazing man journeyed, and unravel the depth beyond Happy, Unity, Heartstrong.

UAAP Season 75 padlocked the curtains of an era.

Season 76 was the commencement of a newfangled one. No Fab Five. No Roger Gorayeb. Rebuilding team. Young players. Rookies. New system. New coach.

A whole new Ateneo Lady Eagles.

But to everyone’s bombshell, and to the blue community’s delight in a nutshell, new heroes soared and glided to live up with the Ateneo way – exerting all that it takes for the one big fight.

Started from the very base of all bottoms, the Katipunan-based squad hardly climbed series of ladders to position themselves onto the top, prevailing over all pains Season 76 had to offer. The Ateneo Lady Eagles had to beat powerhouse teams in the stepladder semi-finals, and clashed everything out for the championship. Dubbed as the underdogs, the blue-blooded squad proved speculations wrong, dominating rival De La Salle University who had a thrice to beat advantage, and then thrice beaten. This made them kiss their first championship trophy in UAAP volleyball grounds. And the main chauffeur of that perfectly-sculpted Cinderella run? The new head coach. The driver of the wheel. The Anusorn Tai Bundit.

All the way from Thailand, Coach Tai Bundit brought a lot of skills, talent, and brainpower into Ateneo’s system. He was once a National Team member and the coach of Thailand’s junior national team. Coach Tai has produced top-caliber talents in his country. He became the head coach of the Ateneo Women’s Volleyball Team upon the departure of Coach Roger Gorayeb. He is presently the head coach of the Premiere Volleyball League club team, Creamline Cool Smashers. No doubt, this man is certainly the man! Carrying the team to the promised land, Coach Tai travelled extra miles in strengthening the overall state of the players. He introduced a whole new volleyball scheme and mentality to Ateneo, bagging plenty of attention, and winning loads of hearts. Coach Tai Bundit brought Ateneo’s first championship trophy in UAAP volleyball, and was fruitful in their back-to-back title bid, flawlessly sweeping the entire UAAP Season 77 without a glitch. Since then, the Lady Eagles became consistent title-contenders, topped the standings, and were fan favorites, nightmares on the wing, and a solid team to beat. In Season 78 and 79, The Ateneo squad bowed down to the DLSU Lady Spikers, despite having a rank one finish the entire elimination rounds. All of these, and all other mystic things which made Ateneo a stellar team, were all under the sleeves of Coach Tai Bundit, the one and only.

Known to be extremely hard in trainings, Coach Tai is more of a motivational coach when it comes to games. He is the author and master of the famed mantra, Happy, Unity, Heartstrong. This approach and mindset was one of Ateneo’s bullets as they gunned for conquests. He doesn’t scold nor reprimand his players whenever they fall short. In lieu, he does the best tactic in lifting the team’s spirit up, uttering the words, “Happy Happy”, “Can do, Can do”, or “Can win, can win.” In Ateneo’s every game, he barely sits in the bench, for he celebrates each point every player contributes, whether the team’s up, or trailing behind. He choreographed the famous “Happy Dance”, and performs this one all the time, while running, walking, shouting, and punching the air at the sidelines. He is a low-key superstar, who loves surprises which never failed to startle us. The trust, love, and motivation Coach Tai gives to the Ateneo Lady Eagles is everything an athlete can ask for.

Four great years. Four dope seasons.

When everyone thought he would still be in the sidelines for Ateneo this forthcoming Season 80, Coach Tai was yet to pull another surprise as reliable sources confirmed that he would sit out as the team’s head coach.

More than just the Happy Happy.

More than just Heartstrong.

A lot more than the trophies and the titles.

Coach Tai is more than that Thai who dances down the sidelines.

He is more than that man who says nothing but “Happy Happy”.

He is more than that leader who counts 1, 2, 3 in the huddle.

He is more than that coach who we cannot understand most of the time.

He is more than that trainer who causes physical pain among the players every training.

He is more than that magician who pulls out magic the moment we least expect them.

He is more than that motivator who trusts everyone in the deep blue bench.

He is more than that leading light who molds the Lady Eagles holistically.

He is more than what everyone sees.

Coach Tai is a father, a mentor, and a friend.

As he sits out as the main gunner for the Ateneo Women’s Volleyball Team, we cannot find the right words to say, but thank you.

Thank you, Coach.

Happy Happy. Unity. Heartstrong. Can do. Can win – the only words we cognize. But these words, will always be legendary.

We may not understand what he says, sure thing he is more than just the words.

More than just the Happy Dance.

More than just the coach we can’t fathom.

Because this unfathomable coach, has already proved himself, wowed plenty of people, and is the work behind highly-admired players.

Tai Bundit will always be legendary.

You are the real petmalu, Lodi.

Thank you for the one big fight.

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Michelle Morente: On the Other Side

When the stakes are high, you fly higher.

When the enemy fights hard, you fight harder.

Your reassuring smile spreads positivity down the line.

Your killing spikes are everything we want to see all the time.

Thank you, Mich for playing the game you love, for the sake of the name in the front of your jersey.

Thank you for sharing your talent to the Ateneo community.

“Wearing jersey number 3, Michelle Morente!”

“Morente with a solid crosscourt hit!”

“Morente down the line!”

“Morente with an ace!”

“Michelle Morenteeeeeee!”

The lines we can often hear, we anticipate to hear and we are looking forward to hear.

However, the cruel fate sends surprises the moments we least wanted them.

Yes, we can still hear those lines. We can still see you smile. We can still see you drop bombs down the line. But it’s for a different color. For a different name. A color we never imagined you wearing. A name we never imagined you playing for.

Because the glory years you suited up with the Heartstrong-driven squad came to its dead-end. You were a reliable hitter and an ace defender when the team needed you the most, being one of the go-to players as Ateneo reigned supreme in UAAP Season 76 and 77. You never failed to make us jump off our seats, shouting your name like it’s going to be the last. You never failed to draw smiles in our faces every time you dance and be the Michifu we know. You never failed to make us proud as you fight eagerly, win or lose.

Now, you will still be vying for the title, but for a new squad, with a new squad.

Thank you, Michelle.

You may be an archer now, but once a lady eagle, is always a lady eagle.

We’ll rally behind you as you ride a new-found vehicle going into a grass-like journey onto a new home.

We want you to be genuinely happy, and we’ll be right at your back, wherever you may go.

See you again in the court- but this time, on the other side of the court.

Thank you for the one big fight, Mich.

Thursday Like Tuesday

As the siren graces the insides of my hearing

As I welcome the sun’s rays though I am unwilling

Yet the idea of you meddles in my head that’s aching

Making me live wire with one muscle that’s abnormally beating

‘coz today’s Thursday

Euphoria is all over my body, making me gay

‘coz it’s Thursday

And it feels exactly just like last Tuesday

Just like last Tuesday

When I brushed my hair’s strands while your face flashes

When the dripping waters sounds your manly voice turned to ashes

When the mirror reveals every bit of me with a touch of you.

‘coz it’s Thursday

The day I am waiting for aside from Tuesday

Spending every bit of the night preparing for this day

Longing for your heartbeat, longing for the words you say

Just like last Tuesday

When we both we’re ready to fail

When I was waiting for your silhouette to appear

And you did, but you were late, just like always.

Coz today’s Thursday

As I wait for your shape to fill my sight,

Callouts popped like boomerang in the night

And the smile I’m wearing was swallowed by the light

As I recall the times,

Whys and hows flood my mind

The times

When we lived a life

Of

Almost.

The times

when our story haven’t started a line

but the book already ended… …

with no goodbye.

An Open Letter to Jia Morado

​Dearest Jia,


Started from “Wearing jersey no. 12, Jia Morado!”

…and now we heard, “This is Jia Morado, #12 of the Ateneo Lady Eagles, signing off from the UAAP.”

Funny how painful these words are. Funny how these shallow words went into the depth of our chests, striking our veins, triggering white crystals to form in our eyes. Basically, those are just basic words we hear from players who are bound to exit. But funny, how such a huge surprise, even shocking than Coach Tai’s surprises, was pulled out before our naked senses which were already hurting. 

May 6, 2017. Who would’ve thought? Who would have thought that it would be your last? Funny, how we were too focused with the exit and uncertainty of the other players, not knowing that we are also about to lose one. Funny, Ji. Funny and ironic and silly, how we smile and cry hearing your speech, hearing you bid goodbye to the UAAP. Funny how we watched you gracefully playing, how we applauded to your spectacular plays, not knowing that it would be the last time you will astoundingly stand and smile inside the court, fighting for the blue and white.

Season 76. Post-Fab Five era. Ateneo was a rebuilding team. Everyone was outlined with the question of who will take the place of the legendary Jem Ferrer. The team earned all the doubts they can have, not until they crossed through hanging bridges to reach the Finals. And the rookie, wearing jersey #12, Julia Melissa Morado was one of the lady eagles’ main guns as they bagged the first championship trophy of the school, in the field of women’s volleyball. By that time, you were already incredibly amazing. By that time, you were eyeing for another championship run the following season.

Season 77. Your sophomore year. The Ateneo Lady Eagles were undefeated throughout the whole season, winning back-to-back titles. You were the best setter. By that time, you were incredibly amazing and sensationally splendid. You were still eyeing for another championship run the following season.

Season 78. The team went through teething troubles. You fought hard, vying for 3peat, but I think that season was not for us. We surrendered the title to our archrivals but nevertheless, the Ateneo Lady Eagles were the happiest silver medalists ever seen. By that time, you were incredibly amazing, sensationally splendid, and fantastically superb. You were eyeing to bounce back for another championship title the following season.

Season 79. You were in your fourth playing year. Team Captain, you were. The team was underestimated, negatively judged, and heavily doubted. But you were just incredibly amazing, sensationally splendid, and fantastically superb. We entered the Final Four, and found keys as we opened our door for the finals. But then again, we fell short. By that time, you were much more than just superlatives, because you are far greater than being amazing, much more beyond being splendid, and more than just being superb. But unlike the past seasons, you weren’t eyeing for a championship run next season anymore. Instead, by this time, you broke millions of hearts as you sang the melody of your decision which appears to be irrevocable saying, “This is Jia Morado, #12 of the Ateneo Lady Eagles, signing off from the UAAP.”
And then it hit us. So freaking hard. Four great years. Four great and legendary and amazing and spectacular years. What you said was more painful than our painstaking loss this season. Forget the title, the trophy and the confetti. It’s okay if we lost. What’s not okay is losing our captain, our smiling assassin, our deception master, our best setter, our silent killer, our MVP, our Jia Morado. What hurts the most is the thought of you, not coming back. What hurts the most is you, not staying.

So that’s the reason why. The reason why you were just unexplainably exemplary this season. The reason why you were the best. The reason behind your golden performance is because this is your last.

Maybe it will take a long time for us to accept your decision. But we will respect it, Captain. For now, we’d just like to thank God for you, and thank you for doing it all for God. Thank you for teaching us that we can turn rocks into diamonds, that we can bounce back if we lost. Thank you for being the perfect embodiment of heart strong- standing firm, fighting hard, and still smiling even if you’re surrounded with frowns. Thank you for being the coolest setter we’ve ever known. The silent phenom who kills without making noise. The humble and unassuming player who thinks of the team more than herself. Thank you for everything, Jia. Thank you for sharing your world class talent and your big heart with us.

It is an honor to see your magic right before our naked eyes. You seem like a demigod, leaving footprints in the body of a setter. Your calm demeanor and composure in crucial times are commendable. You are the setter every spiker would wish to have, the leader every member would wish to have. Without you, everything’s blurry. Without you, everything seems to be uncertain. But no matter what happens, we’ll always be right behind you, screaming for your name at the top of our lungs, cheering our hearts out for you all the time.
And now that we’ve expressed how grateful we are of you, can we ask you something, Captain? Why? Why so sudden? Why did you surprise us? You just proved that you are the deception queen, indeed. We all know how you can gracefully drop bombs in the court, but little did we know, that you drop bombs too, outside the court. You were incredible. Amazing. Everything beyond superlatives. Was it really your last? May 6, 2017 hit us so hard, Ji. Arrows reigned the UAAP, and arrows were buried beneath our hearts, too. Not because we lost in the game, but because we lost you.

We love you, Jia. 
We won’t stop hoping and believing that at some point, the universe would hear us.

One more year, please. One last stand. One last flight. One last time. One last fight for the one big fight. All for God. All for the blue and white.
We won’t lose hope and we will wait for that moment when we can hear “Wearing jersey #12, Team Captain, Jia Morado” again, one more time.


Right here waiting,

The community that shouts, “Go Ateneo, One Big Fight!”

Dig It Baby G, One Last Time

​A brave soul.

A strong heart.

A valiant spirit.

A fearless young lady who chose to spread her wings beyond the boundaries of the City of Smiles, beyond the green outlines of University of St. La Salle. Green to blue, thousands of miles from her comfort zone, she stood up and learned how to fly.

She was once a nobody. Was once just a typical volleyball player who is merely playing the sport she loves. She was once hiding beneath the shadow of her older sister. But now, she is somebody. Somebody who isn’t just a volleyball player, but an inspiration. She isn’t known to be Bea Tan’s younger sister anymore. Because she is Gizelle Tan, an Ateneo Lady Eagle who is making a name for herself.

 


UAAP Season 75 when we caught a glimpse of that petite beautiful lady who we had no idea about, except being the sibling of the fabulous Bea Tan. Seasons passed in a glimpse. And because time runs faster before our senses can even tell, now it’s Baby G’s last year donning the jersey tinted blue and white. All UAAP athletes went and will go through this- saying goodbye to something which turned them into completely different individuals, something which altered their perceptions and sentiments towards life, and something who twisted their whole existence upside-down for the last five years. And this time, it is G’s turn for bonvoyage.

Ma. Gizelle Jessica Tan. Sometimes a setter, sometimes a libero, an all-time lady eagle who embodies everything that it takes to be one. A simple and humble volleyball player who is always ready to take on whatever challenge the sport may give her. It takes so much courage and determination to be a setter, converted into a libero. 

But Gizelle, being a valiant one that she is, accepted the call, and is definitely slaying it all. She is part of the Ateneo champion team way back Season 76-77, also eyeing for the school’s third UAAP volleyball crown this Season 79. One of the highlights of Tan’s collegiate career was when she bagged the Best Setter and Best Libero awards consecutively in the Shakey’s V-League Collegiate Conference. 

Last Season 78 was when she played as Ateneo’s libero, filling in the shoes of the legendary Iron Eagle. It is a hard task, especially because it is the Dennise Lazaro she will be replacing. Nevertheless, Gizelle’s brave soul outstripped all doubts and fears as she fearlessly stood up and took a huge step towards digging and receiving, and diving and saving.  Although, it wasn’t an easy take for the Bacolod native. She went through difficult mazes, even harder than running into live balls. Doubtful people began to distrust what she can do. Fake fans even dubbed her as a weak libero. However, Gizelle, being a lady eagle, performed what heartstrong really means and remained tough amidst the hitting hitches. Through working hard, under the brilliance of Coach Tai, and with the help of her teammates, she showed everyone that nothing can stop a Gizelle Tan. The Ateneo’s Baby G improved inch by inch and she is one of the explosive bombs released by the deadly eagles this season 79. Though she may not be a top contender for the libero awards this season, she’s definitely one of the biggest factors why the Ateneo Lady Eagles has been dominating UAAP volleyball. 

Last December 2016 was her last Thailand stint. Last January was her first and last Japan trip. It was her last Cheer Rally last year, too. Last February 4, she took flight as a fifth year lady eagle in her last playing year. She played her last elimination rounds, last rivalry matches, last final four games. And now, she’s down to only 3 maximum games in her last finals appearance.

Thank you for the five great years, G.

Thank you for the breathtaking dives, aweing planks, excellent sets, superb digs, and admirable receptions you shared with us.

Thank you for reminding us that nothing beats a brave soul and a strong heart.

Thank you for playing the sport not just for the name written at the back of your jersey, but for the name in front. ATENEO.

Thank you for inspiring us and for brightening our days, because of your angelic face and dazzling smiles.

Thank you for fighting, G. Thank you for not giving up.

Thank you and we will never forget those five years. We will never forget that once upon a time, there was a fabulous and brave lady who fought until the last blood, wearing the precious Ateneo jersey number 7.

The Ateneo community is proud of you. Your fans are proud of you. The whole Bacolod is proud of you. Of what you are now, of what you’ve become. We’re proud.

It will be your last UAAP finals. Last opportunity to don blue and white. Last time to dive, to dig, to receive for Ateneo. Last time to play for Ateneo. 

It is your one last dig for the one big fight in your one last flight. 

Dig it Baby G, one last time.

Once Upon a 28

​There are no perfect love stories. No perfect people. Even a beautiful thing we called magic can turn into something tragic. Only love—no, only true love can break a person’s idea of perfects, only true love can travel beyond a galaxy of stories which aren’t perfect, but are definitely for the books.

Friendship is the most solid foundation to start a tower of an intimate relationship. Two people who started as friends. Friends who turned into best friends. Best friends who hopped islands together. Best friends who donned blue and white together. Best friends who gave pride to their alma mater together. Best friends who fell into the grounds, and got up, together. Best friends who became each other’s greatest fan, each other’s crying shoulder. Best friends, turned into a ship. A ship, turned into something magically real.

Love, indeed, does move in mysterious ways.

From sweet tweets and cheesy instagram posts, from picture-perfect stolen shots and endearing videos, this #KiefLy tandem never failed to give chills, good vibes, and “kilig” to their shippers. They never failed to send hopeless hopes to the sailors of their ship, too. Hints were dropped. Clues and indications has been spreading throughout the huge perimeter. There were even motives, delineating something wonderful. Everyone has been anticipating for a scoreboard revealing the real score between the two. And finally, May 4, 2016 broke the iced walls and answers were exposed. The night’s breeze blew just like t’was Valentines Day as the King and Queen Eagle already sang the melody of their love.

Everything was almost our idea of perfect. Until something wrecked the abyss out of their relationship. It broke the internet, the news, and the papers. Others even judged them, threw septic words, and poisoned opinions. Some thought, it would be the end of something-we-thought-would-last. Some thought, the idea of #KiefLy would remain as an almost perfect love, broken by fate. But no. Maybe you just can’t separate true love. Maybe you just can’t break true love. Maybe, true love is really the strongest force on Earth, overcoming, overpowering, and conquering everything. And maybe, just maybe, nothing can ever beat a joint power of love between two people who are meant to be together.

And as our favorite ship continue to sail as a real and legit couple for a year (and counting), 

Here’s to the unconditional love the Phenoms showed us.

Here’s to the edited pictures, which eventually evolved into real ones.

Here’s to the sleepless nights, as we wait for their posts and replies.

Here’s to their competitive souls, bringing unique greetings every month.

Here’s to the trials, which turned into strengthening factors.

Here’s to everyone who believed and stayed with them in the middle of the storm.

Here’s to everyone in this fandom, who fought, smiled, and cried for them and with them.

Here’s to Kiefer and Alyssa, for not giving up on each other, despite of the toxic eyes and mouths of the world.

Here’s to our patience, as we hope to witness a phenomenal turning point in the lives of these legends- the time when Alyssa Valdez and Kiefer Ravena won’t exist anymore, the time when they would be rolled up in one one, being Mr. and Mrs. Ravena.

Two-inspiring student-athletes who gave so much pride to Ateneo. Two phenoms who slayed two of the greatest sports. Two brave souls who stood up and fought for the country. Two individuals who keep on inspiring other people. 

Goals? Goals. But #KiefLy is more than those.

Love doesn’t come off easy. It isn’t perfect, either. But they managed to withstand all of life’s tests and remained with each other’s arms, well that is pure and legit #RelationshipGoals.

Kiefer Isaac C. Ravena and Alyssa C. Valdez. They may not be a typical once upon a time story that ends with a happily ever after, but they, too, have a story to tell. 

A story which started once upon a 28, a best-selling story that will never have an end.  A story that will last a lifetime.

#KiefOnBelieving

​Mistakes are choices we decided to take. Mistakes are intentional paths we chose to walk in. They are inevitable, nevertheless, controllable. Human as we are, we sometimes tend to encircle incorrect choices which made us the subjects of people’s painful predicates. But no matter how wrong and erroneous those may be, mistakes will never define who we really are. They will define what we will be. And everything is in our command. Will we let these mistakes draw us into nothingness, or will we use these mistakes to bring ourselves into something great?

Kiefer Ravena’s issue has been circling a long time now and this one’s maybe a little bit late. But I believe nothing’s too late for one’s dispositions to be unmuted as much as it’s not yet too late for the King Eagle to admit his mistakes and start his engines into the right way. 

Sure, what he did was purely an enough reason to hate him.  It was immoral, nonsense, dirty, bad, and all the negative superlatives ever spoken. It was an act of cheating, dishonesty, covetousness, and everything in between. What he has done was an enough reason not to admire, support and idolize him anymore. Certainly, he has lost a lot of fans by this time now. But not me, not us.

A bunch of people has been asking my viewpoint with Kiefer’s issue, so now I’m giving you all the treat. I have seen the viber conversations before the news climbed at its peak but I only shrugged it off, thinking that was just some sort of a desperate hater who can do nothing but interfere with Ravena’s life. Even until the issue was all over social media and televisions, I kept on believing that it was not him. But not until I saw an interview with Kiefer not confirming nor denying it. That was when I knew. It was him. I felt sad. I was disappointed. I was hurt. I was hurt because I defended someone guilty. I was hurt because I can’t believe that he can do such thing. I was hurt because he did it to Alyssa Valdez. However, the big deal is not because it is THE Alyssa Valdez, but the fact the he is THE Kiefer Ravena. The King Eagle. The Phenom. The one we idolize, not just as an athlete, but as an individual as a whole.

But who am I to spread hate? Who am I not to forgive? Who am I to bash? Who am I to dictate Alyssa’s decisions? And even if I have a choice to either support him or not, I decided to stick into being one of Kiefer Ravena’s loyal fans. Upon entering the fandom, I promised myself that I will always have his back, through thick and thin. Isn’t now the right time to prove that? It is. It is the right time to prove that I will always be by his side no matter what. But that doesn’t make me less of an Alyssa Valdez fan. In fact, AV was the first ever athlete I idolized and supported. I love her, and I love everyone she loves- including Kiefer Ravena. I know Alyssa is smart and strong. Whatever her decision may be, she will have my support. Whatever their decision may be, they will always have my support. #KiefLy is my main ship, my OTP. No matter how far or deep the destination of this ship may be, rest assured, I will always be with them.

I support Kiefer Ravena unconditionally. Whatever circumstances the universe may give him, nothing will change. Yeah sure, he has mistaken. That was a wrong choice. A wrong move. An incorrect action. But he’s only human. I know he learned something from what happened- a big lesson much more than just “being maingat”. I know he will use this as a turning point to become better. Because it’s not yet too late to change.

Shoutout to everyone who chose to support our King Eagle despite of the storm he went through. We will always have your back, Kief! Millions may throw rocks on you, but we will always be right here, still cheering for you. 

#Kieflying Kiefer Ravena! We will always #KiefOnBelieving!