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.

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New Team, Same Dream, Same Big Fight

Few more days.

Few more days before we can finally see them in action.

Before we can finally see them put up big fights.

Before we can finally rip our lungs out, and cheer our hearts out.

Few more days before we can hear drumrolls and loud shouts. May it be from the Arena, or from our own hearts.

Few more days before we can finally feel like we’re going to run out of oxygen, every point, every set, every game.

Few more days to see the Lady Eagles serve, spike, set, dig, and dive. All of their own. Without Kiwi, without Mae, and without the Queen Eagle. 

Few more days to witness what heartstrong really is.

Yes, because few more days before the UAAP Season of the Ateneo Women’s Volleyball Team in the post-Alyssa Valdez era starts.

Few more days before they will stand on their own feet. Without pressure. Without hype. Just one big fight.

Are you ready to witness another greatness? Are you ready to welcome another queens? 

Be prepared to shout One Big Fight as we, altogether will climb our way onto reclaiming the volleyball crown. Be ready to scream, jump, shout, and get hyped as we are about to witness the heartstronger Lady Eagles in their biggest fights!

Because the clock tick-tocks so fast, because the Earth rotates and revolves so fast, some of us haven’t totally swallowed the idea that we can longer hear “Alyssa Valdez down the line!”,”Alyssa Valdez with a kill!”, “Alyssa Valdez from the backrow!”, “Alyssa Valdez puts it away!”, “Alyssaaaaaaaaa Valdeeeeez!”, because she, the Phenom is already done with her domination in the UAAP. But surely, we would hear, “Jhoana Maraguinot!”, “Bea de Leon!”, “Jia Morado!”, “Mich Morente!”, “Kat Tolentino!”, “Kim Gequillana!”, and the rest of the Lady Eagles. Because the crowd favorite Valdez is now spreading her wings in Thailand, bringing one big fight and Typhoon Baldo in 3BB, we would surely be clapping our hands to the lady eagles with wings yet to unfold. And together, as a team, as a fandom, as one with the community that bleeds blue, would cheer for Alyssa miles away, and for the Ateneo Team all the way!

Many counted the Eagles out. They were underestimated. They were degraded. Since the V-League Collegiate Conference, they were pulled down by non-believers. But as strong as our hearts are, never did they back down. They did not even stare down on their bashers. When everyone’s busy putting them down, they were there, at Thailand, at Japan, gaining experiences and acquiring skills in order to put up exciting battles in the battlefield.

So go, faves. As the UAAP Volleyball Season 79 comes nearer, we believe that you can and you will fight harder and harder each game. You maybe are dubbed as a young team, but age could never define the outcomes of your games. Your heart will, your determination and hardwork will. We believe that eveything you’ve been through made you stronger and mightier than ever. We believe that the super rookies would fly high and spread their eagle-like wings above all. We believe that the returning key players are much eager to shake, rattle, and roll the volleyball court. Don’t let failures hinder you in claiming the crown. Instead, use them as turning points and breakthroughs to prove them wrong. Nowhere to go but up, girls. We are certain that all of you, Lady Eagles are going to swim depth of oceans, climb the highest mountains, and reach the top, against all odds. We believe. We always will.

We will never get tired of cheering and tweeting and watching you. Because never did you get tired to look after bombs and balls thrown onto you. Thank you for sharing your talents with us. Just remember that you’ve got a one big blue fam behind your back, for richer or for poorer, in sickness and in health, till death do us part. Win or lose, we are here. Win. or. Lose. Because you may not win it all, but surely, you’ve won our hearts.

We are ready to welcome another era of greatness, Lady Eagles.  

Our lungs are more than ready to cheer for you. Our hands are more than ready to clap for you. Our feet are more than prepared to jump for you. Because we know, and we believe, that you are more than ready to conquer UAAP. 

Through the mantra of being HAPPY, playing with UNITY and nothing but HEARTSTRONG.

We’re going to do it one point at a time, one set at a time, one game at a time.

New team. Same dream. Same big fight.

Fight Until The Last Blood

Last few seconds of the fourth and final quarter.

Will it be the last few seconds of the UAAP Basketball Finals Game 2?

Or will it be the last few seconds of the UAAP Basketball Season 79?

 

Seas of blue shouting “Get that ball!”

Passionate fans in blue, holding banners, cheering their hearts out, no matter how many times you fall.

Intense match. Exciting game. Stupid calls. Hype fans. Gwapo moves. Excellent passes. Amazing plays. Only in an Ateneo-La Salle match.

Goosebumps. Nervous hearts. Prayers. Because we believe. We trust. We hope. For the entire season, we cheered our hearts out. We didn’t let doubters bring us down. Instead, we proved them wrong. You were dubbed as underdogs. You were underestimated. You were sold short. You weren’t considered as top contenders. You were predicted to be at the lower part of the list.

Nevertheless, you made them shut up. You silenced the non-believers, not through bragging nor boasting, but through working hard and flying high. Through getting up, standing up, you managed to crawl your way up. It wasn’t an easy flight. In fact, it was accompanied with so much difficulties. The entire season was tiring, hard-bitten and heavy-handed. From your unending hardships during trainings, up to the indescribable pressure every game. From the motivations you get from your supporters, up to the harsh and unreasonable hate tweets from your doubters. You sacrificed so much. For Ateneo, for the blue community, and most importantly, for the greater glory of God.

Last few seconds.

11…

10…

9…

8…

7…

La Salle leads by 6, their possession.

Some may say the battle’s over, but not me, not us.

The King Archer is already raising his hands, smelling victory.

They told me “Wala na, Champion na La Salle.”

But no. It’s not yet over. It’s no game over.

Because there are 6 seconds left. I believed. I silently hoped. Why would I stop believing? Why would I declare that the archers are already winners if there are few seconds left? I was waiting for a miracle. I did not stop cheering. Because I know they can, and they will; if God permits. “One Big Fight” is still in my LED scrolling display. Why would I give up, why would I stop believing when my team is freaking fighting? I do not have any right to back down because the Ateneo Blue Eagles are doing their thing! Tell me, why would I stop when through their eyes, I can see them saying, “We can’t stop, we won’t stop.”

And then it hits me.

The final buzzer already was heard.

The final buzzer of the UAAP Basketball Season 79. And the DLSU green archers claimed their 9th championship.

But I was surprised with my own feelings and emotions. I wasn’t that broken, wasn’t that lonely. Yes, it is sad. Who wants to lose? I think no one would. But that loss was one of the happiest loss I ever had for the whole time I am supporting Ateneo. It isn’t that heartbreaking because we’ve seen them struggle but we’ve also witnessed how they managed to strive and move forward, against all odds. They played against a much experienced team, but they fought really hard, they did their best and it’s already more than enough.

To the Ateneo Blue Eagles, thank you for the one big fight. Thank you for playing your hearts out. Thank you for this season’s rollercoaster ride. For the three-pointers, buzzer beaters, spins, blocks, excellent plays, and amazing ball movements you showed us. But above all, thank you for that big and humble heart. That strong heart who, in every way possible, has found ways to fight back and fly high when arrows and other warriors attack. You were down, but you went up. Now, that’s pure heart. And that’s something to be proud of.

So heads up. You didn’t lose anything. Maybe you did lose this season’s title, but tomorrow is another day, and next year is another season. But you gave your all, and with that, you’re already winners. Despite of that, we’d like to introduce ourselves to you all.

We are your supporters.

Win or lose, we’ll cheer for you.

You maybe are up by 15, or down by 20, but we will never get tired to shout your names and wear your color.

You never fail to amaze us.

Because when there’s 20% of chance to win, you taught us that we should not underestimate that 20%.

Thank you for making our hearts skip a beat. Because every game, we’re feeling like we’re near the end of our lives because of jittery.

When they no longer believe, we always will.

When they lose hope, we won’t.

We are one. We’re all in this together.

This isn’t just your game. This is ours. This is our battle.

 

So go, blue eagles. Play hard, train harder. Don’t let defeats bring you down. Use them as stepladders to be on top. But always remember, no matter how high the heights you have reached, stay humble. Because that makes you the best. Much better than the victors, much better than any contenders. Don’t brag about anything. Because you don’t need to. We’ll brag for you, because we’ll always be proud of you. Win or lose.

 

I did not regret that I cheered for this team. A team that’s humble in victory, and gracious in defeat. I won’t give up and I won’t stop believing, because you never did, until the last second, until the last buzzer.

You fought really hard, until the last blood.

Thank you, Blue Eagles.

Life after all, is not about winning. It’s about fighting and giving your all in that one big fight.

Thank you for not giving the ball up.

Even in the last few seconds.

Thank you for doing everything you could.

Thank you for fighting until the last second.

Thank you for fighting until the last blood.

Because silver feels like gold when you gave your all and you fought despite your size, experience, and number.

Thank you Gboy Babilonia, Jme Escaler, Shaun Ildefonso, Anton Asistio, Raffy Verano, Matt Nieto, Chibueze Ikeh, Adrian Wong, Jawuan White, Aaron Black, Jolo Mendoza, Vince Tolentino, Kris Porter, Mike Nieto, Isaac Go, Thirdy Ravena, and Coach Tab Baldwin.

Thank you for the one big fight.cyukhbmweaajmki

Alyssa Valdez: She’s Only Human… or is she?

We’ve seen her fall down a lot of times. We’ve seen her shed tears. We’ve seen her down in bended knees. We’ve seen her struggle… from diving to kneeling to tumbling. And we’ve seen her stand up, fly high, and come back… stronger, mightier, higher than ever.

What do we expect? She’s the Queen Eagle. She’ll be flying high, always. She will never let arrows hit her. Never will she give up.

Because spikes may be blocked, serves may not be good, blocks may not be solid, hands may get tired, feet may knock down, knees may get hurt, but Alyssa’s heart knows no range.

So here’s for Ateneo’s former captain, Bureau of Customs’ captain, the Face of Philippine Volleyball, who brought her teams to the finals and hopefully, to the crown. Different teams, same results, same big fight.

Here’s for that girl wearing jersey #2, who has always been solid in good and bad times.

Here’s for that smiling lady who has always been fighting, either her team is up with 5 points or down with 15 points.

Here’s for that strong girl who, after committing errors, just turns around with heads down, and can still manage to go back to her teammeates and lift their hopes up.

Props to Alyssa Valdez who, at her present achievement and capabilities, never failed to amaze us. She has been doing her thing, always. Either it’s with Team Besh, or against Team Besh. With Dennise Lazaro as her back-up, or with Lazaro digging her attacks. She maybe is tired, exhausted, and fatigue, but never did she let us down.

Props to our all-around player. Our spiker, setter, blocker, and libero. She is always lit. From offense or defense, she’s unstoppable.

Pure talent, pure heart.

She falls down, because she’s only human. But she comes back everytime like nothing happened.

Are we sure Valdez is not a superhero?

Because she’s always been saving dead balls and dead games.

Name it, she have it.

But the best thing about her? It seems like she’s not aware that she’s great. She remained as the same Alyssa we’ve known since the start. The humble one and the beast in the court.

Because she is the best volleyball player in the Philippines,

Because she has always been standing up,

Because she believes that her team can,

And because she has that strong heart,

Alyssa Valdez, are you human?

Epitome of Humility in Greatness: Valdez Knows

“Alyssa Valdez from the backrow!”

“Alyssa Valdez down the line!”

“Alyssa Valdez off-the-block!”

“Alyssa Valdez finds the spot!”

“Dropball by Alyssa Valdez”

“Service Ace by Alyssa Valdez!”

“Alyssaaaaaaaaaa Valdeeeeeeez!”

A name in the history of Ateneo de Manila University. A name in the history of Philippine Sports. A name who changed the name of volleyball, not just here in the country, but in the whole world. Yes, that name is Alyssa Valdez.

Five great years. We couldn’t ask for more. Her era was the golden years of Philippine Volleyball, the golden years of Ateneo.

From her sharp serves in the service line, up to those killing spikes. From her indescribable face as she flies, up to her never-ending smiles. Surely, this girl is the limelight.

She is Alyssa Valdez. The Queen Eagle. The Face of Philippine Volleyball. The Phenom. Yet, with hundreds of individual trophies gracing their household, never did she speak about her enormity. She flies in the highest altitude, but she kept her feet on the ground. Heart of a champion, it is.

Started at the bottom, now she’s here. She fell down for God-knows-how-many-times. She shed buckets of tears. She lost so many games. But no matter how beaten her body was, her heart remained strong. She was once the weakest, once the youngest, was once a bench warmer. But those circumstances did not pull her down. Rather, all the unwanted losses and painful experiences prepared her in facing all the foes she’s about to encounter. Minor setbacks, for major comebacks.

Point by point, game by game, season by season, year by year, she grew. She played hard, and trained harder. Inch by inch, she’s starting to reach what she has been working hard for. She became the greatest she can ever be. Ladies and gentlemen,

The phenomenal spiker.

The best server.

The highest scorer.

The Lazaro-like digger.

The setter.

The blocker.

The back liner.

The Beast.

Everyone’s nightmare on the wing.

All hail, the Queen- Alyssa Valdez.

 

But just like the reality of life, even the best fall down sometimes. The odds weren’t always in her favor. Sharp knives were thrown on her. She was stabbed for countless times. She received hurtful gifts all the time. Because even the best fall down sometimes. Even her personal life, her actions, the way she speaks, she acts, the way she looks- she was judged. Every time. All the time. We can’t please everyone, and Alyssa is no exception. As she rises, bashers were trying and doing their best to see her fall. Millions of words were directed unto her. But the best thing about this girl? Never did she plant any hatred against anyone. Never did she let other people’s judgments affect her and bring her down. Instead, she used these as turning points to do more and be more.

 

So here’s for Ateneo’s Queen Eagle. The captain who encourages her teammates to give their all every game. The captain who managed to smile in the midst of everyone’s tears. The captain who assures the team that everything is going to be alright. The captain who motivates and believes that they can. The captain who lifts the team up, when they feel like falling. The captain who flies in when her teammates were down in bended knees. The captain who continues to fight until the end.

“Kahit mahirap, kahit nakakapagod, kahit anong meron, diba lalaban ka lang…” A teary-eyed Alyssa Valdez made the whole blue squad feel sad, hurt and sorrowful. It is very unusual to see an always-smiling-Alyssa to be in tears. It is very rare to see tears go down her face. That was during the UAAP Season 78 Finals Game 2 against their archrival, De La Salle Lady Spikers, wherein they won in five thrilling sets. Everyone thought that it was already the Phenom’s last dance. But tables were turned, and the girls with the strongest hearts stood out. We were so proud. So proud to have the eagles’ back. So proud to support them. So proud that we are one of the community that shouts “Go Ateneo, One Big Fight!”

Everything comes to an end. Even her UAAP greatness came to an end. She closed her collegiate career with a bang. But it is undeniable that Alyssa deserves a better last flight. Nevertheless, I think she doesn’t need more than what she had. Because it was an exploding #PhenomOut for Valdez. Alyssa, together with the Lady Eagles were the happiest silver medalists ever seen.

Thank you for the five great years, Ly.

Thank you for those serves, spikes, back row attacks, blocks, and digs you showed us.

Thank you for the smiles, laughter, and tears you shared with us.

Thank you for making us believe that nothing can ever beat a person with a strong heart.

Thank you for the touching speeches.

Thank you for dedicating your MVP trophies to the volleyball community.

Thank you for motivating us to stand up if we’re down.

Thank you for regarding us your fans, as your family.

You deserve all of those countless blessings.

UAAP will never be the same without you. You are one of the best things which happened in Philippine volleyball. You are one of Ateneo’s superstars, one of those who gave so much honor and pride to the school and the country.

 

So go, Alyssa. Walk, run, chase your dreams. We will always be here. We got your back, all the time. We’ll support you in every path you ought to take, in every decision you choose to make. Your happiness is ours too. Your success and loss, are ours too.

It maybe is #PhenomOut for UAAP, but it will always be #PhenomIn for the rest of the world to see.

  • Valdez knows.

It All Started With…

Crowded place. Splendid banners. Huge fandoms. People’s cheers jammed the four corners of the arena. And then two teams were shown, then applause and chants filled the walls. Hundreds were shouting ‘Animo La Salle’ and half of the thousands were one with the community that shouts ‘Go Ateneo! One Big Fight!’

Sharp serves. Good receptions. Excellent sets. Powerful attacks. Kill blocks. Excellent digs. Hundreds of great teams can do it all, but for me, only one team can do those with an unknown ingredient which can capture the hearts of the people. For some, they are just typical student-athletes. For them, there is nothing extraordinary. For the non-believers, they are not great. But to those people with hearts that they have caught, they would always be the best squad.

Yes, they are not the most powerful and unstoppable team. They are not the greatest of all. They are not perfect. They have been through the worst. They swim depths. They climb the highest mountains. They were stuck in the ground. But the best thing about them? Never did they give up. They kept on fighting even if they don’t have weapons anymore. They continued blocking even if they don’t have shields anymore. They stayed in the battlefield and continued to clash with the strongest teams even how wounded they are. They kept on flying high, even if their wings are already impaired. That is the team with the strongest hearts, mirroring their mantra, “Heartstrong”. They bounce back higher and come back stronger every time they hit the ground. And it says it all. They would always fly high and fight strong.

 

“And here are the starters for the Ateneo de Manila University Lady Eagles!” We have heard that for zillions of times, but no matter how frequent I will hear those words, my feelings will never turn upside down. I just can’t help it but feel exultant and proud of those ladies wearing blue and white. Every serve, receive, set, dig, and spike, I feel really proud to be an avid fan and supporter of this team. They are more than just our favorite squad, but they are also our inspiration. They made us realize that even if we’re in the bottom, we can make it to the top. They made us realize that even the best fall down sometimes. For the hundredth time, I am so proud of what this team has become.

 

Happy. Unity. Heartstrong. They are taking it one point at a time and one game at a time. At their recent achievements and the star players they have produced, they remained humble. No matter how high they fly, they kept their feet on the ground. Despite of their high standings, they have never stared down at their opponents. Heart of a champion it is. These, and all of the other things make the Ateneo Lady Eagles a great team to idolize and support. Every applause, cheer, shout, and banner is worth it, as long as

it’s for them. They never failed to amaze us. They never failed to touch our hearts. They never failed to make us proud.

 

So here’s to the team who remained strong in the midst of being weak. Thank you Lady Eagles for teaching us what victory means. Championships and awards will never measure one’s strength. Those smiles inside the court, the hype aura, your humility, and your fighting spirit are all that matters. As long as your happy, we are too. As long as we can see you fighting, we will never stop believing. As long as you’re giving your best, we’ll continue to cheer for you in the top of our lungs. Win or lose, we will never give up. Because all of you never did. You kept your hearts strong, and your faith stronger. And the best thing? You are doing all of these for the greater glory of God. Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam.

 

Amidst the rolling of the drums, the banners of the standouts, I will never regret that between the green and the blue, I chose the color of the clear sky. I will never regret that between the loud cheers of the different sides, I chose to be one with the crowd that shouts, GO ATENEO! ONE BIG FIGHT!

And that was when it all started…

Started to bleed blue.