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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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!”

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.

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.