Someone asked me how my blog and newspaper column came to be titled "Bleachers Brew". It's like this, it's an amalgam of sorts of two things: The bleachers area in the stadium/arena where I used to sit when I would watch baseball, football, and basketball games and Miles Davis' great jazz album Bitches Brew. That's how it got culled together. I originally planned on calling it "The View from the Big Chair" that is a nod to Tears For Fear's second album, Songs from the Big Chair. So there.

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Talking to the Blue Eaglets Parents Part 1

Talking to the Blue Eaglets Parents Part 1
by rick olivares

With the Ateneo Blue Eaglets booking their first finals stint since three years ago, we took time to sit down -- well, have dinner actually -- with the parents of the players to talk about the season and well, their kids.

Dinner was at Sambokojin, Eastwood.

Roll Call:
Dot and Gina Escalona
Rapa and Didi Lopa
Bing and Lorena Credo
Wilmer and Jane Ong
Samy and Geraldine Chiu
Pong and Lia Manuel
Long and Mhaggi David
Danny and Ren Ildefonso
Ervin and Pam Sotto
Rodney and Alu Santos
Duy and Arcie Jaymalin
Sammy and Mayet Belangel
Edwin Diaz
Noli and Monette Gusi

Not able to make it were the parents of Amchel Angeles and Allen TaƱedo.

We initially ask all the parents to introduce themselves and Rapa Lopa introduces himself as Piolo Pascual and the room erupts with laughter. The icebreaker is cast and off we go.

How is your son coping with both sports and school?
Dot Escalona: I think my son, Rap, is coping. And I think he will graduate. (laughter from everyone)

Arcie Jaymalin: Time management is crucial. We always remind our son about that because you need a balance for both sports and studies.

Sammy Belangel: Mahirap but we put it this way – that you get the opportunity to study at the Ateneo and to play for the school. Siguro enough motivation yun for SJ to do well.

Lia Manuel: Joaqui is doing well.

Pong Manuel: He is used to the Jesuit system since he went to Xavier. So far, he is doing well.

Rapa Lopa: Carlo is doing well too. Basketball is also about discipline and I that also translates to his studies because he knows he cannot play if he isn’t doing well. So it is good.

Geraldine Chiu: Since Geo started playing basketball. I told him that if you want to play, you have to do well in your studies. You cannot set studies aside because each one is dependent on the other.

Long David: My son is responsible naman in his approach to both studies and sports.

Mhaggie David: He understands what being a student-athlete is all about so good naman for us.

Ren Ildefonso: Si Dave nag-aaral? (laughter from everyone) I think pumapasa kasi nakakalaro siya. (more laughter)

Ervin Sotto: Si Kai nahihirapan talaga. Nag-aadjust pa rin. Nandiyan kami to support him pero kailangan more effort. But yung mga tumutulong sa paligid niya – malaking bagay.

How do you deal with disappoint sa basketball – hindi nakakalaro, masama ang laro, nabubulyawan ng coach?

Bing Credo: Bawi ka na lang anak. Bawi ka na lang. Wala ka naman magagawa kasi tapos na yun. Alam ko naman na talented ka. Alam ko yung kaya mong gawin.

Sammy Belangel: For me depende. Gusto ko yung ma-meet niya yung expectations sa kanya at mag-enjoy.

Long David: Kay Daniel lagi ko sinasabi na practice ka pa some more. Kung wala pa yung playing time, that means kulang. So practice pa. Pero minsan, gusto ko ako na pumasok sa court (laughter from everyone) para sa anak ko. Alam ko kasi mayroon ibubuga yung bata kaya minsan, frustrating.

Wilmer Ong: Ako naman, tanggap ko na kulang pa. Pero that shouldn’t stop Kyroe from working harder. Or matulungan siya ng coaching staff to develop. But work in progress. Alam naman natin yan.

Danny Ildefonso: Si Dave nung first year niya, hindi masyadong nagagamit. Alam naman natin na you have to work your way in. Sabi ko kay Dave dapat lagi kang ready kasi kapag nabunot ka, may ipapakita ka. Dapat quality minutes ka.

Ervin Sotto: Sabi ko kay Kai, last year at lalo pa ngayon, meron ka nang marka sa likod mo. Pahihirapan ka at pahirap ng pahirap yung basketball. Dapat gawin mo ng paraan kasi ikaw yung naglalaro. Hindi tayo puwede magreklamo sa lahat ng pangyayari. Nasa sa iyo rin yung solusyon.

Rodney Santos: Sabi ko kay Migo na struggling ay part ng buhay ng player. If you have the right attitude about the game. Tulad ng sabi ni Danny, kung hindi ka nagagamit dapat lagi kang ready. Dumaan din naman ako diyan. Ang sagot kasi is how to respond sa challenge. With Migo, we have to constantly remind him and encourage him. Mahirap din kasi I handle yung frustration. Eh, bata pa yan so job naming parents is to guide and encourage him. Ito na yung pinasukan natin sitwasyon, we have to find yung best sa scenario na to.

Nung NBTC All-Star Game last year – nandun na si SJ at si Kai – yung mga all-stars minsan nagtanong kay Jong Uichico who was the coach of one of the teams kung ano yung kailangan gawin para umangat sa college at sa PBA kung kaya. Skills improvement ba? Going to a big program school? Ang sagot ni Jong Uichico ay, having the right attitude. Having the right attitude allows you to be humble, to grow, to accept challenges etc. So tugma sa sinasabi nila Lakay at Rodney at yung ibang PBA players natin.

Pong Manuel: Mahaba sagot ko. What I can share is this – yung panganay ko na si Jett, alam naman natin yung struggles niya sa UP. All the frustrations and challenges pinagdaanan namin. Madalas talo. Walang panalo. Sinasabi ko, kain na lang tayo anak. (laughter from everyone). 0-14. 1-13. Saklap, eh.

Yung comparison with Joaqui being on a winning team, ang sinasabi ko sa struggles niya, “Anak, maliit na lang problema mo. If you are passionate and you have the correct attitude, you will go further in your playing career. Compare na lang natin para gumaan. Nakita mo yung struggles ni Jett – frustrated, umiiyak, binibigay lahat pero talo pa rin. Eh, dito, winning team, be a part of team. Yung halo ng winning team, mahirap makuha so be glad you are a part of it. Be a part of it.

Rapa Lopa: Sabi ko kay Carlo, mag-artista na lang siya. (laughter all over).

Mukha naman K-Pop, di ba. (even more laughter from everyone).

Actually, si Carlo, this has been his dream to be a part of a UAAP team. As you know, he isn’t the most talented player on the team. Even since his grade school days playing for Ateneo na kasama si Rap, yung anak ni Dot Escalona, he was a role player. UAAP is the ultimate dream. Of course, hirap yan. Nung natanggap siya sa UAAP line-up, that was the day our daughter was leaving for London so medyo gumaan yung pakiramdam namin ni Didi. When he doesn’t get the minutes, he gets very frustrated, and he talks to us. But as you said, Rick, just because you do not get the minutes, it doesn’t mean you aren’t a part of the team. The mere fact that you are practicing hard with the team it prepares the team. Eh, every day siya bumabantay kay SJ sa practice and well… challenge yan, anak. (laughter all over). But what you do helps prepare the team for the next challenge.

It is a source of pride to see his teammates support him in whatever minutes he gets. And when he makes those crazy shots of his and his teammates erupt in celebration, that means a lot to me and Didi. Akala mo pang championship-winning shot. It means a lot. Thank you to everybody for the support.

Dot Escalona: Every game is a challenge for Rap. We have to guide him to learn from everything that happens.

Samy Chiu: Si Geo kasi tahimik na bata kaya lagi ako present sa game niya. Pag-bad game siya, ang sinasabi ko na may presence of mind siya. And to treat each game and every practice as a learning experience. Geo is new to basketball so learning process lahat ito. Maganda kasi nakikita niya what he needs to work on. And marami pa kailangan gawin. So kami as parents we have make him understand that.

Edwin Diaz: It is good that my son gets minutes kahit konti. Learning stage yan. Sabi ko to watch what the veterans are doing kasi next year, ikaw na yung veteran sa team.

Duy Jaymalin: Ang sinasabi ko lang to my son is to do your best. Kung masama laro, bawi ka next game kasi yun naman ang dapat, di ba? Ganyan talaga ang buhay ng basketball. May good and bad, parang buhay. Kaya lang push siya ng todo. Nandyan na. Hindi lahat ng bata nabibigyan ng chance maglaro para sa Ateneo at sa UAAP.

Dot Escalona: Dati, pagtalo Rap feels bad because he wants to help the team. He has always had a good head about what he can and cannot do. But I admire him for his thinking of the team first and not himself.

Tulad nitong gathering na to. Siya nagisip nito. Para makasama yung players and parents. Sabi ko, anak, ano purpose? Hindi kaya maging impression na para tayong nag-celebrate? Hindi pa tapos. No, dad, hindi. Dapat nga sabihin na hindi pa tapos.

But in basketball, don’t regret anything you as long as you did what you had to do. Make the most of it. So ganun siya.

Noli Gusi: With my son, be happy that you are a part of the team and to always be ready. Mahirap din yung not enough minutes kasi you struggle to do well. But tulad ng sabi ng iba, yung challenge ay to be ready.

With the Blue Eaglet dads who used to play in the PBA: Long David, Ervin Sotto, Wilmer Ong, Danny Ildefonso, and Rodney Santos. Watch for more of their takes in Part 2.

In Part 2, the parents talk about superstitions, why go to Ateneo, and that bruising game versus NU.

Monday, February 19, 2018

Bismarck Lina remains unsinkable in UST Tiger Cubs’ Cinderella run

Bismarck Lina remains unsinkable in UST Tiger Cubs’ Cinderella run
by rick olivares

The University of Santo Tomas Tiger Cubs have been proving to be unsinkable in do-or-die matches at the tail-end of the UAAP Juniors Basketball Tournament. They’ve eliminated Adamson and defending champions Far Eastern University by the skin of their teeth, 73-72 and 81-80 respectively.

In the midst of the Tiger Cubs’ Cinderella run is the one man in the middle – John Bismarck Lina who is in his freshman year with the team after transferring from Chiang Kai Shek College.

The Tiger Cubs were seeded to fight for a Final Four slot but when new broke out about an impending coaching change in the middle of the season, the unwanted distraction saw UST fall apart in the second round. They arrested their skid with some late season heroics and now they have placed themselves in a position to book that second final slot.

What is amazing in the midst of all this is how this 6’4” forward-center has been lost in the shuffle. And why not when the uncrowned league Most Valuable Player CJ Cansino is in uniform with their plethora of outside snipers with Kobe Palencia, Rayjhun Baquial, Liam Manabat, and Vince Dolendo.

Yet with the game on the line, Bismarck has been the last line of defense. During their final match against FEU in the elimination round, Baby Tamaraws center Daniel Celzo found himself isolated against Lina yet missed a last second shot. Then in the step-ladder no-tomorrow match against FEU, it was Lina who defended that last gasp three-point attempt by Royce Alforque that missed badly.

“Hindi siya yung lead scorer ng team pero marami siyang ginagawa para sa team,” noted the lad’s uncle, Jong Ticsay. “Yung mga tinatawag na hustle stats na hindi lumalabas sa final stat sheet.”

Lina, the first cousin of former UST King Tiger and current Barangay Ginebra player Kevin Ferrer, actually somewhat prefers it to play a low key role and to simply let his game do the talking. He was on Chiang Kai Shek College’s Team B and in the process of transferring to UST when he came out of nowhere to bag a slot on the Batang Gilas team that played in last year’s Seaba tournament where he was a part of the gold medal winning Under-16 team.

On a talent-laden all-star crew, Lina posted averages of 8.5 points, 8.0 rebounds, and 1.5 assists.

“Thankful kami kasama si Bismarck sa Batang Gilas,” offered his mother, Tina, who is always present at her youngest child’s matches. “Para sa aming pamilya, happy kami. Kasi meron siya edukasyon tapos may chance sa career sa basketball.”

The mother has a story to tell about her only boy’s unusual name. I ask…. because the “Bismarck” I know from my world history is Otto van Bismarck, the Chancellor of Germany during its empire and had a battleship named for him during World War II.

“Nanonoood ako ng national Geographic channel tapos meron ako nakitang feature about this big ship ng Germany na ang pangalan ay ‘Bismarck’”, related the mother. “Matibay yung Bismarck at medyo pinagtulungan para ma-sink nila. Nag-pray lang din ako na yung anak ko ay maging malakas at siyempre mabuting tao.”

And while he 16-year old Bismarck Lina has been a rock in the middle for Chris Cantonjos’ Tiger Cubs where he is averaging 8.4 points, 11.6 rebounds, and 1.6 assists. Furthermore, he is hitting 49% of his field goals; the highest among those in the regular rotation. And last but not the least, he is the league’s top offensive rebounder.

While he could average more, Lina willingly submits to the other talents around him to ensure UST’s success. “Ang tinuturo at lagi namin pinapaalala ay maging humble,” says the father, Norberto.

Lina’s mother also expressed her happiness that opposed to sleeping in the UST dorm, Lina prefers to go to the family homestead in Makati. “There nababantayan ko rin yung pag-inom niya ng gatas,” shared his father, Norberto who admits to also giving his son Cherifer to help him grow taller. “You only want what is best for your children.”

Said his older cousin, Vince (Ferrer who is now with FEU), “We constantly remind Bismarck that basketball isn’t only about skills but also having a good attitude. Kaya yun, natutuwa rin kami kasi humble lang siya at tahimik.”

Now facing their third elimination game in a week’s time, this time against the dangerous National University Bullpups, Lina will need to play big if they want to extend their season by at least more day. “Dadaan talaga sila sa butas ng karayom,” noted his father. “Pero mas masarap yung ganyan. At dito pa lang sa pinakita nila, para na silang winners. Pero kung meron pa sila maipuwesto na mas mataas, bakit hindi?”

The UST Tiger Cubs battle the NU Bullpups tomorrow, Tuesday, February 20, at 4pm at the Filoil Flying V Centre in San Juan.