01 February 2017

Brother Ray Suplido as Football Coach


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Because I had grown reasonably tall – if skinny – I finally joined the senior football varsity. I say “joined” instead of “tried out” because there were barely enough players in the entire school to make up a proper squad. Just like it was when I myself was coaching the school’s football team, whoever showed up at the field became members of the team. This was similarly the case when I myself was in high school. Lipa has just never been a football community; and, to this day, sadly interest in the game continues to lag behind that in basketball and volleyball.

The football coach during my sophomore year was a young, small and stocky Brother by the name of Raymundo Suplido. He would be around for only half of the school year, but he made quite an impression on me. I don’t recall that our own training would get to be as comprehensive as what I myself implemented in my own career as a coach, but he was the first among my earliest coaches to use the board to visually explain playing patterns.

Besides, he could play; and that is always important. Because of his low center of gravity, he could dribble around us like we weren’t there. To my mind, any coach who can’t really do what he or she asks of his or her own players is a fraud. Believe me, I have seen the sort. To young players particularly, the ability to play is important to attain credibility. That was what Brother Ray, as we called him, gave us.

In the middle of the school year, just before he left for his new assignment, he took us to La Salle Greenhills to play a friendly against that school’s team. It was a rainy day and the field was soggy. Very few in our team had cleated playing shoes; and I myself wore sneakers. Because of the wet conditions, I don’t recall that I enjoyed the game at all. It was a challenge just to stay on one’s feet.

We lost the game 0-5 but even this, we all felt, was already an improvement. The previous year, when I was a freshman student, a Greenhills team visited Lipa for a PRISAA match against our team, which was totally outclassed, 0-8.

One of the Greenhills stars in that game that my friends and I could not stop talking about was this long haired feller who played on the right wing. He was quick and skillful, but what was more remarkable was that midway through the match, he kicked off his shoes and preferred to play barefooted.

That player was Rey Ferraren, who like a few of his teammates in the Greenhills team would become members of the Philippine national team. Because he overstayed in college, we would become team-mates years later during my first season as a player of the De la Salle University-Manila varsity football team.

Soon after the Greenhills game, I would beg my mother to buy me football shoes. Knowing as I did how stingy my mother was, I knew that there was probably more chance of Jesus Christ returning in the Second Coming than her agreeing. But a miracle did occur and my mother agreed, probably to reward me for being her slave at the poultry.

She even asked Dad to buy the shoes himself from the office of the Philippine Football Federation at the Rizal Memorial Stadium. I will never forget my first pair of football shoes: the eighteen-studded Adidas La Plata which cost no more than ₱79.00, tax free. My mother gave explicit instructions to take care of the pair because, she warned me, she had no plans to buy me another.

Towards the end of the school year, I scored my first-ever competitive goal for the varsity team playing against St. Bridget’s College in the Lipa Diocesan Culture and Sports Association or LIDICSA. The games were held at our own campus. We were without a coach because Brother Ray Suplido had already departed and the senior players called the shots. Even though I was a sophomore, I had made the right wing position my own. This was also the position I would play in college.

The football that we played was basically kick-and-rush, nothing at all like the sophisticated passing football that Greenhills was capable of and which the teams I would coach in the coming years would routinely play. But in Batangas, everyone else played the same way. Because we had physically stronger and faster players, at least in Batangas nobody could beat us.


I will conclude this chapter on my sophomore year with an anecdote that I thought long and hard about whether I should write it or not. In the end, I decided to do so, if just to give readers more insight about the era; albeit prudence dictates that I mention no names.

La Salle High School in Lipa was still very much an exclusive boys’ school, and coeds would not arrive until the school year 1974-1975, my senior year. Because we were sophomores, we were at an age when we were, naturally, sexually curious. Boys being boys, there was this unofficial sport among students – and not just in our class – for the brazen to try of placing a small mirror on the tongue of one’s shoe and then surreptitiously placing the shoe between those of a female teacher.

The goal was to discover the color of the panty the teacher was wearing for the day, knowledge of which earned instant acclaim amongst one’s peers. The bragging rights were difficult for one of my classmates to resist and tried it during an English class; but unfortunately for him, the teacher had sharp eyes. To the teacher’s credit, she did not send my classmate to the discipline office to be dealt with. Instead, she calmly lectured my classmate in front of the entire class in a motherly way about how she understood the stage in life that we were in but also that the mirror trick was not a very nice thing to do.

Frankly, considering how red my classmate’s face was, I rather thought he would have preferred to have been sent out of the room rather than having to take that very public lynching. It was a very timely lesson not just for him but for the entire class. I don’t recall that anyone tried the same trick again.

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