03 February 2017

When Lim Eng Beng Led DLSC to the NCAA Championship... And We had no Classes as Well...


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One day around September or October of 1974, we were surprised to be told in the morning that afternoon classes would be called off so that the school could be one with other La Salle schools in the celebration of De La Salle College’s victory in the NCAA basketball tournament. Of course, we were just like students everywhere even in the present day – the cancellation of classes whatever the reason was always a cause for celebration.

Truth be told, however, I don’t think we really felt any real affinity with DLSC. We knew it was a school also operated by the Christian Brothers, but at the time a trip to Manila took all of three hours and many in Lipa had not seen the school let alone actually entered it.

The notion of a “One La Salle” or a loose nationwide federation of La Salle schools was still decades into the future. Whatever interactions there were between students of schools operated by the Christian Brothers were limited to cultural or sporting events such as the Little Olympics. Because these were essentially competitive in nature, there was likely more latent animosity than any real affinity that students in Lipa felt towards other La Salle schools.

Thus, while we naturally felt loyalty towards our own school, this really didn’t extend to other schools owned by the Christian Brothers. Personally, I couldn’t care less that DLSC had won the NCAA championship, and particularly so because I was not really into basketball. The cancellation of afternoon classes was welcome, of course; but it was probably because the Brothers in Lipa were eager to join the celebrations at the Taft campus. If this was anything like those in recent years, beer likely flowed freely. Wink!

Frankly, I didn’t fully appreciate DLSC’s success until I myself was enrolled at that school the following school year. The championship winning team was anchored on the talents of the legendary scorer Lim Eng Beng and playmaker Mike Bilbao. A university charter would be granted to the school during my freshman year there, so that the school started to carry the name De La Salle University. There would be no more NCAA basketball titles for the university until it left the league in 1981, and its next major collegiate title would actually already be in the UAAP.

I used to see Lim Em Beng’s number 14 shirt hanging at the building I often had classes at. The university had retired the number and the displayed shirt was always a stark reminder that I missed the euphoria of the last championship by a school year. The irony was, of course, that I couldn’t care less when I was still a high school senior back in Lipa.


For reasons I never really bothered to find out, my Mom became fixated on my going to De La Salle for college. Rowena, the eldest of my siblings, was at the Philippine Women’s University while my older brother Ronaldo, the Math wizard among all of us, was at the Mapua Institute of Technology.

The University of Sto. Tomas at the time had the reputation for being something of a “Little Batangas” and was, therefore, the most natural destination for many graduates of La Salle and Canossa. It was probably true that many students of La Salle had a brother or a sister there. I would have gone there if my parents sent me; but since Mom insisted she would have a son at De La Salle, I started to fancy the prospect of staying on with the Christian Brothers. In fact, after I took the college’s qualifying examinations, I didn’t bother to take those of other institutions. I was so confident that I would be accepted, but as I shall tell in the next chapter, this was not so wise a decision at all.

Incidentally, the De La Salle College qualifying exams were administered one Saturday in my senior class’ own homeroom, R-105. This certainly spared me from having to make the three-hour trip to Manila, and although I am not a hundred per cent sure more than four decades later, I have this vague memory that this was the first time the college administered the exams at the Lipa campus.

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