05 August 2017

DLSL Sports, Breaking New Ground in the Late Eighties

DLSL teams in the eighties.
The other week, while discussing the formation of a local league with the football coach of UB-Lipa Campus, I was amused that he looked so concerned about having to collect the registration fee from his players. That, I told him, would be no different from what I myself used to do when I was still a young coach at DLSL back in the eighties.

Then, competitions were few and far between. Our varsity teams spent the entire first semester preparing for the Division Meet. If we were successful – which we were more often than not – we went on to the Southern Tagalog Regional Athletic Association (STRAA) and, hopefully, all the way to the Palarong Pambansa.

In the case of my football team, playing in the STRAA was not even a certainty every year because some years, the sport was not even included. For instance, although we played in the STRAA in Lucena in 1983, the following year when I had a stronger team, football was not among the sports included. We played in Marikina in 1985, and again the following year when I had a team capable of winning the championship, football again was scratched from the list of sports to be played.

It did not seem fair to train all year round and just have the Division Meet to play in; and especially so since my football teams in the eighties were good enough to play in Manila. I was determined to find us a league so that all the boys’ hard work would not be laid to waste.

Because I played varsity football for DLSU and Division I football for San Agustin Football Club from 1978-1981, I was well connected with Metro Manila’s football community. It was Tomas Lozano, my Spanish coach at San Agustin FC, whom I turned to for assistance in getting into the Rizal Football Association or RIFA school league. He was also coach of San Agustin’s school teams and he told me to write to the RIFA board asking to be accepted as a member.

I did; but because there were the registration and annual fees to pay, I spoke to then-Principal Brother Jaime Dalumpines if I could avail of school funds to pay these. This was back in the eighties when the state of DLSL’s finances was something of the proverbial hand-to-mouth existence. Brother Jaime gave me his blessings to play in the league, but also encouraged me to find my own financing.

So I spoke to my team and asked each of my players if they really wanted to play in the league. Everyone did. More importantly, each was very willing to make contributions to pay the required fees. Fortunately, by this time, the late Brother Greg Refuerzo, the School Director, had already agreed that the school would shoulder half of the amount for each player’s uniform.

There was this time, however, when Mr. Rosel Sumcad, coach of the boys’ volleyball team, unwittingly let slip that his boys were indeed paying half the amount for their second set of uniforms. Which meant that the first set was entirely free! I was so annoyed to learn this!

At any rate, onto the RIFA we played in season 1987-1988, our first ever in the league. We hired jeepneys to travel to our matches. Because the school could not even afford to subsidize our transportation expenses, when we left on the morning of each match, I had to act as a veritable kundoktor (conductor) and collect from each player his share of the fare.

In those days, we traveled to matches in jeepneys.
It was always amusing when the jeepneys we were in drove into the league’s more exclusive schools like San Agustin and Southridge School. Although we played on Saturdays, it was not uncommon for students to be on campus. Those that were never failed to give us that look – that the-hell-is-that-thing look as though an alien spaceship had just landed.

For several years, we were the only DLSL team that played in Manila and, therefore, enjoyed bragging rights. It was – if memory serves me right – already in the early nineties when Mrs. Emily Babasa, coach of the girls’ volleyball team and Department Head of the PE Department, pleaded with me to help the volleyball teams get into a league in Metro Manila. Our teams had all started to outgrow Lipa.

At the time, Fr. Raymond Holscher, Ateneo de Manila University’s Athletic Director, was the school’s representative to RIFA Board meetings and was also heavily involved in a Metro Manila schools’ volleyball league. During a break in one RIFA meeting, I took him aside and asked if he could help our volleyball teams get into this league. He gave me all the necessary contact information and told me to have a written letter of application sent to the league.

I relayed this to Babasa and the rest, as the saying goes, is history. In the succeeding the years, the school’s other teams would follow suit and started playing regularly in Metro Manila leagues – a far cry from back in the eighties when we were all dependent on the state of humor of the Department of Education.

In comparison, DLSL athletes in the present day are almost pampered. They get two sets of playing uniforms, travel in airconditioned buses or vans and play in the country’s glamor school leagues – all for free. Not so in the eighties when we broke new ground for DLSL sports by daring to play in Metro Manila.

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