Panes: Gold no more

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By Joel Panes

Optic Yellow

Monday, April 14, 2014

THE 2014 National PRISAA Collegiate Games which the city of Tagum in Davao hosted ended. In college softball, the Cordilleras represented by the defending champions University of the Cordilleras lost the title in the final game of the 8-team field by regulation, 8 runs to nothing.

Led by pitcher sophomore Jane Guanzon Daras and Cristine Gulfan, adjudged the tournament’s best pitcher and Most Valuable Player respectively, the resurgent West Visayas-Central Philippines University squad quickly dumped the highland softbelles’ championship hopes to make another shot at softball history. Winning this 2014 championship would have made the Cordilleras only one of the three teams outside the National Capital Region and West Visayas to record a repeat.

For the second time since making its mark in the national PRISAA softball circuit, the Cordilleras settled for the silver medal while bowing to West Visayas – Central Philippines University. For CAR, Cristina Satrain nabbed the Best Catcher and Most Homeruns Award and Lizel Tanding was awarded Most in Stolen Bases.


In Philippine softball, experts unanimously agree that West Visayas is the model of softball grassroots excellence. This fact escapes most school administrators and officials who think that softball is game of looping and floating softball pitches. Their researches are wrong. Their sources are muddled. From their ivory towers, they have not descended to smell the fragrance of freshly mown grass.

In the Blu Girls which is Philippines’ national team most of its pedigreed players are from West Visayas. To name a few, pitchers alone, these are Veronica Belleza, Cloine Muyco and Joy Lasquite. These whooping fireballers were coveted and sought by UAAP teams for their annual campaigns. Belleza played for Rizal Technological University; Cloine for Adamson University and Joy for University of the East.

In the Cordilleras, these names may not ring a bell but on the field, these softbelles will figuratively wring a batter’s neck. The halls of Philippine sports would not be graced with honor and respect in the international circuit without the notable contributions of these softball athletes from the West Visayas. Someone asked me how awesome the ride to the finals had been for the Cordilleran softbelles. Of course it was awesome if CAR’s goal was to finish as a bridesmaid. Has Cordilleran sports been infected with the wagwagan mentality?

In women’s softball, the acid test is clearly to win convincingly against or lose honourably in the hands of the West Visayan sofbelles. In ceding the National PRISAA softball crown last year to the Cordilleras, its regional pride was punctured. That a team without a West Visayan on deck could defeat a bonafide West Visayan team in a national competition is excruciatingly painful. When for the first time in decades, NCR dethroned West Visayas in the Palarong Pambansa a handful of years ago it recovered the title immediately on the succeeding year.

This year, the West Visayas-CPU team had campaigned and set their sights to recover their national title. They travelled to compete in the National Intercollegiate Softball Championship in Marikina to sharpen their resolve. Now, that’s a good program.

Meanwhile in the Cordilleras, defending champions stayed at home. Management had created a leadership vacuum for the team. Critically, the training and practice equipment needed for the preparation were denied from them.

Perhaps there was a deliberate design against them to sustain the ground breaking softball program – through an equipment siege among other things. Why? In the corridors, it is known that if it’s not basketball glory, you’re a second class squad? That’s a pity! Someone once told me the guy up there entrusted by the Big Guy in the universe loved baseball, then why this discriminative treatment?

Now with these words, perhaps a card was shown and a design was preemptively put into action. A distinguished member of the organizational hierarchy declared in a forum of athletes that a title earned in a local athletic meet carried more weight than national championship title.

Of course, management in the person of this person or under sanction of a higher overseer has the discretion to make an inequitable choice. However, in the heart and minds of athletes here in Baguio, Cordilleras and all over the world, this disclosure of discretion is so “mala en se” - an offense against sports particularly. There is no prohibition in letter of the law against it but the language, application and effect is so morally wrong and offensive. A loathsome and discriminatory doctrine as this conveyed by management to young and aspiring student-athletes should not find acceptance. Excellence should be everyone’s limit.

The next PRISAA will be about 12 months away. For the Cordilleras, that would mean five talents less. Cherry Cabasan of Ilocos Sur, Akiko Takahashi of Besao, Jade Fagyan of Mankayan, Judy Menzi of Buguias and Leah Roberto of Batanes will be graduating and are not expected to have PRISAA time.

This year, the number of their tested warriors wanes. In the BBEAL, BSU and SLU softball may now rejoice.

Meanwhile, the West Visayan pitcher Jane Guanzon which almost held the defending champions hitless in the final round in Davao will dominate in many years to come. This is perhaps one of my saddest moments about Cordillera Softball – that its dreams are to be at most, second best.

When the defending champions were blanked, they cried. I sensed their loss and pain. After being relegated to silver, this was my realization - the difference between the gold and silver medal in the 2014 National PRISAA Softball Championship was only one man’s vision, substance and sacrificial dedication. Cordillera softball should find that man. This year, He was on the other side.

Published in the Sun.Star Baguio newspaper on April 15, 2014.


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