Champions League: Athletic Excellence beyond the UAAP

| Written by Arlyn VCD Palisoc Romualdo

The University Athletics Association of the Philippines (UAAP) is a collegiate league giant. And in UP, athletes who compete here get the most attention and support.

UP doesn’t lack non-UAAP athletes who bring honor and glory to the University and the country. But they are hardly recognized, perennially falling under the UAAP’s shadow. A look at some of them reveals athleticism that is no less excellent and exciting.

 

The first Southeast Asian women to reach the summit of Mt. Everest: (from left) Carina Dayondon, Janet Belarmino, and Noelle Wenceslao. (Photo by Peewee Wenceslao)

 

Climbing the highest mountain

Alumna Noelle Wenceslao was literally on top of the world. On May 16, 2007, she was the first Southeast Asian woman to reach the summit of Mt. Everest. Minutes later, she was joined by fellow alumna Janet Belarmino and teammate Carina Dayondon. They were part of the First Philippine Mt. Everest Expedition.

Not only were they the first Southeast Asian women to reach the world’s highest peak. They were also the first women to traverse it—ascending on the north side (Tibet) and descending on the south side (Nepal).

Looking at this petite, energetic, and unassuming woman, one wouldn’t think she had climbed the highest mountain in the world. Noelle doesn’t want to say “conquered.”

“To conquer it makes it sound adversarial. Nature isn’t something you’d want to go against. You’re at its mercy.” Noelle should know. She suffered from pulmonary edema due to the cold, thin air during the expedition.

“Climbing Mt. Everest wasn’t just a personal accomplishment. We represented the Philippines and showed our nation can overcome the impossible and face the most difficult hurdles life throws our way.”

 

Amaya “Aya” Paz. (Photo from Aya Paz)

 

Hitting the target

Amaya “Aya” Paz is taking a break from archery for a semester. She needs to finish her remaining subjects and earn her BS Psychology degree in October.

For someone who has been in the sport for less than ten years, Aya has accomplished much. In the last Southeast Asian Games, she bagged the individual women’s gold in the compound bow event and helped her team win a collective gold in the same category. As the youngest member of the Philippine Team, this is certainly impressive. In 2005, she swept all the individual events in the compound bow category at the Asian Grand Prix.

And all these came from one boring summer in 2001, when Aya, who liked to keep busy, was faced with the prospect of doing nothing and just decided to try archery.

“It’s true that sports [on the national level] aren’t given enough support—financially and facilities-wise. In our case, we don’t only compete, we also look for sponsors. We manage our finances. That way, we can enter as many prestigious competitions as possible.”

Aya admits she has never considered tapping UP as a source of financial support. As she is the only national team member from UP, Aya feels it would be unreasonable to expect the University to support the whole team.

After graduation, Aya looks forward to going back to archery. “If I feel that I have accomplished all that I could in the national and regional events, it’s time to enter the larger arena and compete with the world’s best.”

 

Danny Dematera. (Photo from Danny Dematera)

 

Catching the ultimate throw

Danny Dematera has been an athlete for twenty-one years and working at the Institute of Mathematics for the past seventeen. As full-time staff member, Danny has to report for work eight hours a day, five days a week. For an athlete, this is doubly hard.

He plays ultimate frisbee, or what is simply called “ultimate.” Since its beginnings in the Philippines five years ago, Danny has been actively involved in the sport. Prior to that, he was an adventure racer, a rower, and a triathlete. He started out as a member of the track and field team of the UP Integrated School and eventually went on to other sports.

His team, UP Sunken Pleasures, just won the overall championship at the Ultimate Summer League this year. The team, composed of UP students, faculty members, and administrative staff, is working on getting accreditation from the University as an official sports organization.

Danny also coaches the UP Dragon Boat team, which is often selected to represent the country in international competitions. The team has received financial support from the University.

Though he was invited to join the National Dragon Boat Team, Danny begged off. “The living conditions aren’t exactly appropriate for someone who works hard to bring honor to the country.”


Condensed from the original article published in the UP Forum May-June 2008 issue

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