Now on its fourth year of promoting Filipino athletes and sports in general, ABS-CBN S+A has truly become a home of champions. Just these past few months, we have witnessed the inspiring journey to greatness of many individuals and teams across different sports disciplines and tournaments. The passion, excellence, hard work, unity, and nationalism they have shown on and off the court have gained them the respect and love of Kapamilya sports fans, who continue to cheer for them and follow their stories through ABS-CBN’s sports channels and platforms.
Let’s take a look at some of the recent champions who have shown us, and the rest of the world, their fighting spirit and #PusongPalaban.
1.) San Miguel Alab Pilipinas, ASEAN Basketball League
They endured a 0-3 start, a sponsor change midway through the season, a pair of import changes, and a series of injuries to key players. Yet, no one would’ve counted San Miguel Alab Pilipinas as a shoo-in in the semifinals, where it eventually beat a supposedly bigger, badder, and better squad in the defending champions Hong Kong Eastern Long Lions. Even in the Finals, the squad of first year head coach Jimmy Alapag was an underdog of sorts against Thailand’s experienced Mono Vampire team. After dropping two games, including one in front of the home crowd, the Alab boys finally got all the monkeys off their backs to seal their destiny as #ABL8 champions, thanks largely to the heroics of back-to-back local MVP Bobby Ray Parks and the monster tandem of world imports Justin Brownlee and Renaldo Balkman.
2.) San Beda Red Lions, NCAA Men’s Basketball
Heading into the Finals, everyone had pegged the Lyceum of the Philippines University Pirates, led by superstar CJ Perez, as the favorite to win the title. The Pirates were poised for a season sweep after setting up a stepladder format via an unblemished run in the double-round eliminations. However, they did not expect King Red Lion Robert Bolick to unleash the clutch gene as he pulled bunnies out of his bag to lead the Mendiola-based squad to the title, their 21st since the school joined the collegiate wars, making them the winningest program in league history.
3.) Donnie Nietes, IBF Flyweight Champion
“Ahas” remains sensational in his fights despite his age being on the wrong side of 30. It’s proof that the Filipino warrior, who has already eclipsed the great Flash Elorde as the longest-reigning Filipino boxing champion, will never let his years dictate how he performs in the ring. Just ask Argentinian Juan Carlos Reveco, who he beat decisively to defend the IBF Flyweight title earlier this year. Already with championships in three weight divisions, Nietes is still hungry for glory and is aiming for a title in another weight division. As he moves up to the super flyweight club, he hopes to sustain his speed and power and further improve his 41-4-1, 23 KOs record.
4.) Ateneo De Manila Blue Eagles, UAAP Men’s Basketball
It was a storybook ending for the Hail Mary Squad at the end of the Men’s Basketball Tournament of UAAP Season 80. When they started racking up wins, faithful supporters felt it in their bones that the boys stood a chance, especially with a De La Salle squad that looked vulnerable after a huge loss to UP in the first round. However, things almost went bad if not for big man Isaac Go delivering on plays that head coach Tab Baldwin drew up in the final seconds of a Final Four rubber match. The Finals series against the feisty Far Eastern University Tamaraws also went the distance but it was undeniable during the last game that Finals MVP Thirdy Ravena and company really wanted the title previously held by a seemingly invincible Green Archers squad led by the hulking MVP Ben Mbala.
5.) De La Salle Lady Spikers, UAAP Women’s Volleyball
In Season 80, Ramil De Jesus further solidified his case as the GOAT among coaches in UAAP women’s volleyball after guiding the Lady Spikers to their 10th straight Finals appearance and 11th championship. Stars have come and gone for the Taft-based squad, yet they continue to dominate competition under the guidance of their multi-decorated coach. At the rate that DLSU is going, it seems the only constants in life are change, death, taxes, and Ramil De Jesus and the Lady Spikers marching into the Finals. Even in a season where other teams fielded powerhouse squads, the Lady Spikers still managed to cop the title even with a new setter controlling the offense. It just leaves one speechless to marvel at the greatness of the DLSU women’s volleyball program.
6.) University of the Philippines Fighting Maroons, UAAP Men’s Football
Losses can either make or break characters. In Season 79, defending champions UP Fighting Maroons was unceremoniously booted by an upstart FEU squad in the semifinals. Instead of getting down on themselves, they planned a Revenge Tour that equaled their magnanimous title run back in Season 74 where they went undefeated in 16 matches. Ian Clarino, the tourney MVP, led the way for the Fighting Maroons, as he scored the final goal that sealed the deal against the UST Golden Tigers in a 1-0 victory. The entire team dedicated the championship once again to fallen teammate Rogie Maglinas, who were their inspiration when they won the title in Season 78 and who they believe, guided them towards a perfect run in Season 80. Maglinas, who used to be one of UP’s top defenders, succumbed to cancer years ago.
7.) Adamson Falcons and Lady Falcons, UAAP Baseball and Softball
While their counterparts in other disciplines are still finding their way to the top, Adamson’s Softball and Baseball teams are very much enjoying the view from it. The Lady Falcons still have the bragging right when it comes to softball as they were crowned queens for the eighth straight time in league history after slaying the UST Golden Tigresses, who gave the Lady Falcons everything they can handle in a thrilling Finals match. Meanwhile, the Soaring Falcons also managed to stave off a stiff challenge and cop the crown to give their school a double championship, a feat they have already recorded back in Season 71.
8.) Tanduay-Batangas City Athletics, Maharlika Pilipinas Basketball League
Tanduay-Batangas City Athletics forever etched itself in history as the first champion of the Maharlika Pilipinas Basketball League (MPBL). The squad dominated the league’s inaugural season, finishing the regular season with eight wins and one loss, before knocking down the Valenzuela Classic in the semifinals, and turning back Muntinlupa in the Finals. Former FEU big man Jhaymo Eguilos was the pillar of strength for the Athletics in stamping out the Muntinlupa Cagers in the last game of the league’s first conference. The MPBL has been a resurrecting ground of sorts for players like Jhaymo, teammates Lester Alvarez, Val Acuna, and young upstarts like Letran’s Bong Quinto. The league has given them a new lease on basketball life and everyone is making the most out of the opportunity.
9.) Geje Eustaquio, ONE Championship
After Eduard “The Landslide” Folayang lost his title, the search for the next Filipino champion in the world of mixed martial arts was on. His fellow Team Lakay member, Geje Eustaquio, was one of the fighters expected to carry the torch for him. While “The Gravity” faced a setback last September after getting sucked out of the building by Kairat Akhmetov, he came back stronger in their rematch in this year’s “ONE: Global Superheroes” event, where he decisively beat Akhmetov to win the interim belt in the flyweight division. Yet, even outside the cage, Eustaquio still stands tall as he holds a Master’s Degree in Physical Education, showing young Filipino fighters that studies and sports can go together.
10.) Jade Becaldo and Calvin Sarte/Lourdilyn Catubag and Karen Quilario, BVR National Champions
It’s one thing to win a championship, and another to defend it. Beach Volleyball Republic (BVR) 2018 National Champions Team Ato Ni Bai and Team Tagum-PNP know this very well after both winning in BVR On Tour’s biggest event for the second consecutive year. Jade Becaldo and Calvin Sarte of Team Ato Ni Bai and Lourdilyn Catubag and Karen Quilario of Team Tagum-PNP lorded the men’s and women’s divisions, respectively, to notch back-to-back titles. Their excellence and hard work were rewarded with automatic slots in the first ever FIVB Beach Volleyball World Tour leg to be held in the country, where they got to play against some of the world’s best in beach volleyball and represent the entire nation.
Watch these champions and other great athletes display their #PusongPalaban in the tournaments and leagues being covered by ABS-CBN S+A, as it continues to champion Filipino athletes and sports in general, and inspire Kapamilya sports fans everywhere to strive for greatness.