No Role Too Small For Angge Tabaquero

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“He who cannot be a good follower cannot be a good leader.” 

These were the exact words of Ma. Angeli ‘Angge’ Tabaquero after she was asked to give a comment about being replaced as the Power Pinays team captain for the upcoming Asian Women’s Club Championship (AWCC) to be held on April 16-25 at Nakhompatom, Thailand.

Last Monday, along with the announcement of the 14 names who will be flying to Asia’s volleyball mecca for a 2-week training and a 10-day competition, it was made official by Philippine Super Liga president Ramon ‘Tats’ Suzara that Rachel Anne Daquis will supersede Angge as the squad’s captain ball.

Though still included in the line-up, many fans were curious on how the 24-year old Cagayan Lady Rising Suns’ skipper took the news.

“Actually, yung pagiging captain ball naman it’s just a title eh,” clears Tabaquero. “With all the veterans in the line-up, mapasama ka lang sa kanila isang malaking karangalan na.”

As graceful as she is on the court, the former captain took the news in stride as she clarified that it really is not an issue.

In fact, she was even all praises for Philippine Army’s open hitter and incoming Power Pinays TVolution captain, Rachel Anne Daquis.

“We all know how good she is as a player and as a leader.”

“With all the training and the experience I’m going to get, who am I to ask for more?” says the ever-smiling Angge. “This is a team sport and we are all team players kaya no hard feelings at all.”  

A More Experienced Batch of Power Pinays

With the infusion of 3-time Olympic gold medalist Regla Bell and Japan ace setter Misao Tanyama as guest players, veterans Mary Jean Balse, Micmic Laborte, Lizlee Ann Gata, Mitch Datuin and Suzanne Roces are expected to lead this team to a much-coveted podium finish.

Good support will also be provided by young and talented players like Honey Royse Tubino, Jovelyn Gonzaga, Jheck Dionela, Arriane Argarin and Jaja Santiago who will complete the 14-woman delegation to the AWCC.

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With the reinforced line-up, Angge believes they have a great chance to have a good finish in the upcoming Asian tournament.

“Karamihan kasi mga beterano na, may mga experience na, mga dating national team players,” she adds. “Kaya tiwala ako na this team, especially with Ate Ging, has the ability to do well in the competition.”

Though this is not their first time to play internationally together, Tabaquero is psyched about the fact that she will get to play with her senior back in college, Mary Jean ‘Ging’ Balse, again.

In a previous interview, she revealed that the reason she wanted to study at the University of Santo Tomas a couple of years back was because she badly wanted to be teammates with her “Ate Ging.”

“Nawala na yung pagka-starstruck ko sa kanya pero yung respeto, ang taas pa din,” she quipped. “She will always be my idol and my senior.”

“I’m sure with all the experience and the kind of leadership that she has, along with Rachel, we would all be in good hands.”

Angge On Her Career and Her FHM Cover

In FHM’s April 2014 issue, Angge, along with Super Liga volleybelles Mitch Datuin, Abby Praca, Jed Montero and Liss Gohing surprised the volleyball community as they appeared in skimpy swimwear on the cover of the men’s magazine.

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Tabaquero may be known for her feisty and intimidating persona on-court, but she is also famous for always being nice and sweet especially to her legions of fans which is the reason her appearance on the magazine came as a surprise.

So what made her say yes?

“Before pa naman ang shoot, na-explain na samin na sports related yung article,” she clarifies. “Kaya it was never a problem for me.”

She admits, though, that she had to ask for her parent’s permission before doing the cover.

“Ayaw ko naman na bigla na lang magulat sila na nandun ako, diba?” Angge adds, laughing. ” Kaya I had to mention it to my parents,”

“They just said na basta hindi super revealing which is what happened naman: Nothing too revealing.”

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With the newfound fame of her beloved sport, all the mileage, the TV coverage, the magazine covers and her continuous inclusion in the national team, it is both endearing and refreshing to hear one of the most recognizable faces in local volleyball downplay her current prominence.

“You know, sa totoo lang, I’m just here to live my dream just like everyone else,” she said. “It’s not about the fame or the money anymore.”

“It is now about the fulfillment I have inside that I was able to make my dream come true: To play for the national team.”

“And when your dreams start to happen right before your very eyes, you don’t stop, eh.”

“You dream bigger. You dream for more.”

You see, they say nothing is constant in this world but change. I beg to disagree.

I have seen fame change many people but not this bubbly and humble girl.

The fact is, her ability to leap high will one day fade.

Her powerful spikes will most likely dwindle.

But her sunny personality and the warmth and sincerity she exudes every time you have an encounter with her?

It will surely outlast any amount of fame or skill she has or will have in the future.

Captain or not, good luck, Angge! Good luck, Power Pinays! The entire country, though not physically present, will be 100% behind all of you. Laban Pilipinas!

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Maru Banaticla’s graceful exit

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Right after UST failed to make it to the Final 4 of the UAAP women’s volleyball last season 75, I was already hell-bent on finding out whether or not Maruja Banaticla will use her fifth and final year as a Golden Tigress.

Unfortunately, just like the rest of y’all, I was unsuccessful in getting a solid decision from her for several months.

The responses I get from her would vary from “Di pa ako sure, Ma.” to “Pinag-iisipan ko pa po.”

There I was, clueless and impatiently waiting for an answer as if it’s an acceptance letter coming from a prestigious university I took an entrance exam in.

To my delight, last October 23, 2013, the day before my birthday, I got a tweet from her that says:

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There was no better birthday gift than this. A confirmation from Maru herself that she will be donning her black-gold-white jersey one last time.

After losing a lot of weight and gaining her old form back during the off-season, I was positive that she could lead UST back to the Final 4 where it truly belongs.

And then November 7, 2013 happened.

On my way to the Philippine Super Liga launch at URBN Bar and Kitchen, I received a couple of text messages asking why did Maru decide not to play for UST anymore.

Needless to say, I was shocked.

I didn’t want to believe it. I was in denial, I guess.

So, I came to the PSL launch as planned and thought to myself “I’ll just talk to her tomorrow.”

Surprise!

I didn’t have to.

She was there.

With the team (PLDT) she is supposedly playing for after deciding to “quit” her collegiate career.

There it was.

The final answer that broke thousands of hearts.

We hugged. A little hug that meant so many things.

And this is what she has to say:

“Ma, I promise maglalaro talaga ako.”

“Yung pagsali ko sa V-league/Smart, ipinagpaalam ko yun kay coach Odjie at kay Father, at pumayag sila.”

At this point, she was already in tears.

“Araw-araw, gumigising ako ng maaga para mag-jog kasi nagpapa-payat ako.”

“Nagpapa-kundisyon kasi pinaghahandaan ko din yung UAAP.”

So, okay. I don’t get it. She wants to play but she will not?

“Nagulat na lang po ako. Tinanong ako ni Kuya Kevin Ferrer (UST-MBT) ng ‘O? Bakit di ka naka-line-up?'”

“Clueless ako, Ma. Natuliro ako.”

Inconsolable, she continues and says:

“Pagbalik namin dito galing Bacolod after ng UniGames, kinabukasan I was there sa training.”

“Determined talaga ako na maglalaro ako. Kaya nung nalaman ko yun, nagpatulong ako kay Papa para malaman ano nangyari.”

Little by little, I was starting to connect the dots and understand her side of the story.

“Pumunta kami ng UST at may nagsabi nga sa amin na, oo. Hindi nga daw ako ila-line-up ni coach.”

“Ang sakit, Ma.”

She didn’t need to say it. The pain was written all over her face.

“Mahal na mahal ko kasi ang UST eh.”

“Gusto ko pa lumaro eh. Gustong gusto ko pa. Alam mo yan!”

Yes. I know for a fact that she badly wanted to make up for her measly output last season and help the team get back on its feet.

She seemed really heartbroken to the point that her PLDT teammate, Sher Peñano, handed her tissues to wipe away the tears that’s starting to ruin her “patented” blush-on and eyeliner.

“Kaso sabi ni Papa wag na. Hayaan na kung anong desisyon niya.”

“Tama na daw yung sakit. Ayaw niya ng makita na nagkaka-ganito ako.”

*insert more tears from both Maru and me here*

“Salamat kay Papa.”

“Sabay kaming pumasok sa UST nung bata pa ako at dinala niya ako dito.”

“Sabay din kaming lumabas at nakapag-paalam sa management ng maayos.”

Regardless of the heartbreak, she still has nothing but good words for her alma mater.

“My loyalty will forever be with UST.”

“Proud ako na Tomasino ako.”

Her voice cracked as pain evidently welled up again from within.

“Proud ako na pinili nila ako na maging part ng team at proud ako na sila din ang pinili ko nung pag graduate ko ng high school.”

The party was starting to wind down and her teammates were already telling her that they need to go elsewhere and eat.

To close it, I just asked for a message for all the people who supported her throughout her years as a student-athlete.

Weeping, she says:

“Ayoko ng goodbye-goodbye.”

“Makikita pa din nila ako. Maglalaro pa din ako.”

“Ahhm, eto na lang..”

“Go USTe!!!!!!!”

And that is how you make an exit.

Continue to be fierce, fun and fabulous, Maru! We will always be here to support you. Thank you for being classy. Thank you for playing for our beloved team, UST.

Maraming, maraming salamat sa pagpapasaya mo sa amin sa di mabilang na laro kung saan binigay mo ang buong puso mo.

Saludo! And this time, it is “One FROM UST!!!”

Photo courtesy of Sir Joey Villaluz

Bigger role, bigger dream for Angge Tabaquero

ImageDo you still remember that time when you were a kid and you change your mind almost everyday as to what you want to be when you grow up? A Doctor? A Lawyer? An Engineer? A Nurse, maybe? Or the cliche TV/Movie Star?

Do you recall wanting to be all that? Did you have people around you nodding and saying “You can be whatever you want to be?” Good news, I did. Bad news, none of my childhood dream professions came true.

It was a different story, though, for Philippine Women’s Volleyball Team Captain Angeli “Angge” Tabaquero.

The 5’7″ open spiker relates that as far as she can remember, there is nothing she wanted more than to become a volleyball player.

“Tinatanong nila ako nung bata ako kung ano gusto ko maging. Palaging yan ang tanong nila.” said Tabaquero. “Pero isa lang din palagi ang sagot ko: Maging volleyball player ng Pilipinas!”

She mentioned that her love for the sport started when she was in 6th grade and it hasn’t stopped since then.

“Tuloy-tuloy na. Hanggang sa pangarapin kong maglaro sa UST para makasama yung mga idols ko na sina (Mary Jean) Balse and (Venus) Bernal.” she continues. “Pinush ko talaga. Thank God natanggap ako!”

Now, after a very successful collegiate sports career, graduating with 2 UAAP championships tucked under her belt, the ‘Pamewang Queen’ shows no signs of slowing down.

With its newfound fame, Shakey’s V-league and Philippine Super Liga teamed up to make volleyball a year-round event in the country.

And for a passionate athlete like Angge, this kind of attention to the sport has been long overdue.

“Masaya na may konting lungkot. Ang dami na kasing talented players na lumipas.” she quipped. “Pero thankful nonetheless. We are starting to get the exposure that we deserve. The long wait is finally over!”

Now that she has a flourishing career as one of Philippines’ biggest and brightest volleyball stars, it would be safe to assume that all of her dreams have finally come true.Image

But she begs to differ.

“Not yet. Gusto kong makatulong na makilala ulit tayo internationally.” she adds. “Gusto kong ipakita na may ibubuga ang Pilipinas. And this September, we get a chance to do that.”

The ex-Tigress is talking about the upcoming Asian Volleyball Championships wherein she will be flying to Thailand, along with 13 other Filipino volleybelles, to battle it out against the best of the best.

Most of us feel we deserve to rest after seeing our dreams come to life but this feisty lady believes otherwise. For her, this is the perfect time to dream bigger.

“Making it to the pro league is not the ultimate goal. Representing the country internationally and winning should be the best achievement there is for an athlete.” says the team captain confidently to finish the interview.

We can all say that some dreams come true and some don’t. But a story like hers only prove that it is all about wanting it bad enough. Because when you do the things that you love with passion, determination and a sweet, sweet smile like hers, it is inevitable that lady luck will eventually smile back at you.

Making it big in the international volleyball arena may be a long shot for now but having a leader like Angge, who leaps and dreams high like nobody’s business, is the best head start we can all hope for.

All the best, Captain! Fight!

 

Photos courtesy of Joey Villaluz and DJ Bianca Frost

The Tigresses; Back With A Vengeance

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For the UST Volleyball Program, winning has always been a tradition. In the Women’s Division alone, The Tigresses has made 10 consecutive appearances in the Final 4 of the UAAP. It was a long streak that was kept alive by some of the biggest Volleyball legends in the land. Because of this, the fan base of the team has been considered to be one of the biggest, if not the biggest, in the league. That is until Season 75 happened..

 

With the departure of brilliant setter Rhea Dimaculangan, the team seemed to have crumbled and was unable to adjust within the season. Rhea may have spoiled her attackers a little too much with her excellent sets for the past five years that’s why when converted playmaker Loren Lantin took over the setting job, UST’s offense fell apart.

 

Other spectators of the sport pointed out that the Diamond Season batch of this squad lacked a vocal leader inside the court. This, according to them, is the same reason the team finished only third during Season 74. The Coaching Staff, led by Odji Mamon, failed to find an able replacement for the most loved “Kapitana” to ever grace UAAP, Aiza Maizo.

 

The absence of a leader plus the setting woes that haunted them the entire tournament spelled disaster for the España-based squad as they got booted out of the Semis by former teammate Dindin Santiago and the rest of the NU Lady Bulldogs. With a dismal 5th place finish, Mamon, along with Assistant Coaches Vilet Ponce De Leon and Yani Fernandez, had to go back to the drawing board to figure out what exactly went wrong. And thank the heavens above, they did.

 

With the Shakey’s V-league Season 10 coming up in less than three weeks, the girls are excited and pumped up to make another Finals appearance. Starting this week, they will be back on training to make sure all of them are physically and mentally tough enough to battle the best of the best come game time. With six titles tucked under their belt, the girls will go all out to ensure no other streak will be broken this year.  You see, all the Conferences they joined so far, they are either the champions or the bridesmaids. And according to them, they will not settle for anything less.

 

And since all of you have been craving to find out who their Guest Players will be, UST’s head coach was generous enough to give us the answer. “That’s it. You’re seeing them play right now. We will have Aiza Maizo and Rhea Dimaculangan.” And just to clarify, I had to ask Coach Vilet if we will also be having a Thai Import. Very bluntly, she said “No. That’s it. Tingin mo ba hindi pa sapat yan?”

 

“We are going back to basics. It is a tradition that we compete in this league with Filipino players, of course with the exception of last year.” De Leon added. Yes, UST fans, they were able to figure out what is lacking. That is why they are bringing them back! And to answer Coach Vilet’s question, I had nothing but a smile. With Aiza and Rhea looming on the horizon, the future can’t get any brighter. Bengga’s ready. Are you? 😉 UST! Let’s go! FIGHT!!!!!