Playing for a cause, playing for fun
On the court and before the camera, these ladies are having fun during Sunday’s Sports Vision-sponsored All-Star Games for the benefit of victims of Typhoon Lawin.
A sunshiny weather cooperated with the shakers and movers who on Sunday, Nov. 20, staged the charity All-Star Games featuring the best and the brightest of the players who saw action at one Conference or other in the recently-ended 13th season of Shakey’s V-League and second season of Spikers’ Turf at Philsports Arena in Pasig City.
Fans turned out in hordes, among them moms bringing along their little children, to show their oneness with their volleyball idols by supporting the games for the benefit of victims of Typhoon Lawin.
Four Muslim women, including Fauzi Ismail’s mother Marissa Kasim Ismail, flew all the way from Tawi-Tawi, with three nieces to watch her son take part in the All-Star event.
And the noble intent was achieved judging by the gate receipts, in the process bringing so much joy and excitement to fans, a measure of self-importance to the sport’s heroes and heroines, a glimpse into the character of the idolized athletes, and an affirmation of, thanks to Sports Vision and its partners, the ever soaring popularity of volleyball, the women’s side particularly.
From 1:30 in the afternoon to a little past 4:00 just before the first game pitting the two male squads, a long line of eager-beaver fans orderly fell in line on each side of the cordoned-off court to get the sporting stars’ authographs or have selfies with them or both, an opportunity they will have a hard time getting during tournament games.
A set of tables joined end to end sat on both ends of the court, each manned by members of the two All-Star squads in both divisions, ready to accommodate fans’ requests with no hurry and with full smiles, each provided with a pentel pen with which to autograph a volleyball, a shirt, a notebook, or a piece of paper. Every fan came ready with their cell phones to have their idols’ images as well as theirs recorded in full color for posterity.
Seated beside Team Hataw (men’s) made up of Louie Chavez, Keeno Franco, Reyson Fuentes, Jeffrey Malabanan, Ismail Fauzi, Edward Ybanez, Mark Alfafara, Spikers’ Turf Third Conference Finals MVP Bryan Bagunas, Berlin Paglinawan, Patrick Rojas, Best Setter Jessie Lopez, and Vincent Mangulabnan, Tigresses Cherry Rondina and Ennajie Laure, Lady Falcons Jessica Gallanza and Fenela Emnas, Lady Warrior Elaine Kasilag, Lady Maroon Nicole Tiamzon, Lady Jet Spikers Jocemer Tapic and V-League Open Conference Best Setter Wendy Semana, and Team Laoag’s Wenneth Eulalio were having a grand time like no other.
“Artista ba kami, kuya?” Laure could not help but ask this writer as she looked up from a T-shirt she was carefully signing. For every selfie asked of her, she flashed her sweetest smile, her braces showing up.
Emnas and Gallanza, the first among the female All-Star players to arrive at the playing venue, said they were humbled by the experience of being besieged for autographs and selfie requests.
“Noon titingin-tingin lang ako habang pinagkakaguluhan ng fans ang mga bigger stars sa volleyball. Ngayon kahilera ko sila at hinihingian din ng autographs at kinukunan ng pictures.”
Kasilag felt important that a mom had her barely one-year-old daughter sit in her lap for a photo op. The Pocari Sweat key player wanted to cuddle the baby longer but the latter had other plans, making it known by bawling as loud as she could, her arms reaching out for dear mother who was laughing gleefully.
Rondina, who was to inject a lot more fun and humanity into the benefit show later by doing cartwheels before serving a ball, was chatting up with fans a mile a minute, a real livewire, if ever there was one.
Of the All-Star males, the gaters reported that it was Green Spikers Raymark Woo and Geuel Asia of De La Salle University who came in first. “We are playing for a cause, so there’s no excuse to be late,” said Woo while signing an autograph. “We at La Salle are trained to be punctual; if the call time is 12 noon, we have to report an hour early.”
Asia himself came directly from a family outing in Tagaytay.
At tables lining the other end of the court similar things were happening. Blue Eagles Marck Espejo, Ish Polvorosa, Rex Intal, and Ysay Marasign and Green Spiker Mark Woo were getting as much attention from fans as Melissa Gohing, Michelle Gumabao, Myla Pablo, Ria Meneses, Marian Buitre, Isabel Molde, and Gyzelle Sy.
“Playing for a cause such as this,” said Gumabao while interacting with fans face-to-face one at a time, “gives me self-fulfillment. I’d drop anything I’m doing just to be able to play for charity. I want to give back by way of the sport that has given me so many opportunities. The added excitement here is that I get to play later with the UST and UP girls, two of my favorite collegiate teams besides La Salle, of course.
“The interaction between fans and idols ended no sooner than the last fan on both ends of the court had secured her intended autograph and selfie from Gumabao or Laure.
“I hope we will have another of these benefit games next year,” added Gumabao.