What makes Ma’am Cleo a super fan like no other?
‘Go girl’ is how teacher Cleofe N. Celis usually cheers her super idol Grethcel Soltones of BaliPure. In time it became ‘Go girls’ to include the rest of the Water Defenders now campaigning in the Premier Volleyball League Open Conference, a joint undertaking of Sports Vision as organizer, Asics as official league partner, and Mikasa as official game ball.
But that isn’t what makes Ma’am Cleo a super duper fan of the powerful Grethcel Soltones.
- The music, arts, physical education and art teacher is a former Blu Girl, meaning, a national player in softball and thus is very discerning of the skills of other athletes.
- From the last of her classes in Muntinlupa High School, she’d commute to anywhere in Metro Manila Grethcel is playing usually with one or two companions.
- At the playing venue she’d spend for ringside tickets no less for herself and her companions.
- During the game she refuses to be overshadowed by the hordes of fans screaming their hearts out for, say, their phenomenal idol. She backs up her usually lone cheering voice by alternately waving anyone of four tarpaulins she paid for herself and which she always brings along with her to the playing venue.
- In a sharp departure from the usual ways of die-hard fans, she doesn’t impose herself upon her most favorite player. She admires Grethcel from a distance, doesn’t badger her for repeated selfies or autographs or some other small favors. It is enough that she already has that one selfie shot with Grethcel and autograph, period.
- As teachers go, Ma’am Cleo likes to talk and if you happen to be interviewing her and taking notes, she cranes her neck to peer down at what you’re writing to make sure your spelling is correct.
- Not a few have goaded her to ask for complimentary tickets from the BaliPure bosses or from Grethcel herself, but she’s completely averse to the idea.
- “I’ll never ever ask for anything I could still afford,” she said in Filipino. “I’ll never compromise my idol’s position on her team by asking for free tickets.”
- Six years ago she saw Grethcel on TV playing for San Sebastian in the NCAA. “She is a gifted player,” said the former exceptional athlete of another exceptional athlete. “She has natural skills. I became an instant fan the first time I saw her on TV. From then on I’ve been personally rooting for her wherever she plays.”
- A native of Dumaguete City, Negros Or., Cleofe N. Celis, now 58, competed in all the three throwing events of javelin, discus and shot put and then in softball when she was in third year high for Dumaguete City High School.
- Later as an agriculture student of Foundation University also in Dumaguete, she got to play against the visiting Blu Girls in an exhibition match; here, she belted a homerun against their ace pitcher. That got the sport’s national officials’ attention. She was brought right away to Manila to study at the Polytechnic University of the Philippines in Sta. Mesa for which she played softball and basketball. She said she was named to the national softball team in 1979. She received her Bachelor in Physical Education diploma in 1982 and passed the teachers’ licensure exam on Aug. 5,1985.
- Ma’am Cleofe had taught in Dasmarinas (Cavite) Relocation Center for 10 years before transferring to her present post in Muntinlupa High School.
- For 25 years now she has been staying at the house of the principal of Kapayapaan National High School as its caretaker.
- In the last Palarong Pambansa held in Antique April 27-May 2, she coached her region’s teams in pencak-silat.
- During the weeklong meet Ma’am Cleo saved up all her rations of 20 bottles of Gatorade, 18 of which she gave away to her super idol when they next met!