#Bestiegoals: UST High teammates turned college ‘rivals’ Kim Fajardo and Alyssa Valdez
Barry Viloria on May 12, 2016 04:27 PM
Here's the story behind an admirable friendship that has started even before high school. Know how the setter would grow to be the yin to the spiker’s yang. (Photo by Vyn Radovan)
Perhaps, one of the most iconic photographs ever taken in Philippine volleyball history was that of Alyssa Valdez and Kim Fajardo sharing a long, tight, confetti-heaped hug at the #UAAPSeason78 women’s volleyball finals before Labor Day. It made every UAAP fan (and, secretly, us, too) weeping in and out, seeing how the two champion UST alumnae-turned-captains of the biggest rivals in the senior’s event come together at the end of their collegiate careers. The DLSU Lady Spikers, of course, dominated and took back its crown in what was an epic finale.
Barely two weeks after, we recently caught up with one-half of the most loved twosome in the league. But Kim Fajardo, the green team’s skipper and two-time UAAP Best Setter, is still a little reluctant to share what they whispered to each other in that picture-perfect moment.
“Every game naman, ganun naman kami. Pero that game kasi last game na rin nya,” says Fajardo, who until now remains unsure herself if she’ll play her last playing year.
“Actually, nung game namin sinabi ko na sa kanya na, ‘Okey lang, you proved a lot naman. Madami kang nagawa sa volleyball.’ Kasi nga nakilala ang volleyball dahil sa kanya.”
First friend forever
Fajardo and Valdez’s friendship traces its roots in the Palarong Pambansa, you know, the breeding ground of young, talented hopefuls who would become greats in the future. The two Batangueñas themselves would later stand proof to this.
“Teammate ko sya sa provincial meet, yung way papuntang Palaro. Grade 5 kami nun, tapos nakita kami ng UST. Pareho kaming na-recruit. Nag-usap lang kami, “Text mo ko kung kailan ka pupunta (sa UST).’ Tapos pareho kaming napunta sa UST.”
At UST, the two athletic scholars would become better friends. Fajardo was just not her teammate, she says, for she also became the ‘councilor’ to the once-Tigress Cubs’ captain Valdez. It was a well-balanced setup: In the at times-hotheaded spiker ‘s moments of pressure, there would be the almost always-cool setter to console.
“Spiker sya tapos pinapakita talaga nya yun sa iba. Leader din sya na masalita at maboka pa.”
A funny but memorable incident suddenly gets into Fajardo’s memor—this was about this one time when Valdez lost it at a practice game.
“Sisigawan nya yung team ‘pag wala sa ayos yung mga teammates namin. Tapos ako tahimik lang ako, keme-keme lang sa gilid. Tapos after nun umiiyak sya sakin. Sasabihin nya sa kin, ‘Tama ba yung ginawa ko?’ she narrates with a laugh. “So, kami yung mag-uusap tungkol dun.”
“Siguro, yung pagkakaiba namin, ako through actions ko lang dinedeliver yung leadership ko. Tapos if ever man na meron ako kailangang iparating sa team namin, sa kanya ko sinasabi para sya nalang yung magsabi sa team."
With Valdez and Fajardo on the Thomasian squad, the Tigress Cubs ran off with a UAAP Junior’s title streak of three. Fajardo recalls those years as the most beautiful time of her high school career.
One particular victory was that at the September 26, 2009 finals held at UE Gymnasium in Recto. The two girls were both in their senior year.
“Championship namin yun, yung sobrang hindi ko makakalimutan. Umakyat kami sa gym. Sobrang okey pa ng panahon nung umaga, tapos pagbaba namin biglang ang taas na ng tubig! So, lumusong kami sa baha nun!”
“Kasama pa namin sina Jaja Santiago nun,” she adds the 6’ 5 ½” NU star in this fond story with a laugh.
It only took a matter of time before high school graduation. With Valdez set to go to the blue school, Fajardo went to the rival school—her “dream school” where “nakita ko rin yung mga tao na yung pag-welcome nila, iba tsaka yung mga tao mabait lahat.”
Them going into separate paths made each shine. Fajardo went to bag Best Setter and MVP awards not only in the UAAP, but also in the Philippine National Games and PVF Intercollegiate Volleyball Championship. Valdez, meanwhile, soared farther with Best Scorer, Best Spiker, Best Attacker, and MVP plums from various competitions. The multi-endorser was even tasked to be the Philippine flag-bearer in the SEA Games last year.
“Solid na noon pa yung samahan namin. Siguro kasi nung high school kami, mga bata pa rin kami mag-isip nun. Nung college kasi, parang alam na namin kung ano kami sa sarili namin.”
“Kinailangan mong i-prove lahat ng ginagawa mo. Mas kailangan mong makisama kasi pagpasok mo dun, rookie ka so mga Ate mo sa team. Dun ako medyo nabago, kasi nung high school ako, ako yung senior pero hindi ako nagsasalita nun masyado. Tahimik lang ako nun unlike Alyssa, sya talga sobrang vocal nya nung high school.”
Pure friendship all the way
Despite the distance between their schools and that they played for separate squads in their first years in college, Fajardo and Valdez still remained close. In some days when Valdez got needy over her friend’s company, Fajardo recalls with a laugh that “Ako yung sumusundo sa kanya sa Katipunan, alam mo kung gano kalayo ang Taft sa Katipunan!” They would frequent the UST Gym mingling with their former coach and the rest of their previous team.
“Pumupunta kami kapag Christmas party kasi hindi kami makapag-plan talaga ng labas-labas since pareho kaming busy. Magkaiba din yung schedule namin, ako umaga yung practice. Siya, gabi, tapos minsan thrice a day sya. Same kami.”
As the years went by and with each of their schedules getting busy, the two had to lessen their meet-ups. It got physically impossible, but nevertheless the bond between the two unassuming volleybelles didn’t break at all.
“Close pa naman kami hanggang ngayon. Yung friendship naming, hindi yun yung type na everyday kailangan nyong magkausap.”
“Kahit anong problema, nalalaman ko pa rin talaga. Ite-text lang nya ako. Sa min, basta pag-tinext niya ako nafi-feel ko na, ‘Oh, bakit anong nangyari?’ o kaya “Ano, san tayo punta?’ Pero hindi siya yung tipo na required ka na i-text siya or pag hindi ka nag-reply tatampo na yung isa. Hindi ganun, eh.”
Their friendship has become more mutual with one giving advice to the other in every life hurdle she encounters. This runs from academics to problems on one’s squad to, yes, romance.
“Lalo na yun!” Fajardo says of how she and Valdez like to talk about their respective love lives.
The best love advice one has given the other? “Actually, pareho kami na sinasabi na kung anong gusto mong gawin pero kung kalokohan man yan, katangahan yan, susuportahan kita. Pero responsibilidad mo yan. Pareho kaming ganun.”
Indeed, while the one-for-the-books #UAAPseason78 finals series has already escaped our eyes, never will it be from our memory. Past the faintness of what’s left in our head of the past season are the vivid silhouettes of Fajardo and Valdez, two silhouettes coming from the opposite sides of the court that would become one in the end. In this journey left by Valdez, Fajardo only has some nice words to honor her good ol’ friend.
“If I had only three things to love Alyssa, it would be that marunong syang making, supportive sya sakin kahit sa anong bagay, at yung love niya sakin—na kahit anong mangyari—hindi mawawala.”