The catchphrase “ka-barangay” has been transformed to also describe fans and supporters of the National University (NU) Bulldogs, winning team of the University Athletic Association of the Philippines (UAAP) season 77 seniors basketball division.
NU students were not the only ones cheering for their team in the championship run. Majority of the community where the campus is located likewise threw its wholehearted support.
National University sits in a densely populated residential area in F. Jhocson corner G. Tuazon and M.F. Jhocson streets in Sampaloc, Manila. It’s not unusual to chance upon the school’s athletes walking along those streets and interacting with the residents, from pedicab drivers and street food vendors to shopkeepers.
Everyone tuned in
At the start of season 77, said to be the longest the UAAP has had, most of the eateries and stores around NU had their TV sets tuned in to the basketball games.
As the NU Bulldogs went through a series of do-or-die moments, many fans, who were neither students nor alumni, huddled inside the eateries, prompting their owners to set up folding tables and chairs to accommodate the viewers.
The eateries’ owners also turned up the volume of their TV sets. Pedicab drivers were likewise seen in the stores watching especially the homestretch of the games.
Streetfood vendors would turn off their burners—meaning no fishballs, calamares and isaw until after the game was over.
Almost everyone in the vicinity of the NU campus would be glued to his seat every time the Bulldogs saw action on the court.
Apart from the screams during a crucial game or referee’s call, the only other sound you would hear in the Jhocson area was that of passing cars. Otherwise, the place seemed like a ghost town where time stood still.
During the games, many fans would turn their ire on the referees after each errant call, noncall or rough play; shouts of disbelief would ring out from households or stores.
Fans on the streets were as passionate as those watching the games live in the Mall of Asia Arena. You could feel the sense of defeat as the audience left a botched game, or the ecstasy after a closely won match.
The Final Four matchup against Ateneo was a high point for NU. In dethroning the top-seed Blue Eagles, the Bulldogs made the people in Jhocson believe that a championship title was close at hand.
Once the Finals came, everyone expected an excellent performance from the title-hungry cagers of Sampaloc.
However, people were awestruck when the gallant run of the Bulldogs was derailed by the offensive onslaught of the Morayta-based Far Eastern University (FEU) Tamaraws in the first game of the championship series. Nonetheless the NU faithful never wavered in their support.
True enough, the Bulldogs’ defensive strategy in games two and three of the UAAP Finals paved the way to victory.
As the final buzzer sounded, there was a moment of silence in the streets of Jhocson, followed by a sudden blast of cheering.
At last, the championship drought of 60 years had ended. The decades of close defeats and heartaches were now eclipsed by the memorable title run of the perennial underdogs.
In this part of Sampaloc, Manila, to be an NU fan is almost mandatory. I’ve lived right across the NU campus for the past two decades. Just like some of the fans in my barangay, I was never an NU student.
However, I’ve always felt that instinctive desire to support the school’s athletes whom I saw almost on a daily basis. Like my fellow “ka-barangay,” I was there to witness the Bulldogs’ efforts from the first game up to the time they claimed their long-awaited championship trophy.
As a testament to this fandom around the NU campus, I remember point guard Gelo Alolino saying in an interview that he was thankful to the fans and supporters and invited them to celebrate the victory with the team.
Truly, the rest of NU’s “ka-barangay” are proud of the team’s achievement, since we all come from the same place.