INTRAMS. Don’t you love the sound of that word? Intramurals. Sportsfest. One full week of no Math, books, lectures, Science, blackboards. One full week of cheering, eating junk food, running, wearing sleeveless shirts.
I love Intrams. To me, it’s the best week of the entire school year.
Two days ago, I visited the sprawling and humongous brand-new Mandaue campus of the Cebu Doctors’ University. I sat in as one of the judges of the Miss Intrams. Six beauties paraded. Hundreds danced. Thousands clapped.
Yesterday, I strolled inside another site: the University of San Carlos Main campus. Six volleyball players faced six enemies across the net. Nearby, tennis players volleyed and smashed while the swimmers plunged to the pool.
I love Intrams. In elementary at the La Salle Bacolod, I recall sprinting the 100-meter dash and competing in games named basketball, volleyball, football. As a Grade 5 student, I sat alongside High School and College students—they mixed us with the upper levels—and, while swapping high-fives with teenagers, felt like a “big boy.”
In high school, our family relocated. Cebu International School felt so unlike the university-feel at La Salle. At CIS, you’re not one giant campus—but a closely-knit family. Everyday didn’t feel like school, it felt like heading for your favorite reunion. Gavin knew Lovelin, who knew Alma, who knew Gavin. Everybody smiled and recognized each other’s pimples. If someone sneezed, the class caught colds.
The CIS Sportsfest was unique. We had four unique names: Narra (blue team), Acacia (green), Molave (yellow), and Mahogany (red). I belonged to Acacia and, the few that we were, joined almost all the events. The All-Around Athlete competition (our version of the Olympic decathlon), was won by my best friend and basketball star Serge Cuasito, now New York City-based.
On to college, I took up Business Management at U.P. Cebu.
Here’s a fact you didn’t know: Mandaue City Vice-Mayor Carlo Fortuna was a star performer at our Intrams. At one cheering competition I’ll never forget, he entered the basketball court venue riding atop a jeep, standing and waving, as throngs of spectators waved back. Now you know where Carlo Fortuna’s political career started.
Another is Julius “Jay-Jay” Neri, Jr., Sun.Star’s VP for Marketing. I recall Jay-Jay, in full gear during cheering, swaying his hips and dancing like a Dance Troupe lead dancer. Amazing. And fun.
You see, during Intrams, students transform into performers. Best friends turn into beast friends. Festive nights into fistful fights. Screams echo louder than in the Senate. Baby Freshmen get verbal abuse from Super Seniors. (‘Super’ defined as those who’ll graduate “Magna”… as in magna-nine-years.)
Take Jesse Bernad. If you saw the movie “Troy,” he’s Achilles. If the Athens Olympics had a superstar in Michael Phelps, he was our version. In softball, his fastballs as pitcher screamed at you like an ERUF ambulance. How do I know? I stood as batter, flinched, and froze. Basketball? I recall my teammates: six-footer Mark Solomon, Al Sharif, Dustin Morada, Mark Pastrana, Stephen Go, Stephen Espina, Jeffrey Pabriaga. But Jesse Bernad towered above all. He was Tim Duncan.
Yet my U.P. Cebu memories would be remiss if I failed to mention one name.
She was in her final year in the final inning of the final softball game of the final Intrams day. The last at bat, the score tied, the hundreds of eyeballs locked in one direction—at her—she gripped the metal stick, shuffled her feet on the dirt-brown mound, then laid the bat to rest on her shoulder. If she’d bat a homerun, they’d win; if not…
She swung. The softball kissed the bat as it soared ….. sailed ..… far beyond the gloves of the outfielder. Hero… Victory… MVP!
I too would hit a homerun years later: I married Jasmin.
Thank God For Intrams.