Last Thursday, a squad of 14- to 16-year-old high school students lost a basketball game… by 131 points! I wrote about CEC’s inconceivable 159-28 loss to UC and asked if any school official or exponent would explain why, after only a few days’ of preparation, their boys were permitted to join the toughest inter-school league in Vis-Min.
Well, at 2:16 p.m. last Sunday, my mobile phone rang. It was Penelope Villabert. “Call me Penny,” she said. A former parent of CEC (and one who worked, for a time, at the well-known Chinese school), Penny and I spoke for nine minutes. Later that night, she sent me this email:
“Sir, Greetings! You are one of the columnists I respect and admire. I know you will understand the concerns I will convey as regards your opinion in your column, “With 131-pt wreckage, CEC’s name is bruised.” It is a fact that CEC has been in deep slumber especially in athletics for years. It is waking up slowly but surely under the leadership of the new administration for almost two years now. Most of the school’s concerns have been addressed to and this time they are focusing on sports.
“1.) A week before the opening of CESAFI, tune up games were held at the CEC gym between the Dragons and the Baby Lancers and the Baby Webmasters. These games served as gauge on what to/what not to expect when the Dragons play in CESAFI. If CEC just decided to play four days before the start of the competition, I am sure the school would never have exerted effort in organizing the friendly matches.
“2.) The scores of the Dragons were far behind the two teams. The team’s coach for a number of years, at that time may have felt that he won’t be able to meet the challenges he may face, decided to call it quits. CEC, with the hope of finding a new coach, audaciously made a decision not to pull out from the games due to commence in five days. Fortunately, they did in the person of Mr. Rex Salvana.
“3.) Rex Salvana was aware of the heavy responsibility in facing the difficult times ahead still accepted the task left behind in so short a time. Kudos to the coach and the players who boldly faced the challenges and consequences of those four days. They were not totally unready and ill-prepared. Their hearts were brave enough to fight even if they knew they had a slim chance of getting final scores at least even half of the scores of their opponents. They joined not to win, not even to lose, but in the name of camaraderie and sportsmanship, which they did not fail. In this regard may I say, spare Mr. Rex Salvana from unfair criticisms.
“It is hard for the Dragons to be the laughingstock, to be ridiculed, to be criticized. I know the nightmares may not be over, but that is only for now. They did not feel demoralized but challenged. Yesterday afternoon, I saw the Dragons practicing under Rex Salvana. I saw in their faces the courage to continue what they have started, the fire in their eyes to finish it with dignity and courage, win or lose, and I felt the hope in their hearts that with dedication and commitment, better days are coming. I believe they will make it.”
I thank Penelope for her letter. And, now that I know that Coach Rex wasn’t at fault at his team’s unpreparedness—and he only “came to the rescue”—I laud him. Still, Penny’s letter does not alter the same questions I raised:
Why the rush? Why join when you’re unprepared? Why participate in the biggest league outside Manila (Cesafi) when less-intimidating events are available? Wasn’t the word “embarrassment” (when CEC lost by 110 points to UV last Sept.) embarrassing enough? Why engage in a practice game only seven days before the event start? Are not these sessions supposed to be conducted months in advance? During summer?
Again, in all this, I reiterate my point: It’s not to further sensationalize the already sensational 131-point loss of CEC, but to protect its players—in this case, 15-year-olds—from being humiliated… all because its coaching staff did not prepare them enough.
To CEC… good luck! Take this as a positive challenge.