The foundation of a culture was laid before the ‘First Dance’ of UP

The UP Fighting Maroons picked up the UAAP trophy after winning the men's basketball championship.  UAAP pictures

The UP Fighting Maroons picked up the UAAP trophy after winning the men’s basketball championship. UAAP pictures

The success of the University of the Philippines (UP) in the recent UAAP Men’s Basketball Tournament brings back memories of the Fighting Maroons rising to the top of the varsity ball only at another time.

The old guards, dripping with nostalgia, called it the “first dance.”

But before that the 1986 team – which transformed Benji Paras, Ronnie Magsanok and Eric Altamirano into a champion unit – bronze his legacy against the backdrop of a reborn republic, had to lay the groundwork.

And a lot of work started in 1977. That year, a team led by coach Siegfried Guerrero and team manager Vic Fernandez sowed the seeds of UP’s basketball culture.

It wasn’t just putting talent together. In fact, the brightest star to emerge from the 1977 finale was Hector Kalma, the Adamson protagonist who made two charitable shots at length to extend the Falcons’ victory over the Maroons.

Guerrero may have missed the opportunity to bring his first title to UPK, but he has managed to start a tradition that continues to this day.

He was preparing for the Maroons all year long instead of the usual month and a half before he tipped off the UAAP.

And Guerrero has also penned exhibition matches for his Maroons, with Metro Manila testing the team’s talent against other leagues – including playing inside the national penalty at Montinlupa City to strengthen his players.

And something even clearer tied UP’s first title to Guerrero. Guerrero took a young Joe Lipa under his wing as an assistant coach.

When he had to leave for a foreign shore, Guerrero handed the reins of the team to Lipper.

And in the wake of that decision came the call of history.

Guerrero, who is still a basketball coach in New York’s Long Island, has no regrets about leaving UP just as it was an uphill path.

“Even in Malayalam, man and acting nurturing (even if I go too far), I still feel the same way for the campus, the game and its team,” he said. “As the song goes, the feeling has never changed, my feeling for UP, not once.” -Contribution

Lawyer Esmeraldo Amistad graduated from UP College of Law in 1992. He is the first Vice President, Assistant Corporate Secretary and Assistant Compliance Officer of Philippine Holdings.

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