Now the country’s most popular volleyball league outside the UAAP, the Shakey’s V-League had humble beginnings that could be unfamiliar to many new fans of the sport.
From playing at the Lyceum Gym to the Blue Eagle Gym and now to the FilOil Flying V Centre, there has been a constant voice telling the story of what has been happening during games in the tournament.
Meet coach Mac Gepuela, whose calm, soothing yet snappy announcements during live V-League matches have made watching volleyball games a better experience.
“My husband was the coach of Ateneo so syempre nanonood ako. Kakaumpisa pa lang ng V-League noon e. Naririnig ko yung court announcer tapos sinuggest ko sa mga organizers, ‘do you want me to tryout?’” she shared.
“Sabi ko we could add a little more kasi yung background information ko about the game, rules of the game and all that, kasi nga coach. I tried and apparently nagustuhan ako ng mga sponsors so yun, dito na ko.”
The 59-year-old Gepuela was in-love with the sport since she was younger, having played for Maryknoll College (now Miriam College) during her secondary days and even suiting up for UP for 1 year during college.
There was, however, a hiatus in her volleyball-related activities after graduation as she would initially pursue a corporate career, something coach Mac was not really fond of.
“After college nagtrabaho ako sa kompanya and all that, but my husband remained coaching all the while na nagtatrabaho sa corporate. After a while nagsawa ako sa corporate life,” she said. “Nainggit ako sa asawa ko kasi sya bumabata ako tumatanda dahil sa stress ng corporate life.”
During her mid-20s, Gepuela would stage a comeback to the volleyball world and coached for no other than her very own roots in Maryknoll.
“I decided subukan ko yung coaching kasi gusto ko yung ganun bumabata ba, so I decided to try and then at that time I went to my alma mater at tyempo naghahanap sila ng coach so I offered myself. They gave the job to me and that’s how it started na tuluy-tuloy na yon,” she said.
She would first handle her alma mater’s high school team in 1987 before having a jam-packed schedule in the 90s when she was also handed the reigns to lead their elementary and collegiate teams.
Still handling 3 teams up to date, with the addition of Assumption College-San Lorenzo after the non-renewal of her contract with Miriam’s collegiate team, coach Mac said she’s just enjoying her “growing volleyball family” and savoring the continuous journey through her beloved sport.
The veteran coach does not even have a favorite moment during her tenure as the V-League’s announcer after having watched numerous big games in her stint.
Rather, she is happy with the way the sport has evolved in the country throughout the years, from its humble beginnings up to now when the game has influenced a lot of people, in a predominantly basketball-crazy country.
“I cannot pinpoint any memorable experience but it’s the journey. Nakikita mo how this league has grown from a very very small league to ganito na kalaki, can you imagine?” she said.
“Ang saya saya to see a whole gym jam-packed and yung fans ba na nage–enjoy ng laro plus yung mga athlete na dati pag-graduate mo ng college wala ka ng pupuntahan. Ngayon the opportunities that are offered these athetes because of an organized tournament like this doon ako natutuwa.”
Lasting this long as the announcer also did not take its toll in coach Gepuela’s voice. Surprisingly, she does not abstain from drinking cold drinks, as most people who use their voice as an investment would do.
“Swerte ko lang talaga di affected voice ko kahit tatlong games yan. Kasi yung boses ko parang kalmado, hindi naman ako masyadong nagsestrain,” she explained.
“You don’t talk all the time e, unlike nagt-tv coverage ka daldal ka ng daldal. Dito may breaks e, so short spurts lang sinasabi ko so hindi masyadong nasestrain yung boses ko.”
For coach Mac, the end of the tunnel for her career as a court announcer is still far ahead.
Loving the sport at a young age, learning to grow with it, sticking with it through the rough times and contributing in its success, volleyball has become akin to her heart like breathing is to air.
“Hanggat kaya ng boses ko, bakit hindi? Sa akin if I can continue watching, I continue to help the sport in any way I can, bakit hindi, di ba? Talagang mahal namin yung laro ng volleyball buhay namin yan e.” — By John Chester Fajardo