Just a couple of months back, volleyball wannabe BLove Barbon was at her humble home in Bukidnon watching her favorite spikers Cherry Rondina and Alyssa Valdez slug it out in Season 78.
Fast forward to June of 2016, Barbon is now a part of Valdez’s former team in the high school ranks, UST, and, to her delight, gets to spend almost everyday with Rondina as the star’s roommate at España.
But though these are privileges enough to convince other recruits to uproot their lives in the province and move to Manila, such was not the case for the Region X pride.
“Nakita po ako nila coach sa Palaro. Nitong huling Palaro sa Bicol, dun ko po sila (UST coaches) nakilala. Dun po nila nakita ‘yung laro ko,” she told FOX Sports. “‘Yung coach po namin ang una nilang nilapitan. Sinabi nila na gusto ako kunin tapos lumabas kami magkakasama. Kumain kami.”
It was already the outside hitter’s fourth time at the Palarong Pambansa but this year’s tournament was when she truly got the chance to showcase her skills, allowing her to capture the attention not only of UST but also FEU.
“Napa-isip ako kung tutuloy ako o hindi kasi sabi ng coach ko dun po muna daw ako sa Bukidnon,” she said, talking about the big decision. “May goal po kasi kami na babalik kami sa regional at pag nanalo, magpa-Palarong Pambansa ulit sa isang taon. Kaya wag daw muna.”
While the transfer faced opposition from her high school coach, it was highly supported by her parents as she shares: “Ang parents ko naman po walang pagpipigil. Go lang po sila. Ako lang po talaga ang hinayaan nilang mag desisyon kung ano talaga ang gusto ng puso ko.”
Though UST hasn’t reached the semis in the seniors division in the last 4 years, its high school crew continues to be a force to be reckoned with in the juniors ranks where it looks to dethrone rival NU come Season 79.
Aside from Valdez, the Junior Tigresses have also produced PH volley stars in Dindin and Jaja Santiago, and Kim Fajardo with the guidance of the coaching staff and the volleyball program they have established over the years.
In the end, it was an offer that was too good to turn down for Barbon.
“Para po kasi sa tulad ko, malaking bagay na makapasok ako sa isang school tulad ng UST,” she said. “Tsaka po gusto kong makapaglaro sa UAAP. Tsaka beach volleyball po gusto ko din pursigihin. Actually, mas gusto ko ‘yun kaysa indoor kasi enjoy ako sa sand kasi dalawa lang kayo sa court.”
These pronouncements of loving playing in the sands as much as playing indoor seem familiar as it was the same tune Rondina sang a couple of years back when she and partner Rica Rivera won the UAAP beach volley tilt as rookies.
The comparisons between Barbon and Rondina does not end there with the former also being a fearless spiker who happens to be almost the same height as her idol at 5-foot-4.
“Nung isang beses po, nanood kami ng PSL kasama si Ate Sissy (Rondina) may nagsabi sa kanya na kaibigan niya: ‘Kilala mo ba si Barbon?’ Sabi daw sa kanya para daw akong Rondina II,” she said, giggling.
“Natutuwa po ako. Masaya po at kinikilig ako kasi parehas po kami. Galing kami sa probinsiya parehas tapos mahilig kami mag beach volley. Roommate ko na po siya ngayon,” she added.
Barbon, who learned to play the sport back in grade school, admits to falling head over heels with the sport the first time she held a volleyball in her tiny hands.
And if her first hurrah with UST is any indication, the playing career of Barbon is expected to blossom over the next years after she helped power the team to a first place finish in the Shakey’s National League of Champions besting UAAP tormentor NUand the best of the best in the land.
“Nung unang hawak ko pa lang po ng bola ng volleyball alam ko na po na ‘yun ang gusto kong gawin,” she closed. — By Mac Dionisio