Meet the ‘mommy’ behind the success of Mika, Fille and more St. Scho spikers

With a still-humble salary despite her tenure, you’d be surprised that St. Scholastica’s College girls’ volleyball team head coach Ofelia Paril is already approaching her 22nd year at the helm.

However, this is not just another story about a discontented mentor.

In fact, Paril, a regular fixture in major juniors tournaments in the country, was oozing with pride and beaming with joy even after her team bowed to the Jerry Yee-led Hope Christian High School in the finals of the first-ever Crosscourt Volleyball Tournament last August.

“Teacher pa lang ako sa Osmeña High School nagco-coach na ako. I started coaching 1971 pa because I started teaching the same year. Sa St. Scho 21 years na ako, mag 22 na sa June,” she told FOX Sports as she tried to shake off the discomfort of being the center of attention.

Paril may be low-key and far from the spotlight but make no mistake, she has a couple of achievements tucked under her belt, too.

Awarded as the best coach in the WVL back in 2006, the same year when St. Scho completed an unprecedented 4-peat in the NCAA, the Bacolod native boasts of being a top tier mentor in the high school ranks who has had the opportunity to handle big stars like Alyssa Valdez and Kim Fajardo at the Palarong Pambansa.

For her, though, the bigger jewels on her crown are the ones she found on her own turf.

Just like Yee, who has produced some of the biggest names that graced the UAAP and the NCAA, Paril, too, was once the wind beneath the wings of St. Scho alumnae Fille Cainglet, Dzi Gervacio, Mika Reyes, Jessey de Leon and Princess Gaiser among others.

“Sa basic sa akin and some of the techniques which nakikita ko sa kanila every game pa kanila naman (ang credit) ng improvement,” she said looking shy at the recognition.

“Ako naman, hindi ko naman kine-claim na ako (ang reason). But I was a part of it at ina-acknowledge naman ng mga anak ko ‘yun. I treat them as my daughters. Motherly love and care ang pinapakita ko sa kanila,” she added.

Cainglet and Gervacio, both excellent wing spikers, may have failed to notch a championship for Ateneo but there is no denying that the duo played a huge part in volleyball’s surge in popularity.

Gaiser, on the other hand, made history for UP back in Season 78 when she and the Lady Maroons ended what was a 12-year Final Four drought in the UAAP.

But while producing players of this caliber could earn any coach bragging rights, Paril shuns the thought, saying she has earned the love and respect of her former wards and that has always been enough.

“Nakikita ko papaano sila sumikat at papaano sila gumaling but basically, hindi naman nila ako nakakalimutan. Sinasabi naman nila lagi na without their high school coach, they wouldn’t be who they are which is nakakataba ng puso,” shared Paril as she continued to glow with pride.

On who among her kids are the sweetest, she adds: “Si Jessey de Leon and Mika Reyes. Sila talaga ‘yung last kong players na nag champion sa WNCAA. Every time kakamustahin ka at nagvivisit sila sa team any time na i-invite ko sila.”

De Leon, who suited up for UST, hasn’t had a good collegiate run as a Tigress but she has managed to be an inspiration to thousands as she shared her journey into balancing her life as a student-athlete through social media, finishing her Architecture degree with flying colors.

Perhaps the biggest name Paril has produced, Reyes ended her run in the UAAP with 3 titles for La Salle before becoming a PSL Ambassadress, a college degree holder, and 1 of 7 Filipinas who will battle it out in the forthcoming World Club Women’s Championships to be held iat the Mall of Asia Arena this October.

“Si Mika Reyes, sasabihin nun: ‘Coach, wala ako dito ngayon kung hindi dahil sa inyo.’ Little things kahit saan kami magkikita, (it) warms my heart,” she shared.

With her pedigree, Paril could have ran after higher-paying jobs for coaches which is now out in abundance with the sport continuously soaring to new heights.

Now at the twilight of her career, there is no sign of regret in the coach’s face as she talked about the experience she had and the lives she touched weighing more than what she has—or could have had—in the bank.

“It’s my passion. I am a teacher. I’m not running after the salary or whatever. Ako lang and my bestfriend ang may hawak nitong team. But still, when you love the game, it’s never about the money. It’s about the passion,” she said.

Having had her own life changed by volleyball when she finished college at the University of Manila through a scholarship, Paril hopes to be blessed with more years in charge of the team and more lives she can help change through her beloved sport.

“Sabi nga ng St. Scho sa akin, hangga’t kaya ko daw sige pa. Pag hindi na, siguro sa side na lang ako to guide them,” she said.

“But I love St. Scho that much because of the support especially the parents (of the players). Ako lang ang pinaka-maraming parents during games. Lagi silang nandyan. Doon na lang maa-appreciate mo na talaga,” closed Paril looking contented with a silver medal, a loving crowd and dozens of players who put their future in her loving hands. — By Mac Dionisio