Peña, Davao secondary volleybelles: The happiest losers
LAGUNA, Philippines – As soon as matchpoint was scored in the finals of the secondary women's volleyball at the 2014 Palarong Pambansa, the losing team, Davao Region, was jumping up and down together with winning team Western Visayas.
Davao lost to Western Visayas without much of a fight, 25-18, 25-12, 25-23, on Saturday's finals game at the Main Gymnasium inside the Laguna Sports Complex.
But there was no trace of disappointment or sadness in their eyes and body language. Clearly, the silver medal was enough for them.
"Ang goal lang talaga namin is mapasok sa top 4 so hindi namin in-expect na magcha-championship pa kami," remarked an elated Patria Peña, Davao's college-bound open spiker.
"Masaya na kami na at least naka-championship kami kasi for a long time matagal na ang Davao wala nakapasok sa championship. Masaya na kami sa silver, sobra sobra na yung silver."
(Our goal was just to get in the final 4 so we didn't expect to reach the championship. We're happy that we at least got here because for a long time Davao wasn't able to get into the championship.)
Davao head coach Kirk Mojica set the modest goal of final 4 for his squad. But they exceeded expectations and tore through this year's Palaro.
"Hopefully parang na-regain namin yung position as a contender sa volleyball," Mojica said after the game. "Medyo matagal na nga po hindi nakapasok ang Davao Region sa volleyball."
(Hopefully we were able to regain our position as a contender in volleyball. It's been a while since the last time Davao Region made it in volleyball.)
Mojica also noted that this 2014 Davao team is only the third team who entered the final four of Palaro since the 90s, which makes their second place achievement as good as gold.
"Over na yung blessing na binigay sa amin," he said, "binigyan pa kami ng chance makapaglaro sa finals." (That's a huge blessing already that we were given a chance to compete in the finals.)
The girls from Davao had plenty of problems trying to unlock the net defense of Western Visayas, who just did everything they could to prevent any attack from Davao to go through.
What's more, Western Visayas matched their defensive effort with clean attacks that always found gaping holes in Davao's floor defense.
Peña was among the go-to hitters for Davao. And while she managed to produce some points, it still wasn't enough for the 17-year old to deliver her team to victory.
Standing at 5-foot-6, Peña has been playing volleyball since third grade, when her PE teacher saw her playing for fun and asked her to train.
Two years later in 5th grade, she played her first Palarong Pambansa match.
End of the volleyball road
Despite her clear potential to play in college, Peña admits this Palaro is the end of her volleyball road.
"Ang plano ko mag-focus sa studies," she said. "Hanggang dito na lang 'to (volleyball)." (I plan to focus on my studies. Volleyball ends here.)
Peña is planning to take up Pharmacy at the San Pedro College in Davao next school year.
She says her decision to stop playing is in preparation for her future.
"Hindi naman din kasi forever kami mag-volleyball so may life ahead pa. Yun na ang focus ko." (We won't be playing volleyball forever. There's still life ahead. And that's going to be my focus.)
It was evident that her decision did not come easy. She was solemn when reflecting on her past years in Palaro and how her teammates will always be special to her.
"Never ko sila makakalimutan," said Peña, who won her first Palaro medal only this year. "Sobrang priceless talaga yung experience namin ngayon." (I will never forget them. Our experience this year is priceless.)
A longtime Palaro participant, Peña says the summer of 2015 without the biggest sporting event in the Philippines will definitely feel different.
"Importante sa akin ang Palaro. Routine na siya. Every summer parati ako andito. It's life na rin for me." (Palaro is important to me. It's been my routine. Every summer I'm here. It's life itself for me.)
The silver medal Peña and her teammates received is one other proof that even in sports, winning isn't everything. Losing doesn't automatically equate to devastation. Sometimes, losing means you've overachieved already and it becomes more than enough.
And for the silver medalists from Davao, they are all too glad being the happiest losers. – Rappler.com