MANILA, Philippines – Having watched, followed, and written extensively about the Ateneo Lady Eagles over the past 10 years, they have had so many personalities who have defined the team or given the sport a face. Some have even transcended the game and have become big names.
One player I was fascinated with was Bea Tan. She came up from La Salle Bacolod to join a Lady Eagles team that was on the verge of winning a championship. However, because of the team’s depth, she couldn’t break into the starting six.
Several years ago, during the University Games held at Roxas City, the Lady Eagles were on a roll, defeating team after team when the starting six was sent back to Manila to play in a pocket tournament with foreign teams. That left the reserves to hold the fort — Bea Tan, Mona Bagatsing, Tasha Faustino, and a few others. They faced Central Colleges of the Philippines out of Iloilo and their star Jovelyn Gonzaga. It was the reserves’ moment to shine, to show what they could do. Bea’s former high school teammates from La Salle Bacolod were on hand to cheer her on but the Lady Eagles were sent out of the quarterfinals with a three-set sweep.
The team was massively deflated. They knew they had a great chance but they blew it. I remember consoling Bea who assistant coach Parley Tupaz (head coach Roger Gorayeb flew back to Manila with the first six) constantly rode during the game. Bea took over Denden Lazaro's slot as libero and she tried her best to get the team going.
No one seemed more disappointed than Bea that day.
Even before that match in far flung Capiz, I watched as Bea found herself niche in beach volleyball where interestingly, she teamed up with Alyssa Valdez who was serving out her residency. I thought that she was a totally different player on the sand. Maybe because there are only two players per team, they both had to set for one another, hit the ball and play defense. Maybe because she was in her element.
Watching her play in the UAAP and Petron beach volleyball tourneys, there was a joy to her face that wasn’t evident in the sport’s indoor cousin. I recall telling myself that Bea Tan had found her passion.
So when Beach Volleyball Republic came up, I wasn’t the least surprised that she was at the forefront along with some former teammates and colleagues in Charo Soriano, Angeline Gervacio, Fille Cayetano (nee Cainglet), and Gretchen Ho.
Watching Bea and her BVR colleagues, I told my oldest friend in the world, television host Boyet Sison that this is the line-up of the two-time V-League champions minus Jem Ferrer, Alyssa Valdez, and Denden Lazaro. I also pointed out that Fab Four of Fille, Dzi, Jem, and Gretchen who were a huge reason for the volleyball’s surge in popularity, here they were again helping spread the gospel of this fun and exciting sport.
And as much as I have tremendous respect for her BVR colleagues, I sought Bea out to congratulate her knowing this was her baby and advocacy.
What follows is a short conversation I had with Bea Tan.
Congratulations on BVR and its partnership with ABS-CBN. You’ve been beaming non-stop today. How cool is this for you?
Bea: Oh, it’s the coolest ever! I have to pinch myself just to see if I am dreaming. But it’s for real. This is cool.
Then it’s all good. I know this has been your passion and advocacy but how did you convince your teammates to get into this?
Bea: It started out after I graduated from Ateneo in 2014. As athletes, we dream of playing in big tournaments and success on and off it. When your playing days are done, there’s this desire to continue playing. But more than playing, you want to grow the sport and create your own tournaments. I would go around the country just to look for beach volleyball tournaments to participate. I know for a fact that there are a lot of beach volleyball players but they transition into indoor volleyball because there aren’t enough tournaments for them to pay or get involved.
After graduating, I took it upon myself to plan a small tournament in Bacolod. I tapped my immediate circle of friends within the Ateneo Lady Eagles to help me out. And it transitioned from there to a tournament in Manila. Gretchen (Ho) was another person who wanted to carve out her own niche and was wiling to help out. She too found her passion in the sport. From there it was easy to get everyone else.
BVR is the vision of having players play out their passion for the sport. BVR is planning to get players to play and focus on their skills and to grow the sport. Ours is a country with long coastlines. People play the sport everywhere. It’s a matter of giving it more focus and attention so it will grow.
Since the sport only features two players per team where each one has to set, hit, and play defense, has this improved your skills as a player?
Bea: Most definitely it has. You learn how to do everything. And you have to do it well. If you look at Alyssa Valdez, it really helped her game where she has become a more complete player. And it’s the same for UST’s Cherry Rondina and many others. It has also boosted my confidence not only in the sport but also as a person.
Here’s the odd question. Is it easy to get people to play in swimsuits? Or are young girls conscious about it?
Bea: Believe it or not, it is the young girls who are fine playing in swimsuits or bikinis. They are more comfortable with their bodies. It’s the older players who have a few reservations as they have gained a little bit of weight after their playing days were over. They feel shy to wear bikinis. Before they would bring their own gear, usually cycling shorts. We’ve remedied that by providing them gear that will be comfortable to wear. I think that after watching the girls play and show off their skills, people will develop a genuine love for the sport more than the superficial.
As you’ve been around, do you see people view beach volleyball through different eyes.
Bea: Yes! While you have to credit the success and popularity of indoor volleyball in opening eyes to the sport, beach volleyball has gained a lot of popularity throughout the country. More and more people are getting into it. Before, in Metro Manila, it was only in UE Caloocan that had a beach volleyball court. Now they have in other schools as well and it event places like SM. And there are now more and more tournaments around the country.
It is an exciting time for the sport of beach volleyball.
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BVR is the brain trust of former collegiate volleyball stars and current beach volleyball stalwarts Bea Tan, Charo Soriano, Dzi Gervacio, Fille Cayetano, and Gretchen Ho who all used to play volleyball for the Ateneo De Manila University. Their passion for the sport has spread from the indoor courts to the outdoors, and through BVR, they hope the rest of the country will get into the exciting and entertaining 2-on-2 sport as well.
As the official broadcast partner, ABS-CBN through ABS-CBN Sports + Action and ABS-CBN Sports + Action HD Ch166, will cover BVR's events all over the nation, starting with their star-studded beach volleyball tournament at the White House, Boracay on April 27 and 28. Three semifinal matches and three finals matches will be aired on ABS-CBN Sports + Action and ABS-CBN Sports + Action HD Ch166 on April 28. ABS-CBN Sports + Action will also feature highlights of BVR tourneys at San Juan, La Union, Anguib Beach, Sta. Ana, Cagayan Region, and Lakawon Island, Negros Occidental.
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“Beach Volleyball Republic is here to stay and we will do our best to bring to every Kapamilya,” exclaimed ABS-CBN Integrated Sports head Dino Laurena, adding, “ABS-CBN, in its continued dedication to bring sports events closer to Filipinos, sees BVR as another sport in which we can all excel and a sport whose popularity is on the rise, the same way it happened for indoor volleyball.”
BVR aims to promote the beach volleyball lifestyle in the Philippines through providing an avenue for athletes to train, develop their skills, build a community, and compete in high-level exhibition tournaments all over the country. Together with ABS-CBN, BVR will be at the forefront of promoting the sport towards the goal of making the Philippines a competitive force in the world of beach volleyball in the future.
“It is a humbling experience for us at BVR to be partnered with ABS-CBN, through ABS-CBN’s Integrated Sports division, to be able to provide an avenue for talented players,” said Soriano, which Gretchen Ho echoed, adding, “we are so happy that a major stakeholder like ABS-CBN believes in us so we get to share our passion for beach volleyball.”