Remnant of '54 team relishes new title

By Olmin Leyba | Updated Thursday October 16, 2014 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines - Nestor Sapida, a rookie center when National U won its first UAAP championship, waited six long decades to see his beloved alma mater sit on the throne again.

"Masayang-masaya syempre after 60 years nag-champion uli ang NU. FEU rin ang kalaban noon (I'm very happy after 60 years NU won the championship again. In 1954 it was also against FEU)," said Sapida, the memory of the 1950s' Bulldogs' 51-46 win over the Tams still fresh on his mind.

Now 78, Sapida was probably the most interested among the huge throng who witnessed the decider. He was seated beside classmate Arlene Royo a member of the Paguia family who used to own NU.

He gave the Bulldogs a pep talk before the opening tip.

"Sabi ko sa mga bata sa dugout, tibayan niyo depensa nyo, atin na yan (I told them to toughen their defense and the crown is ours to the taking)," said Sapida.

He said during the dark ages of NU, he didn't stop believing.

"Iniisip ko na mangyayari uli ito. Taon-taon alam ko babawi't babawi (I imagined this will happen again. Every year, I was confident they will bounce back)," said the 5-11 former player.

NU coach Eric Altamirano said the old-timer's inspiring message helped and inspired the Bulldogs.

"Nakaka-inspire yung nagsalita siya before the game. Sabi niya sa players tapangan niyo. Ang sarap ng feeling na yung player from the historic championship ay andun at sumusoporta sa amin (It's inspiring to have a member of the historic champion team there to support us)," said Altamirano.

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