Myla Pablo

Pablo cries out for volley unity
Joaquin M. Henson (The Philippine Star) - December 16, 2016 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines - Pocari Sweat open spiker Myla Pablo yesterday called on the opposing factions in Philippine volleyball to end their rift for the sake of athletes caught in the crossfire of the squabble to the detriment of the national team.

Pablo, 23, has represented the country in four international competitions, including the Asian U23 Championships where the Philippines finished 7th of 12 in Manila last year. But since leaving the PSL with Philips Gold to transfer to the Shakey’s V-League with Pocari, Pablo has lost her chance to play for the national team. With the PSL and the Shakey’s V-League at odds, the LVPI – the POC-recognized NSA for the sport – has allowed only PSL players to join the national team. Only PSL players saw action at the Asian Championships last September and the FIVB World Club Championships last October.

“I hope our volleyball leaders can get together for the sake of our country and our players,” said the 5-9 Pablo who starred for the NU Lady Bulldogs for five years. “Let’s forget politics. I know we’re forming a ladies team for the Southeast Asian Games next year and I’ll try out if I’m invited. It’s an honor to represent our country. My most memorable volleyball experience was when I played with Alyssa (Valdez), Gretchel (Soltones) and Jaja (Santiago) at the Asian U23 Championships last year. We beat Kazakhstan in straight sets (25-19, 25-11, 28-26) even if they were bigger and stronger. The fans came out to support us, win or lose, and we were proud to give them the victory.”

At NU, Pablo never won a UAAP championship although she was on the Lady Bulldogs squad that took the Shakey’s V-League collegiate crown last year. NU’s best finish was third with Pablo in the UAAP and in her farewell season, the Lady Bulldogs failed to make it to the Final Four. Pablo said she’ll always cherish the experience of playing for NU although failing to capture a title was frustrating despite the presence of the fabled Santiago sisters.

But in the Shakey’s V-League, Pablo wasn’t denied her place on the podium, earning finals MVP honors with Pocari in the Open conference and winning the Reinforced Open conference later in the season. Pocari beat Philippine Air Force in the finals of the Open and Bureau of Customs in the finals of the Reinforced Open. Valdez led the charge for Customs in a revival of the UAAP rivalry between the former Ateneo standout and Pablo.

“Alyssa and I are good friends and we were teammates on the U23 team which was coached by Roger (Gorayeb) and Tai (Bundit), our collegiate coaches,” said Pablo. “Fans like to talk about our rivalry and I think it’s healthy. On the court, we play against each other and forget our friendship. After the match, we’re friends again.” Because Pablo and Valdez are aligned with the Shakey’s V-League, they may not be invited to try out for the national team playing at the SEA Games.

Pablo said it’s a thrill to play a role in promoting volleyball. “The young kids idolize the players,” she said. “The women’s game is more popular than the men’s game because it’s more exciting with an emphasis in skill more than power. Maybe, it’s also the charm factor. On our part, we try to go around the country to bring the sport closer to the fans. In the UAAP, it’s not only the La Salle-Ateneo rivalry. Other teams like NU are moving forward and building their own fan base. It’s good for the game.”

Pablo started to take volleyball seriously in Grade 5 at the St. Rose School in Paniqui, Tarlac, where the late Monsignor Alberto Bruno was her mentor. “I grew up with priests,” she said. “My father Emiliano, now 70, worked as a cook and my mother Zenaida, now 68, keeps house in Sta. Ignacia, Tarlac. I’m the second youngest of 10 children. Aside from me, the only other volleyball player in our family is our youngest Maritess who’s 19 and in residence at St. Benilde. I played at the Palaro when Tarlac hosted several years ago then Ara Galang from Pampanga took me to Manila to enrol and play at La Salle. When I got to Manila, I found out NU athletic director Junel Baculi had talked to my father and they agreed to send me to NU instead.”

At Pocari, Pablo shares the spotlight with Michelle Gumabao and libero Melissa Gohing. She’s known in the Shakey’s V-League as Typhoon Pablo for her power hits. Pablo said she worked on her elevation with her first NU coach Francis Vicente and developed her vertical leap. “We jumped over 10 cones in a row and when we didn’t do a clear jump, we’d start all over again,” she said. “That pushed me to jump as high as I could to clear the cones so I wouldn’t have to do it over.”

Pablo said playing as an import overseas would be an opportunity of a lifetime but she would only consider it if not in conflict with her Pocari commitments. She recently signed a P4.6 Million five-year contract with Federated Distributors which owns the local rights to Pocari. Pablo was given a brand new Hyundai Accent as a signing bonus and will start an office job in marketing with Federated next month. Aside from her playing contract, Pablo will receive a salary for her office work.

“I’ve always wanted to work in an office,” said Pablo who graduated with a marketing degree at NU. “When we resume training with Pocari, we practice 8 to 10 p.m. at Arellano or University of Manila or Jose Rizal so there’s time for my day job. When I was at NU, I was offered to play in Taiwan but I declined because I was still in school. There was also an offer to play in Hawaii. Aside from playing, education was my priority and I wanted to earn my degree. With Federated, I’m excited to be involved with the company and the Pocari brand for the long term.”

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