March 02, 2024

'Parang 'di mababagsakan ng bola' | Galeries Tower recruits find joy with Highrisers for 2024 PVL season

Art by Jenah Crucena, One Sports

Kaya naman. Kinukulang lang sa dulo.

It's a sentiment coach Lerma Giron and some players from the Galeries Tower Highrisers have shared after their debut in the 2023 PVL Second All-Filipino Conference.

The team finished second to the last, picking up one victory as they outlasted the Gerflor Defenders in five sets.

"Nakita natin na lumalaban. 'Yun lang, kinukulang talaga pagdating sa dulo," Giron told One Sports in an interview during training.

"'Yung competitiveness andun, kailangan lang i-sustain at tapusin."


Now, the Highrisers have built on that foundation and signed up outside hitter Shola Alvarez, opposite spiker France Ronquillo, setter Renee Mabilangan, and libero Alyssa Eroa for the 2024 season.   

"Kaya naman pala"

Shola Alvarez had new-found appreciation for Galeries Tower after trying out with the team. She had faced them before, as part of the now-disbanded F2 Logistics Cargo Movers.

"Kaya naman pala. Kailangan lang talaga ng konting push ng bawat isa, lalo na sa sarili," she told One Sports.

"Tiyaga at sipag, disiplina. 'Yan lang kailangan para makuha namin 'yung gusto namin."

It was an easy transition for Alvarez, as the former player for the JRU Lady Bombers saw her fellow NCAA competitors in Anne Esguerra and Andrea Marzan.

"Actually, pagpasok ko dito, na-feel ko 'yung vibes na nasa college ulit ako. 'Yun yung gusto kong mangyari," she said. "Mahirap talaga training, pukpukan talaga."

Alvarez was known as a service specialist for the Cargo Movers, but she wants to display more aspects of her game.

"Gusto kong ipakita 'yung dating Shola na meron," she said. "'Yung sinabi ni coach Lerma na playing time, mabibigay sa 'kin."

It was a no-brainer for Giron to sign her up.

"Maraming mga nag-try out, mga dinaanang pangalan. Gusto ko talaga may pasa at may offense--siya yun," the coach said of Alvarez.

"'Yung iba kasi palo lang, offense lang. Eto talaga pinaka-kailangan sa outside hitter," she said, motioning of a receiving motion.


"Hala, prank ba 'to?"

When France Ronquillo first came to the Galeries Tower practice, she didn't quite expect the atmosphere.

"First day ko dito, nahihiya pa ko. Nagulat ako ang kulit nila sa training. Hala, prank ba to?" she mused. "Na-realize ko enjoy sila, happy sila. Doon mas gumagaan 'yung training, 'pag masaya."

Ronquillo saw limited minutes with the Chery Tiggo Crossovers, but it gave her the confidence to give her best. Now she wants to show that off with her new team.

"Gusto ko ng playing time para mapakita 'yung best ko. 'Yung paano makakatulong sa team, na kaya ko rin makatulong sa team," Ronquillo said.

It just so happened that she was just the attacker Giron was looking for.

"Kailangan namin ng offense," the coach said. "That's why we acquired Ronquillo and Shola."


"Parang 'di mababagsakan ng bola"

The young Galeries Tower squad infused veteran presence with Alyssa Eroa, who was recently hailed Best Libero of the Maharlika Lady Shoemasters in the Maharlika Pilipinas Volleyball Association.

Her contract was up, and she was contacted by the Highrisers if she was interested. It was easy for Eroa to say yes.

"Ang nakikita ko, lahat sila dumedepensa," Eroa observed. "Halos lahat, kumikilos. Parang 'di mababagsakan ng bola eh."

She also liked how Giron and coach Godfrey Okumu handled training.

"Nung tinuturuan kami ni coach Lerma ng one-on-one, okay," she said. "Masaya sa training, saka may matututunan pa ko."

Giron actually wasn't present in training when Eroa first came to try out. But her staff gave the libero passing marks.

"Kung sa tingin niyo mabilis at may maturity, kunin na natin 'yan," she said.

So they did.


"Para kaming close na family"

Renee Mabilangan is one of the youngest members of the team, as she was previously listed with the NU Lady Bulldogs in UAAP Season 84 along with Ivy Lacsina, Kamille Cal, Joyme Cagande, France Ronquillo, Jen Nierva, and Princess Robles.

She then focused on her studies before reconsidering volleyball again.

"Dahil graduating naman po ako, kino-consider ko na mag-try na mag-professional," the setter shared.

Mabilangan is ready to learn from veteran playmaker Fhen Emnas, but she's not a complete newbie.

"Siguro nasanay kasi ako sa environment sa NU na well-rounded kami, parang sa training all-out," she said. "Ia-apply ko sa Galeries."

"Saka 'yung way para mag-cheer sa teammates, 'di mawawala 'yung ingay ko sa training," she added, smiling.

Giron said she appreciated Mabilangan's skill in the UAAP.

"Knowing galing siya ng NU, mga fast set, which is 'yun talaga 'yung hinahanap ko," she explained.

It helped that Mabilangan felt it was just like having a new family.

"'Pag training, training po talaga. Kailangan focused kami. Outside the court, para kaming close na family," she said.

If this three-day team bonding is any indication, the Galeries Tower's foundation is stronger than ever.