Home > Need to know > AN HONOR AND A PRIVILEGE: Nonoy Baclao

AN HONOR AND A PRIVILEGE: Nonoy Baclao


UAAP Season 71 is Nonoy’s second playing year and his third studying in the Ateneo. Although still relatively new on the team, Nonoy was called upon to be Co-captain to Christopher John Tiu and Roel Aurelio Escueta, both of whom have been on the team much longer. “I was surprised,” he recounts and even admits to talking it over with the other Eagles. “It is an honor, of course, but there is also a lot of pressure.” “I can play back up to the other captains, but I’m really more of a defensive player, ako ang sinasabihan – o pinapagailatan – tungkol sa defense, pag hindi bumaba yung teammates ko, ako ang may kasalanan,” Nonoy says when asked about this new role, adding, “so I just obey the coaches.”

As to what can be expected from him, he confidently replies, “Discipline and hard work; intensity.” Another thing Nonoy stresses is obedience to the Coach. “Coach Norman is the driver, I just follow his lead. When the coaches tell me something during games or during practices, I listen. I try to be a sponge and absorb everything. You can use what they say to improve, or, you don’t,” he simply states. Improving his game even further is serious business, and other than listening to the Coach, he also wants to focus on his shooting, which he knows he lacked last year. “If there’s time,” he adds, “I also lift more weights because I’m narrower than most of the guys in my position. Besides, it takes a lot of hard work to defend against everyone.” Asked about whom he likes blocking – the art of which he has quite the grasp of – he quickly quips: “Chris Tiu” and lets out a hearty laugh. On a more serious albeit modest note he adds, “Maierhofer and Baracael, because they’re like the stars of their team, and when I’m able to block their shots, parang na-iintimidate sila and yung team nila.” Ever the honorable sportsman, he quickly adds, “it’s definitely not personal, off-court, wala na yun.”Unassuming, quiet, and really, really tall – these are some of the first impressions people may have the first time they see Ateneo Blue Eagles Co-captain Siverino A. Baclao. Born and bred in Bacolod, Nonoy, as he is more familiarly called, is currently a junior in the Ateneo taking up Interdisciplinary Studies.

“My family really likes basketball,” says Nonoy nonchalantly, when asked about why he started playing the game. One can imagine though that the 6’5″ center has come a long way from just the odd pick-up game on neighborhood street corners.

He played basketball until the fourth grade, when an injury forced him to reconsider his chosen game and take up what is perhaps Bacolod’s favorite sport, football. Maybe because of his height and because he did not like running on the field too much, he played the role of goalkeeper on the football team. “I tell Aris (Mantos, Ateneo Seniors’ Football Team resident goalkeeper) that I may just take his spot from him,” Nonoy jokes good-naturedly. But basketball welcomed him back with arms wide open when he finally decided to return to the hardcourt in his high school freshman year.

When he entered West Negros College, scouts were already knocking, “Almost all the UAAP schools, plus San Beda, were recruiting me. Our team manager asked me where I wanted to study, and I told him I was choosing between two schools. One of them was Ateneo.”

That was in mid-2005. Japeth Aguilar was still playing for Ateneo, although rumors were already circulating that he had trained his sights overseas. If Nonoy chose to play for Ateneo, his playing time would have been considerably less because of Aguilar’s presence. “If I chose to study in Ateneo, playing timeko yung maiiwan, [in the other university], studies ko naman maiiwan.” “Plus,” the big man admits, “Natakot ako na baka hindi ko kaya sa Ateneo,” referring to the University’s well-known stringent academic demands. But that all changed after the 2005 University Games. “Coach Norman (Black, Blue Eagles Head Coach) and Sir Paolo (Trillo, Blue Eagles Team Manager) approached me after the Unigames and asked me if I wanted to play for Ateneo. I was really surprised and really overwhelmed. I even asked myself if I deserved the shot.”

On April 20, 2006, Nonoy arrived in Manila. “I was already scared even before boarding the plane; I was also really, really nervous,” he recalls. Upon arrival at the Ateneo de Manila campus, he was brought directly to Cervini Residence Hall where he met teammates Jobe Nkemakolam, Christopher Sumalinog, and Emmanuel Monfort. “They helped me a lot in my adjustment.” But this did not mean he did not miss his family and his girlfriend back home. “For a month and a half,” he says, “I would cry at night. There were times when I really wanted to go home.”

ut Nonoy was here, and determined to stay. “The Ateneo community really helped me as well, they became my second family.” He goes home to Bacolod thrice a year, and talks to his family every day; his girlfriend even more frequently. “Sabi ng teammates ko magpatayo na daw ako ng sariling cellsite,” he guffaws.

The adjustment to the academic challenge that Ateneo posed was also addressed. “Tutoring helped me a lot, summer lessons before freshman year helped and it was fun,” he says with a laugh. Nonoy also discloses a liking for school and having had pretty good study habits even before entering Ateneo. Even now, with classes, basketball games, and practices built into his schedule, studying is not a problem for the Interdisciplinary Studies junior. “I read and scan my handouts and do my homework; I make time for it,” he says matter-of-factly. “It’s just a matter of discipline, even if you’re already really tired.” He considers Philosophy 101, which he is taking this semester, as perhaps his favorite subject. “It really makes you think, or rethink something, it makes you say: why didn’t I think of it that way?” His favorite teacher so far has been Dr. Isabel Martin, his English teacher.

oming into the season, critics and sportsfans alike were saying that Ateneo would perhaps finish in fourth, maybe third place, or be a Final Four contender, but nothing more. The Eagles’ Co-captain has a different view and he has the Hail Mary Squad’s 4-0 winning streak behind him. “We have good chance this year, 70-30, maybe even 80-20,” he says indomitably.

Nonoy has only kind words for this year’s batch of rookies. “They’re talented and exceptional – they don’t play like rookies. I think they’re superior to the other batches.” Then what about his other teammates? “Makukulit sila!” he retorts, “but even off the court, they’re willing to help. They give me tips on what to do in school, the upperclassmen, Chris (Tiu), Yuri (Escueta), and Mike (Baldos) tell me which teachers I should get.” His teammates have only good things to say about him as well. That he leads by example and works hard during games and practice is something Michael Vincent Baldos and Chris Tiu agree on. “Mabait and down to earth,” continues Mike. “He’s a very unselfish leader and has a bright future ahead of him,” Chris adds, “He doesn’t have to score points to make his presence felt on court.” Former Eagle Magnum Membrere, who makes it a point to watch the Ateneo games, concurs and also says, “He doesn’t compete for points, yun yung maganda sa kanya. [He knows that] his major contribution to the team is his interior defense. Sure na siya saPBA.”

Nonoy nods vigorously when asked about joining the Philippine Basketball Association. “I hope I get to play there, it would be a privilege. I think that it’s every Filipino basketball player’s dream.” “But,” he rejoins quickly, “even if I don’t get into the PBA, I can get a job. I’ll have an Ateneo diploma.”

There are no regrets about choosing Ateneo over the other schools. “It’s different here, the Ateneo community is really tight, and… it’s just different,” Nonoy states with an almost philosophical expression. To the Ateneo Faithful he says, “Thank you for supporting the Eagles and for everything. We hope that you pray for us this season. Thank you.” After a quick pause, he smiles and adds, “One Big Fight!”

from http://www.goateneo.com/main/index.php/AN-HONOR-AND-A-PRIVILEGE-Nonoy-Baclao.html

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