A couple, one a rabid UST fan and the other a diehard Ateneo supporter, go to great lengths to enjoy this year's UAAP Finals from Singapore.
Pao Agulto is a self-confessed Growling Tigers junkie who calls UST legend Dylan Ababou a "man-crush." A graduate of UST Communication Arts in 2007, he considers the 2006 UAAP championship one of the highlights of his life.
Missy Tolentino is his girlfriend and ever since she became an Atenean, graduating with a Communications degree in 2005, she has followed the Blue and White passionately. She's the daughter of former PBA player Sito Tolentino and like Pao, stands almost six feet tall.
Pao and Missy have been together for three years now, and they've always enjoyed watching UAAP games in both Basketball and Women's Volleyball.
Earlier in the year Pao relocated to Singapore to work as a copywriter in the Saatchi and Saatchi office there. A month ago Missy followed suit and is currently job hunting.
Nothing will stop them from watching this epic clash of their two favorite teams. And their plan goes further than just catching it on a dodgy live streaming site.
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It's Saturday, October 6, 2012. UAAP Finals Game 1 game day. We are in the apartment in Geylang, Singapore where Pao and Missy stay along with a few other friends, including Andrea, "Acid" Cid. Acid went to school with Missy in Ateneo but curiously is cheering for the Tigers now. Something about her alma mater being too dominant, she explains.
It's a cluttered, lived-in unit with laundry drying in one corner, several boxes piled on one wall and a half-dozen longboards leaning on another wall.
Then beside the laundry we see our portal to the UAAP world.
A laptop is on Skype with Missy's sister Claudine in Manila. Claudine, has her webcam pointed to the TV where Studio 23 is showing the action. Our laptop is hooked up via HDMI cable to a 32 inch TV. A Rock Band drum set sits in front of the TV.
The picture isn't great, but it's not much worse than the streaming link that others in Singapore are getting, which is minutes delayed and actually shuts off deep into the second half.
Claudine, a second-year BS Psychology student in Ateneo, sometimes pops her head into our picture, and shows us the chocolate-chip cookies she is enjoying during the game. Like her sister, Claudine is a huge Ateneo fan.
Pao is wearing a black UST Tigers shirt while Missy is decked out in a royal blue top. The match tips off.
The Ateneo players are little more than whitish blobs on the screen who jerk their way to the hoop. The Tigers are yellowish amoebas. The court at the Mall of Asia Arena is almost completely washed-out white. Boom Gonzales' voice is tinny, scratchy, and devoid of bass as it crackles through a small speaker. But you can see the score. The set-up somehow works.
It's Pao who is the happier of the two as the Tigers take an early 10-7 lead. During free throws he extends one finger into the air, just as he does while watching live.
Kevin Ferrer nails a three and Pao fist-pumps in delight, shrieking "that's my boy!!"
A whitish blob on the screen who presumably is Ryan Buenafe is called for an offensive foul and Missy loses it, delivering a flurry of profanities. "Gumagalaw si Aljon! Paano naging foul?"
UST ends the quarter up 24-18.
In the second period Salva scores and Pao gesticulates in anguish. I warn him to avoid the ceiling fan that whirrs dangerously close to him.
Missy's soft cries of "get that ball" are not enough to rouse a sluggish Ateneo side, and at the half the Tigers lead 38-31.
During the break Missy recounts that even before Pao and her dated, they heavily trashed-talked during both Basketball and Volleyball games. And it oftentimes got a wee bit out of hand.
"Pareho kaming pikon eh."
The third quarter gets underway, but it brings technical difficulties. The images via Skype have pixelated badly.
"Parang may porn," quips Missy.
And the Tigers' play seems to go the way of the footage.
Ateneo reels off a startling 17-0 run to seize command of the game.
When Nico Salva hits a trey, Claudine can be heard saying "I love you, Salva," through the Skype connection.
"Hehh!!!" Pao retorts disdainfully.
Pao sits down and buries his head in his hands as the quarter ends with Ateneo leading 61-51.
In the lull before the fourth quarter, Claudine once again displays the chocolate chips she is munching on. She and her sister banter.
"Mas masarap ang KFC diyan sa Pinas," says Missy. "Dito walang gravy."
The fourth quarter begins with the picture improving, but not the mood. The tension is thick in the room as Pao and Missy are barely speaking to each other. Fist pumps, oohs and ahhs, and more obscenities fill the place as the teams trade baskets in all their pixelated glory.
A Juami Tiongson floater makes it 79-72 with less than three minutes to go. In the timeout Pao retreats to his room to Tweet on his Mac. Meanwhile Missy, sitting Indian-style on her chair, crosses herself and silently offers a prayer.
Two baskets from Jeric Teng and it's just 81-78. But Kiefer scores with just seconds to go, and that produces a guttural "p_______a" from Pao.
"Bakit hindi hinihinto yung clock?" bellows Pao.
Teng tries a last-second heave with .5 on the clock. There is contact, but no call. The shot misses and the game ends with Ateneo winning 83-78. Acid Cid, the turncoat, who has been watching silently, sighs.
Pao is not taking the loss well.
"Bakit walang foul?" he wails.
"Tapos na yung oras, eh. Bale wala," explains Missy.
"But still, a foul is a foul!"
Perhaps Pao has forgotten that the five-point shot has yet to be introduced into the game of Basketball. Plus, even if it were around, a half-second would not be a lot of time to hoist it.
The Ateneo alma mater song plays on the TV screen and Missy pumps her fist to it while Pao stares blankly at the screen. He soon after stalks off to his room.
"I won't talk to him muna. Mamaya na," whispers Missy.
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And so Ateneo takes a 1-0 series lead into Thursday's game. Missy will once again watch via Skype. She will be alone, though.
Pao has filed his vacation leave, booked his plane tickets, and will come home to cheer from the Araneta Coliseum gallery.
Apparently, there is only so much pixelation a fan can take.
You can follow Bob on Twitter @bhobg333.
Editor's note: The blogger's views do not represent Yahoo! Southeast Asia's position on the topic or issue being discussed in this post.
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