Ara Abaca: Heart of a Champion
Published on December 14th, 2015 | by Trina Mae Yu
Being the recipient of the Rookie of the Year Award has been one of the many accomplishments in her UAAP career. Since then, Aracelie “Ara” Abaca has been one of the consistent top scorers in each game, and this has earned her a spot in the Mythical Five for several times. Aside from that, she was also awarded as the Most Valuable Player in the Fil-Oil Flying V Preseason Cup 2013. With passion and dedication, Ara proves that there is nothing that will stop you from doing what you love most.
Her love for basketball started at the tender age of five. “Actually hindi ako tinuruan magbasketball, pero yung dad ko kasi mahilig magbasketball.” It was her father who discovered her potential as a basketball player when she was just playfully stealing the ball from her dad as he tries to dribble. Since then, his dad made sure that she felt his support for her on becoming a basketball player “Dumating yung point na sabi niya gusto mo matuto? Nagpatayo siya ng court sa bahay tapos yun, dun na ako natuto magbasketball.” It was her dad whom she drew inspiration and strength from, especially to the times when she was ready to give up. “This year actually, hindi na dapat ako maglalaro pero yung dad ko, kinonvince ako maglaro for the last time para sa kanya. Yun talaga yung pinakamalaking nagpabago ng isip ko.”
She might have taken up an interest in playing basketball, but she admits that she is not a fan of watching basketball games nor does she have a particular athlete that she considers her idol “Actually ako yung basketball player na hindi mahilig manuod at hindi fan ng PBA or NBA. ” Despite her disinterest in watching basketball games, she still has an exception “Nanood lang ako ng basketball talaga yung Ateneo-La Salle, tapos yun games namin, and yung mga makakalaban namin.”
From the start, her heart was already set on another school that she considers her dream school ever since she was young. “Ever since high school ako, dream school ko is Ateneo.” Due to life’s unexpected twists and turns, fate brought her to La Salle and it helped her become the person that she is today. “Thankful pa din ako na binigyan ako ng chance na maglaro sa school. Kahit una ayaw ko dito, still, ang support na binibigay ng La Salle at OSD ay sobra sobra pa sa hinihingi naming student athlete.”
In terms of being a player in the court, she believes that her passion for basketball and her competitiveness are some of the things that kept her going. “Sobrang competitive ako. Syempre bilang athlete ayaw mo matalo, pero part yun sa pinasukan ko eh. Pwedeng manalo, pwedeng matalo.” For her, winning is about being able to share the glory with the team. In all of her individual awards, she was not able to relish her winning moments because it was always followed by a loss. “Ang mga nakuha kong award palaging bittersweet kasi ang hirap magreceive ng award na ikaw lang meron. Hindi ko maexplain naramdaman ko kasi every time kumukuha ako ng award, right after ng game natalo kami. Ang hirap niyang tanggapin kasi parang, bakit ako nandito? Dapat kasama ko na teammates ko, at mga coaches ko na nagmumukmok.”
As a friend, Ara considers everyone in the team close to her. When in need of help, she knows who to look for “Ako yung taong mas gustong magisa. Halos lahat naman sila kinakausap ko.” she says, “Iba-iba ang taong nilalapitan ko depende sa sitwasyon at depende sa group.”
If there’s anything distinct about this player, it would be her way of preparing for a game, which consists of listening to old classic songs to keep her composure. “Nakikinig ako ng old songs. Mga 2000 music like sila J Lo, Ja Rule, Westlife, pero minsan naman mga Air Supply, depende sa mood ko pero luma talaga mas gusto ko.”
The Lady Archer’s victory over their archrival NU Lady Bulldogs last UAAP 76 became one of the highlights of her career. “Sobrang hindi mo maexplain parang lahat ng award na nakuha ko hindi kayang matumbasan yung nakuha naming trophy na yun. ” In the first half, the team was able to capitalize on Ara’s perimeter game, alongside Team Captain Alyanna Ong’s inside baskets. In the last period, the team was at a 17-point lead, the highest in the game, with six minutes left. It was just minutes later when the lead was trimmed down to four points. With team’s resilience, they were still able to reclaim the championship title that broke their 11 year losing streak. “Sa loob ng five years na nakuhang award, parang wala siya compared sa nakuha naming trophy naming nung championship. Ganon yung feeling. Sobrang sarap!” Overall, Ara was able render a well-rounded game by contributing a total of 16 points in the game.
Last UAAP Season 77, Ara was declared as ineligible to play due to the fact that she failed to find the balance between studies and basketball. “Hindi ko masasabing magaling ako magbalance ng studies and sports eh.” This put the team to a disadvantage “Wala ako magawa every time lalo na every game. Ang nagagawa ko lang is i-guide sila every game, pag may nakita akong mali sabihin ko sa kanila, pero yung tulungan ko silang in action kaming sabay sabay yun yung sobrang hirap.” Instead of dwelling on what has happened, she decided to use the situation to her advantage. Her hiatus from playing basketball gave her the breathing room that she needed as she tries to bounce back.
In her last UAAP season, the team was able to gain 12 straight wins, a winning streak that was only broken by the unbeatable NU Lady Bulldogs. However, it was not the Lady Bulldogs that made them end their campaign for the season.
The Lady Archers were able to gain a twice to beat advantage over the ADMU Lady Eagles. However, due to a series of costly turnovers and missed attempts, things took a turn for the worse as the Lady Eagles were able to beat them in both games. “Sinundan naman namin yung game plan, pero ganun talaga. Hindi rin kami sanay sa ganong environment yung madaming nanoood. Siguro yun rin yung factor kaya hindi napapasok yung bola, ang daming iniisip sa sobrang daming pressure, at hindi namin nahandle ng maayos.” She admits that last game against the Lady Eagles was might have been a bitter pill to swallow for her, especially now that she’s on her last year, but it was also deemed the most memorable for her. “At least lumaban kami ng magkasama, ng magkakahawak-kamay at walang bumitaw. Still, good game pa rin siya para sakin”
Looking back, not being able to give her all during each game has become one of her greatest regrets. “Eto na yung last na aapak ako sa Araneta, hindi na ako babalik. Sabi ko nga ang dami kong regrets. Sa six years ko, di ko siya nabigay lahat, parang kulang pa.”
Indeed, first love never dies. Her playing years in DLSU might be over, but in her heart, basketball remains to be one of the things she will never grow tired of. In fact, she’s still coming to terms about her departure from the team “Dati iniisip ko ayaw ko na, pero ito yung mamimiss ko eh. Yung everyday pupunta ka sa La Salle, training ka early in the morning. Di pa ko makamove on, yung phone ko may alarm pa din siya ng 4 am para sa training.”
If there’s one thing that being a Lady Archer has taught her, it would be that one should learn to appreciate things while it’s still there, for no one will know when will be their last. “Wag mong i-take for granted yung mga bagay bagay, parang kung ano yung nasa harapan mo, kailangan mo siyang pahalagahan kasi hindi siya naglalast forever. Make the most out of it everyday, every time.”