The place the Eagles call home
by Luther B. Aquino
THE AREA around Balara was still reeling from days of nonstop rain, and yet the show had to go on as planned. Luckily for the Jesuits, Divine Providence seemed to be on their side: the skies cleared up right before that very morning on December 3, 1949, when thousands upon thousands of people came to witness the christening of a new building.
Yet the 6,000 in attendance were still thoroughly entertained throughout that eventful day; two exhibition games were held, and the enthusiasm and exuberance that the audience displayed served only to be Moro Lorenzo’s word incarnate. For earlier that morning, when Moro Lorenzo, that true titan among Ateneo sportsmen, addressed an eager crowd, his voice boomed with a heartfelt message: “We have a new gym. But this will not mean anything without the spirit that is found in the bleachers… and the members of the team that will play on the court.”
It was a new era for the Ateneo. In spite of all the doubt and pessimism that initially followed the decision to transfer to a new campus, the Ateneans who were present during that fateful day of December 3 were sure of one thing: truly, they have found a new place to call home.
Some people during those days would have argued the superfluity of the gymnasium, since Ateneo was still trying recover from a very costly war. But Fr. Masterson was no fool who’d go around erecting white elephants; the gym had a practical use as well.
“Of course, winning the championship was really something for us,” the university athletics director says. “But what I really, really recall [of the Blue Eagle Gym] was that every time we played, up on the gymnasium would be lots and lots of Ateneans… It was really the voices of the students and the alumni that you’d hear making all the cheers. It was fun playing for Ateneo.”
Palou says it was a different feeling when you play in the Blue Eagle Gym, compared to Rizal Memorial or Araneta; school spirit burned the brightest at home.
Still, the victories the Ateneo has achieved within the gym hardly stops at sports. In fact, it goes to even far greater things.
“A lot of heroes have been made in that very building,” says Sandy Arespacochaga, assistant coach of the UAAP men’s basketball team. “The tradition and the legacy of that building, of the people who have been involved there—it’s very important, because we know that sports also plays a big part in shaping and forming our students.”
“I think it’s very important that we reflect and learn from the epic games held there, from the kinds of values espoused during the games and practices held there,” he says. “We can pass that on to the future generations.”
Indeed, if there is one thing Moro Lorenzo, Ricky Palou, and Sandy Arespacochaga knows, it’s that the Blue Eagle Gym is not just a mere structure whose value can go only as far as its physical goes. It is, in fact, an edifice enshrining the values Ateneans hold so dear to their hearts—magis, cura personalis, mens sana in corpora sano, and countless others in the same magnanimous tradition.
Even while the gym continues to age, the lessons we can learn from it as a community transcend all time and space. It’s been 60 years already and yet the Blue Eagle Gym is still standing tall and proud.
This one’s bound to outlast us all.