OCTOBER 2, 2008
(STAR) By Joey Villar - It was long in coming and Ateneo, fresh from its cage team’s conquest of the UAAP crown, made sure to celebrate in grand fashion before thousands of fans and supporters.

The Eagles, who swept archrivals La Salle Archers to end a six-year title drought, were treated as rock stars in a bonfire celebration Tuesday night at the Loyola campus.

The Ateneo campus was literally covered with blue as students – old and young, alumni and even former players, braved the heavy traffic and the wet, muddied field to cheer their basketball heroes.

No less than Ateneo president Fr. Bienvenido Nebres, SJ, celebrated the thanksgiving mass at a gathering dusk in a show of gratitude not only for the Eagles but also for the Eaglets, Ateneo grade school dribblers, the junior and lady tankers for reigning supreme in their respective fields.

After the hour-long mass, Nebres and the Eagles, led by the popular Chris Tiu, walked down from the Gesu Church and onto the field located nearby.

Tiu, along with the coaching staff headed by Norman Black, had their dinner at a heavily guarded tent where they waited for an hour before they were called on to the stage to pose for pictures and talk about their experiences before their legions of supporters.

The lighting of the bonfire by the players and the surprise fireworks display highlighted the night of celebration with live band music, including those from the popular Parokya ni Edgar and Sponge Cola.

Ateneo also bid goodbye to Tiu and Yuri Escueta, who have both served their last season with the Eagles. They were also honored with a certificate of their entrance to the Ateneo Sports Hall of Fame 20 years from now.

Despite the threat of rain, the Ateneans whooped it up in in a night of fun, laughter and entertainment as food, beverages and even beers virtually flowed from all sides.

“We thought we have one reason to celebrate the Blue Eagles championship but now we have one, the Eagles, two, the Blue Eaglets, three, the small basketeers, four, the Lady Eagles and five, the Blue Eaglets swimming teams,” said Nebres.

“It’s been six years since we won the men’s championship. We’re here to celebrate, to be thankful for. I want to thank all of you, you’ve been with us win or lose,” he added.

Danny Francisco, a vital cog in the Eagles’ 1987 and 1988 crowns, was also in the crowd and relived the experience of being in such kind of a celebration.

“I’m happy with the players, this is their time. We had our time. I think this is the way to thank the players for bringing the championship to Ateneo. This is their time, they have to enjoy the moment as we did,” said Francisco..

Black and Jamike Jarin, who steered the Eaglets to this year’s UAAP crown and the school’s 16th overall, also thanked the students and alumni for their support.

“Tonight is really to honor the players, give them a chance to stand up and be applauded by their supporters because they did a great job this year, ” Black said.

“Ang dami tao talaga (There are really so many people,” he added.

“Thank you for always being there for us, we couldn’t have done it without the help of God and the community. We’ll try to win it again next year,” said Jarin.

United States Ambassador Kristie Kenney also made a surprise appearance.

“Magandang gabi po (Good evening),” she said. “Congratulations to the No. 1 team, for being the best school. Thanks for giving us a lot to cheer about.”

Also gracing the big event were former players Wesley Gonzales, Larry Fonacier, Joy Carpio, Magnum Membrere, Reiner Sison and Eric Reyes.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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