There are things you simply couldn’t enjoy without the company of another like Jack and Coke, coffee and cream, pizza and hot sauce, chicken and gravy.
On the same note, sports history is also littered with dynamic duos. In the NBA, for instance, who would forget how Jordan and Pippen led the Chicago Bulls to numerous titles in the same manner Shaq and Kobe, LeBron and Wade, Bird and McHale, Duncan and Parker led their respective squads.
Exactly the same thing happens in local volleyball. Rachel Ann Daquis and Aby Marano developed a special bond when playing together for Petron and Philippine Army while legends Mayie Prochina and Nene Chavez became best friends when they were still skinny teenagers who sailed from Cebu to Manila to lead the country to a golden finish in the Singapore Southeast Asian Games in 1993.
Over at F2 Logistics, there are two players who keep a tight and special bond that blossomed when they were still college girls struggling to make a mark for De La Salle University in the UAAP.
Their physical traits, attitude and disposition in life may be light years away, but their hearts beat as one.
Like Jack and Coke, coffee and cream, pizza and hot sauce, chicken and gravy, both of them couldn’t perform to the fullest without the presence, without the support of the other.
This is the story of Mika Reyes and Ara Galang – two young volleyball stars who dared to dream and believe that they can overcome the odds no matter how difficult, no matter how impossible it is.
And it all started with an emphatic block.
Logic tells us that since Reyes and Galang are former La Salle stars, their first encounter should be at the historic gym of Enrique Razon Sports Complex where the Lady Spikers are holding their daily training.
No, it’s not.
Reyes and Galang first meeting was at the sweltering gym of Arellano University during a commercial tournament for high school players. Reyes was the scrappy, late-blooming middle blocker for St. Scholastica’s College while Galang was the popular wing spiker of Angeles University Foundation.
Their first encounter was such a memorable experience that Reyes couldn’t help but smile as she takes a trip down the memory lane.
She said the game was heating up and Galang soared for powerful spike from the left wing. Since Galang has a reputation of being an explosive scorer, a wide-open angle for a kill is considered as an easy point for her.
Reyes bravely went up to challenge her.
It was a block – a solid block!
The crowd reacted.
Reyes threw her victim a dagger look, a stare like that of a mighty lion to a fallen hyena.
The first time we met, it was not at La Salle. We actually played against each other in Shakey’s (girls volleyball tournament).
She added that she really didn’t quite remember that it was Galang who tried to challenge her defense. But after a fan showed her a picture of that serendipitous moment, memories came flashing back.
I really didn’t know that we already actually met until a fan showed me a picture of that online. And for someone who isn’t really good at volleyball, blocking the star player of Angeles University is such a great achievement.
It was a chance encounter dusting in an oft-forgotten corner of Reyes’ memory.
Yet, little did she know that the spiker she blocked, the spiker she emphatically denied would be her best ally in the years to come.
La Salle blues
Few months later, Reyes joined the Lady Spikers after a colorful season for St. Scholastica’s College.
Reyes trained with La Salle for few weeks before joining three other rookies – sisters Camille and Cienne Cruz and Carol Cerveza – in the 2011 Philippine Inter-Collegiate Volleyball Championship in Baguio City.
On the other hand, Galang arrived at La Salle a little late as she was still competing for Central Luzon in the annual Palarong Pambansa in Dapitan City.
So when she finally arrived at La Salle, me and the entire team gave her a warm welcome.
She added that their second meeting was not as hostile as the first.
But she’s really the complete opposite – believe me. She’s like a child who does things out of the ordinary. She would shout at you for no reason, or hit you because she’s being playful. If you don’t know her, you’ll get irritated by her antics.
Playing together at La Salle may have been the sweetest part of their volleyball career. In fact, their back-to-back UAAP crowns in their rookie and sophomore seasons could easily be the highlight of their collegiate stint.
On the contrary, it also proves to be the most bitter.
Last year, with La Salle finally on its way to capture the crown, Galang suffered a brutal anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injury on her left knee during their semifinal battle with National University. Although La Salle advanced to the finals, Galang had to sit our for nearly a year, completely throwing away whatever chances La Salle had to get back the UAAP title.
With Galang in crutches, Reyes together with teammates Kim Fajardo, Majoy Baron, Dawn Macandili and Kim Dy campaigned for Meralco in the Philippine Superliga (PSL) Grand Prix.
The Power Spikers fared way below expectation as Reyes was reduced into a forgettable middle player while Fajardo, Dy and Baron played like girls in a field of full-grown women. Their imports, Liis Kullerkann of Estonia and Christina Alessi of United States, also failed to jell with the locals, completely dooming their chances to come up with a decent finish.
But more than anything else, they missed Galang and her powerful attacks.
Life isn’t the same without Ara.
Galang eventually joined Reyes and her La Salle teammates few months later when she was tapped as top overall pick of F2 Logistics. Suddenly, the team was complete again. The Cargo Movers took the PSL by storm as they won all but one game in the double-round eliminations.
Now, they are on the verge of winning the All-Filipino Conference title as they are pitted against Foton in the best-of-three finals showdown.
Either inside or outside the playing court, we become stronger whenever we have each other.
Two months from now, Reyes will be campaigning in the FIVB Women’s Club World Championship – the world’s biggest volleyball tournament as the best club teams slug it out for pride and glory.
While Reyes stood tall in the one-day tryout with PSL coaches agreeing that her height and fighting spirit can carry her through, Galang was not nominated by F2 Logistics coach Ramil de Jesus to avoid adding extra mileage to her left knee.
It was such a preventive move.
And Galang fully understands it.
After all, she is also chasing her own dream of earning her college degree.
I’m just glad that she’s here ready to help and support me in all my endeavors.
Reyes and Galang first met as rivals, now they are teammates.
Who would have thought that the high school foes would end up as good friends?
Who would have thought that they would fight and win many battles together?
It’s called serendipity.