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UAAP 80 Volleyball DLSU vs. NU – Babes Castillo-2730
UAAP 80 Volleyball DLSU vs. NU – Babes Castillo-2730

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Babes Castillo looks back on the process that turned the Lady Bullpups into history-makers


Euphoria reached its fever pitch inside the SM Mall of Asia Arena last June 21 as National University ended its 65-year title drought in women’s volleyball.

There were hugs everywhere and the smiles on the Lady Bulldogs’ faces were priceless.

Up in the stands, there was one man who had his arms crossed, looking down with a huge smile on his face and a tear on his cheek.

It was none other than Raymund “Babes” Castillo — the architect of the legendary Lady Bullpups program of the mid-2010s.

That moment on the taraflex was a culmination of years of hard work — a moment that was 13 years in the making.

Back in 2010, Nazareth School of National University was not the powerhouse school that it is today.

Dominating the girls’ tournament were De La Salle-Zobel and University of Santo Tomas High School. On the national scale, Hope Christian High School was also part of the top-tier.

NSNU decided to take on new blood, getting Engr. Bing See Diet as team manager and Castillo as head coach.

Looking at those programs, Castillo, then a wide-eyed coach from Toronto, knew something had to change — a change that will be the building block of not just their high school program but also the entire system.PVL-College-Women-NU-vs.-LPU-Babes-Castillo-9636 Babes Castillo looks back on the process that turned the Lady Bullpups into history-makers News NU UAAP Volleyball  - philippine sports news

“NU back then was almost at the bottom ranks. Deep inside we didn’t like that,” recalled Castillo. “And we know for a fact that UST and Hope deserve their top status. They worked hard for it. I realized, that to be number one, we need to work our way up and earn their respect. We objectively profiled ourselves. We wanted to know exactly who we are, what we are doing, and most importantly how we are doing them to be competitive.

“We need to create a champion culture. From there, Volleyball Champions Culture Project was born.”

Recruitment in the college ranks is already hard. What more in the high school scene?

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In the secondary division, coaches bank on potential, hoping that the kids grow not just physically but also mature at a faster rate than their peers.

Making it doubly hard for Castillo was that he had just come home from Toronto. He was just a new kid on the block.

“Recruitment was extremely difficult back then, given our then status,” continued Castillo. “I just came back from Toronto and barely anyone knew me in the volleyball world. All high-profile teams both in high school and university are aggressively and consistently hunting. And their presence is consistently felt in the recruitment stage.

“The winning coaches, such as Coach Ramil [De Jesus], Coach Jerry [Yee], and Coach Kungfu [Reyes] have established themselves very effectively in that field.”

So instead of joining the trio in what scouts say “the hunt”, Castillo reversed the system.

“Instead of going for the best players and just collecting them, we first designed what is ‘the ideal team’ that we think can change the way volleyball is played here in our country.”

Assisting Castillo were the likes of Raf Magno (Conditioning), Aaron Velez (Volleyball Specifics), and Franz Damian (Volleyball Trainer).

Together they made the Volleyball Champions Culture Concept a reality.

Of course, there were some hits in their profiling within their ranks as Jennifer Nierva, Joyme Cagande, and Jasmine Nabor hit their “marks.”

In order to surround them with student-athletes that fit the puzzle, Castillo, together with Engr. Bing went on to court the parents of their prospects.

Then came, Faith Nisperos.UAAP-Season-79-Girls-Volleyball-NU-Lady-Bullpups-Faith-Nisperos Babes Castillo looks back on the process that turned the Lady Bullpups into history-makers News NU UAAP Volleyball  - philippine sports news

“Faith Nisperos was the first aspiring young volleyball leader that we had.

“At the young age of 12, Faith showed not only exemplary volleyball skills for her age, but most importantly she understood the vision we had. And then the rest of ‘right athletes’ slowly came in,” shared Castillo.

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In UAAP Season 77, the Lady Bulldogs were unleashed.

Behind the likes of Nisperos, Thea Gagate, Alyssa Solomon, Mhicaela Belen, and many more, the school won four straight crowns. In fact, during the 2018 Premier Volleyball League Reinforced Conference, the Lady Bullpups were already competing against club teams.PVL-Reinforced-Bali-Pure-NU Babes Castillo looks back on the process that turned the Lady Bullpups into history-makers News NU UAAP Volleyball  - philippine sports news

Despite Castillo no longer being on their side and some going to different universities, the Lady Bullpups continued to live by the mantra given to them by their mentor — Responsibility, Dependability, and Reliability.

Thirteen years after Volleyball Champions Culture Concept was born and nine years after their first high school crown, the Lady Bullpups are dominating the women’s collegiate landscape.

Belen won MVP, Rookie of the Year, and First Best Outside Spiker honors. Nisperos was the Second Best Outside Spiker.

Gagate was the First Best Middle Blocker while Sheena Toring, Solomon, Camilla Lamina, and Nierva all made the all-UAAP team as well. Meanwhile, Princess Robles was Finals MVP.UAAP-Season-84-Womens-Volleyball-Awarding-1-scaled Babes Castillo looks back on the process that turned the Lady Bullpups into history-makers News NU UAAP Volleyball  - philippine sports news

“Jennifer and Joyme were right, we had a glimpse of this back in 2013. We know that this will happen sooner or later,” reflected Castillo. “These young ladies, the new UAAP Champions, sacrificed, cared for, and fought for their community. They worked very hard to earn the respect.

“They know that their victory belongs to the community, more than their own. We built innovative and efficient volleyball systems, so we can better ourselves and our team. We find true joy in exploring our potential, and in having a beginner’s mind. Together we cultivate our strength and our culture, and accepted our differences. We will always reach for the stars. We will always act like men and women. We aspired to intelligence and excellence. We never belittle anyone or make them feel inferior. Through our work, we help others to believe in themselves. We perform to inspire. Winners will come and go, but true champions can become legends,” he continued.

“I am extremely proud of these young ladies.”

For Castillo, this is just the beginning not just for NU but also for the next generation of women’s volleyball players in the country.

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Though no longer in the coaching scene, Castillo knows that the concepts he and his team formulated and executed will be passed on for generations to come.UAAP-Season-79-Girls-Volleyball-NU-Lady-Bullpups Babes Castillo looks back on the process that turned the Lady Bullpups into history-makers News NU UAAP Volleyball  - philippine sports news

Unlike others who have regrets, Castillo will never look back with wonder, seeing his kids fulfill their destiny.UAAP-Season-80-Girls-Volleyball-NU-Lady-Bullpups Babes Castillo looks back on the process that turned the Lady Bullpups into history-makers News NU UAAP Volleyball  - philippine sports news

“These girls are just beginning. Let’s continue to support them and cultivate the culture that they have started. And as their surrogate parents in volleyball and in life, and if we truly dedicate ourselves to the Volleyball Champions Culture Concept way of learning and living, in no time we will get the international respect we’ve been longing for as a nation,” said Castillo.

“The job is not yet done. Carry on Champs!”

UAAP-Season-84-Womens-Volleyball-Champion-NU-1-scaled Babes Castillo looks back on the process that turned the Lady Bullpups into history-makers News NU UAAP Volleyball  - philippine sports news

All UAAP games stream live on GigaPlay presented by Yamaha. Download it now on Android or IOS.SMART-x-Yamaha Babes Castillo looks back on the process that turned the Lady Bullpups into history-makers News NU UAAP Volleyball  - philippine sports news

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