Arguably the most exciting story to come out of this UAAP Season 78 Men’s Football Tournament has been the resurgence of the University of Santo Tomas Growling Tigers. Season 77 had been an awful year for UST as the Growling Tigers finished at 6th place, 13 points behind fourth placers Ateneo de Manila University Blue Eagles. This season, however, has been a resurrection for a team that had been counted out before a match even kicked off.
UST are currently in 2nd place in the standings with 14 points, just two behind league leaders De La Salle University. UST only dropped points against the University of the East, but clinched spectacular wins over National University, Ateneo, Far Eastern University, and Adamson University. With those results, it’s safe to say that the Growling Tigers are definitely realistic title contenders.
One of the key cogs in the Growling Tigers’ great start has been midfielder Ronald Batisla-Ong. Batisla-Ong is a box-to-box midfielder who has been essential at both ends of the pitch. Except for the game against UE where he was sent off, he has been in great form this Season 78. “Tinatry ko talaga na yung mga kulang ko sa games, binabawi ko sa mga sumusunod na games”, Batisla-Ong said regarding the red card. His biggest moment yet came against NU, when he scored the first goal to open the floodgates for an eventual 3-1 win for UST.
Batisla-Ong admitted that UST’s great start to Season 78 has been a surprise for him. He is one of the seniors in the lineup and it has been a case of so far, so good for him. “Ngayon, as a leader din sa loob, masaya ako dahil yung mga inutos sa amin ni coach (Marjo Allado) nasusunod atsaka yung mga bata sumusunod rin.”
Throughout the interview Batisla-Ong emphasized his role as one of the leaders of the team. He explained that the younger members of the team would respect orders more if they were handed out to them by their seniors compared to their batchmates. “Mas okay talaga na may senior sa loob na naglalaro, nagcocommand atsaka para matakot rin sila minsan. Kasi kung batchmate mo lang, baka sabihin na ‘Sabay lang tayo pumasok, bakit ako matatakot sa yo? Bakit ko susundin yung sinasabi mo?’ Pinapakita namin na sa senior na rin yung pagiging leader na rin sa loob”, he explained.
Hardwork and some admittedly spectacular goals have been instrumental for UST so far this season. Batisla-Ong, though, credited two different factors that differentiated their iteration this season from the previous one. “Siguro yung communication namin sa loob ng field atsaka yung disiplina. Kasi even though na maayos yung communication namin kung hindi disiplinado yung mga bata, wala rin mangyayari.”
Nevertheless, the main goal of UST this season is still to regain a Final Four slot. Anything more than that will be a bonus. For Batisla-Ong, however, this season is something very personal for him. He divulged that this season is his last playing year for UST. He added, “Gusto ko nang bumawi kasi four years na hindi maganda yung record ng UST at hindi rin maganda yung laro ko. Siguro ngayon yung time talaga bumawi.”
The University of the Philippines are up next for UST. Momentum and confidence grow with every UST victory. Nonetheless, expect Batisla-Ong to keep his teammates on their toes as they aim to bring the championship back to Espana.