It is wrong to think that wins by a team bannered by Fiola Ceballos over well-known players in Manila are “upsets” only because she is a less-heralded name in the country’s capital.
In fact, even before setting foot on indoor volleyball competitions, Ceballos was a star in beach volleyball tournaments in the southern parts of the archipelago. The highlight of Ceballos’ career is a three-peat at the Nestea Beach when she joined hands with Jovelyn Gonzaga to bring glory to Centtal Philippines University.
Now making a mark in Manila at the Philippine Super Liga Beach Volleyball Challenge Cup, Ceballos feels grateful and overwhelmed at the same time, as she is living her dream in a surreal atmosphere.
Ceballos, together with Patty Orendain, led the Foton Tornadoes to an unblemished 2-0 record heading into the quarter-finals of the tournament.
The Ilo-ilo native added she feels happy for the sport, which is also gaining the attention indoor volleyball is receiving. “Masaya ako dahil nadevelop na ang beach volleyball dito ng tuloy-tuloy. Dati, indoor lang ang sikat pero ngayon binibigyan na rin nila (ng suporta) ang beach volleyball.”
Jade Becaldo is also a beach volleyball powerhouse, and yet his name does not echo that loud yet in Manila. But through the King and Queen of the Sands which he and Bea Tan topped earlier this July, Becaldo is slowly gaining the recognition he very much deserves.
“Kahit nakalaro na ako ng international game, unknown pa rin kami dito. Nagpapasalamat kami na mayroon nang liga para makilala kaming mga hindi taga-Maynila,” Becaldo said.
“Masaya dahil makikita na rin nila. Hindi lang salita, makikita na nila (kami) sa personal.”
The University of Visayas product started his beach volleyball trek when he was 17, saying the sport helped him become an all-around volleyball athlete.
“Masaya ang beach volleyball. Lahat ng skills mo, ma-aangat mo talaga. Diskarte, endurance, lahat. Iba yung level sa labas,” he said.
Competing abroad is nothing new for Becaldo, who participated in the Asian Beach Games and AVC Olympic Qualifiers.
Back on home soil and now 25 years old, Becaldo is playing full-time with SM By The Bay which he, along with Hachaliah Gilbuena, led to the semi-final of the men’s division of the PSL Beach Volleyball Challenge Cup after a 4-0 record in the eliminations.
He believes beach volleyball is a long way to go, but it needs the support to succeed. Becaldo vowed to do his part in helping more people become aware of the sport, and even when he is not playing anymore, he wishes the Philippines will rise in the sport.
“Kailangan lang natin, suporta. Noong naglaro kami sa labas (ng bansa), wala talaga. Amin-amin lang. Mahirap ang training araw-araw. Yung mindset namin, humanap pa ng sideline. Kailangan namin magtrabaho dahil (kulang) talaga. Sana may mag-sponsor rin,” he recalled.
“Sana kahit hindi na kami ang naglalaro, yung mga bagong player na uusbong sana maka-medalya. Sa akin lang, hindi na dapat magpalitan ng players. Kung sino mag-partner ngayon, sila na mag-stick. Kailangan mag focus lang talaga at magsuporta.”
Becaldo and Ceballos are only two of many experienced athletes trying to etch their names into Philippine beach volleyball legacy; finding a home in Manila for the sport gives them the long-overdue recognition they deserve, and a chance to bring even more hope to the country.