A Lasallian throughout her life, Chermaine Guancia etched her name in DLSU football as one of the most dependable players Coach Hans-Peter Smit has had in the past half-decade. Guancia, an alumna of University of St. La Salle Bacolod, possessed the fatal combination of pace and tenacity needed up front to dismantle opposing defences. The Negrense forward was a vital cog in La Salle’s Season 77 campaign, having been deployed to defensive areas for the first time in her collegiate career. After what appears to be a tumultuous UAAP football career, Guancia relives the exhilarating journey she has had with the beautiful game.
Football is undeniably big in Guancia’s hometown. Basketball may be king in the country, but in the Western Visayas region, football is a sport that binds communities together; particularly in Iloilo and Negros towns. Despite the popularity of the sport in her place, football was not even the second discipline she took up. “At first I was a track player, then I was into volleyball, and then I decided to try football. Iniwan ko na volleyball, then I’ve taken up football. I had no idea that it would take me here,” she shared. It was her elder sister who introduced the game played by eleven players per team to her. Fascinated, the then 14-year-old Guancia got hooked on the sport, and the rest is history. Her idols in the sport include Alex Morgan and Kelly O’Hara of the US Women’s National Team, and former DLSU teammate, Natasha Alquiros, who also represents the country in women’s football. As for club football, the striker admires Real Madrid and Manchester United, which does not come as a surprise given both teams’ reputations offensively.
Not known by many, Guancia actually came close to featuring in blue and white in the UAAP. Cha, as she is fondly called, was not certain if DLSU wanted her to play for them. Unwilling to let any opportunity drift away, she gave Ateneo a go, and impressed the coaches during the try-outs. Back then, Ateneo was a floundering team, and having a striker as good as her may have sparked the much-needed boost to their ailing football program. It looked like a sure thing that Guancia will be donning the blue of Ateneo by Season 73, but one phone call altered the course of things. “Biglang tumawag ‘yung assistant coach namin before,” she recalled. The conversation led to her being talked into considering a late move to DLSU. Having virtually committed to Ateneo, Guancia faced a confounding dilemma. “Medyo under pressure ako noon. Tinawagan ko parents ko and ate ko. Napag-usapan namin na La Salle na lang,” she furthered.
The decision to stay green was finalized and Guancia soon left home for Manila to continue her studies and play football as well. The new environment posed a set of trials she needed to overcome. “Noong rookie year ko I think isa yun sa mga pinaka-challenging years in my life… in a way I had to start from scratch. When I got here, I didn’t know a lot about football. It was difficult, but it sure made me stronger, made me a stronger player and person,” she confessed, while also crediting Smit in forming her to the player that she turned out to be five years after. Off the field adjustment was also trying, but Guancia coped well with living independently in the capital. It was made easier and more fun when she came across teammate Lois Hain, her lone batchmate in Season 77’s roster. “Siguro nag-develop friendship namin because of our schedule. We hang out a lot. We like reading books. We share the same interests.” It is also with the help of another individual that shaped Guancia to what she is now: former DLSU goalkeeper Haya Ibarra. “Ever since rookie ako, I‘ve always looked up to her. Kahit ngayon minsan lang kami nag-uusap, when I get to talk to her I get reminded to always challenge myself. If I come across problems siguro I’ll always remember what she said: challenge yourself lang.”
Throughout her stint with La Salle, she remembers the Season 75 second round game against Ateneo to be her happiest moment. At that point, La Salle and Ateneo were heading to a 1-1 draw. A stalemate would not be enough for La Salle to make an appearance in the final as they needed maximum points in their remaining games. “Isu-sub-out na ako, and then nag play on. I got the ball from Adri [Yniguez], and then I took a shot, but then the keeper got to it. I went for the ball again so it went in,” she reminisced with a huge grin in her face as it was sufficient to earn DLSU the win. Amusingly, she did it against the players whom she may have been teammates with. In that year, they eventually made the championship game only to lose harshly against a rampant Lady Tamaraws team, which for her is the most challenging group she has ever faced, in two games. “FEU kasi sobrang physical nila and mahirap talaga i-break. Sobrang organized yung system nila and it’s hard to break their defense,” Guancia elaborated.
Sadly, Guancia was unable to win a gold medal with DLSU in the UAAP despite having been to the Final twice, but holds no regrets, as she went saying, “[It was] fulfilling because I gained a family. DLSU football will always be a family.” Looking back, she identifies the narrow defeat to UST in the deciding match of the Season 74 championship round as the one that hurts the most. This year, she also felt remarkable misery when they were beaten by UP, 2-0, in what was her last 90 minutes of action in the league. However, her spell with DLSU has helped her realize a lot of useful lessons, both on and off the pitch. “Every second counts. You can’t really predict who’s going to win; what matters is how we play as a team. Communication is crucial, especially among teammates, and follow the instructions from the coaches,” she cited. Speaking of coaches, the Bacolod native also keeps in her mind one of the most valuable teachings he acquired from Coach Hans. “Siguro yung hindi ko makakalimutan: don’t give any excuses. Unless you can’t do something, why not do it? Si Coach kasi parang ayaw talaga niya ng excuses,“ the striker revealed.
Definitely, Cha will miss playing in the UAAP. She has played in many tournaments before, but nothing compares to what the league offers. “I think iba kasi sa UAAP eh. I think you see everyone working hard for it. Everyone gives their all. You see everyone try to make the trainings count, all the efforts count. You really try to give it all one game at a time. [At saka] adrenaline siguro with all the drums and the cheering squads, and of course representing La Salle, it’s very different,” she expressed. Moving on, the woman who once wanted to become an astronaut or a pilot, is now eager to become a doctor of medicine. Currently, Guancia is taking up a master’s degree in Human Development, and may well be targeting an entry to a medicine school soon. It remains to be seen whether she will pursue a career related or closely affiliated to football, but its impact on her is indelible. “Kapag may problema ako I’ll always look back kung ano ba yung natutunan ko being a football player, doon ko na i-apply. ‘Yung attributes, you can apply it outside football naman,” she declared. Right now, the possibilities are limitless. Guancia may become a doctor, a football player-turned-coach, or even a passionate soccer mom, but one thing is for sure—football and the people she met along the way because of it will have a special place in her heart and mind.