A woman whose task was manning the goal for UST, Zipporah Luna established herself as one of the league’s most reliable goalkeepers throughout her playing years in the UAAP. The 23-year old Tomasina out of Cagayan de Oro, Misamis Oriental, helped UST win a title in 2012, and had been an integral part of the Tigresses’ defense since her emergence to the roster. Having played her final game for the black, gold, and white, the experienced custodian took time to recall the journey of representing one of the country’s proudest universities.
Luna, like most Filipinos, first fell in love with basketball, which is arguably the country’s most popular sport. It all changed when the young Rara tried out a new sport for the first time back in high school. “Actually hindi talaga ako football player dati. Basketball varsity [member] ako rati tapos nayaya lang ng friends [to play football]. Ayun, nagustuhan ko na mag-football,” she revealed. In such a short span of time, football became a huge part of her life as Luna did not only become a player, for she also began following the big names in the sport. It does not come as a surprise that her favorite player is Real Madrid and Spain goalkeeper, Iker Casillas. She also supports the likes of Real Madrid, PSG, Bayern, and Chelsea, all of which are good teams in their respective leagues, and are contenders in the biggest continental club football tournament in Europe.
Interestingly, the veteran goalkeeper was not originally assigned to the middle of the posts. “Dati nasa right wing [ako] tapos dahil sa background ko sa basketball, maturing sumalo, nilagay ako as goalkeeper. Doon ako nag-excel.” Indeed, Luna etched her name as one of her school’s most formidable shot-stoppers having been honored best goalkeeper twice in her stay in Espaňa. Aside from the UAAP, the graduating Human Resources major also played in the Pinay Football League and Metro Manila Girls’ Football Association’s invitational tournaments, to bolster her skills. Prior to collegiate football, she was a part of the Misamis Oriental selection that faced teams composing of players from other renowned footballing regions in the country. Luna’s stellar stint with UST earned her a call-up to the Philippines’ national women’s football team back in 2011. However, all of those did not come easily for the Cagayanon.
Despite being one of UST’s recruits, Luna was placed out of the varsity team in her first year, due to stiff competition among newcomers. It was not the best situation for her, but it greatly changed her as a person. “Mahirap na maganda rin. Mahirap training pero first year pa lang kami, nadisiplina na. Kaya siguro ‘yun nadala namin,” she described. A notable person who helped Luna settle in was batchmate Marianne Narciso. “Siya ‘yung tipong tao na matatakbuhan ko parati. Sa game, siya rin nagturo sa akin ng ibang hindi ko alam dati,” the goalkeeper said of the striker.
It was not easy living away a thousand miles away from her family, but the experience of playing for and studying at UST molded Luna into a more responsible individual. With football, she learned to cope with life better. “Humaba ang pasensya, nadevelop ‘yung leadership skills ko at how to communicate and understand ‘yung mga problema ng mga tao,” Luna cited. Enhancing those values have helped her, particularly because she was surrounded by different personalities in an unfamiliar setting.
As most of her time was spent with teammates, Luna did not have much time to allot for activities outside of academics and football. The sacrifices she made eventually paid off when she got the nod to join the first team. In her first playing year, the Tigresses featured in the Final against FEU. All seemed fine until a sudden change in rules sucked the life out of the squad. “Dapat best of three versus FEU kaso binago ng board, so nawalan ng gana ‘yung team. Sayang,” uttered Luna, who believes that the team had the quality to win a championship.
Defeat in the previous year motivated the team to strive harder in Season 74 when they earned a twice-to-beat advantage in the championship round against La Salle. Despite losing the first game via penalties, Luna and her teammates retained the focus to win the second game to bag the coveted title. For Luna it will go down as her most cherished moment, especially since not everyone can say that she became a champion in the UAAP. “Ito na ‘yung pinakamataas na competition sa women’s football sa Philippines plus dala ko ‘yung pangalan ng school eh. ‘Yung schools pa ‘yung mga malalaking names [in the country],” the Tomasian goalkeeper said of the league.
Unfortunately, her UAAP career came to a bitter end. Usually a title contender, UST fell to last place. “First time na natalo nang tambak sa UP tapos Ateneo kasi first time ever na natalo kami ng Ateneo,” added Luna, who treats those games as the most heartbreaking moments she’s had while representing UST on the pitch. The team’s youth may have been a huge factor for their demise as most of the players were rookies and sophomores. “Sa first 11 namin last season, parang tatlo na lang kaming natira this season,” Luna suggested, after most of the players, who brought UST back to the final last year, were ineligible to play this season.
From winning it all to finishing in last place, Luna experienced everything a UAAP player could ever have. “Amazing kasi sa dinami-daming games at training na pinagdaanan ko, masaya kasi nagagawa ko ‘yung passion ko at the same time nag-aaral rin ako sa school,” she puts into words. Evidently, football has made a huge mark on Luna’s life. Once an aspiring forensic officer, Rara then altered her plans by pursuing business instead. Her tertiary education is a step towards that, by saying “kung wala ‘yung UST at football sa UST, wala ako rito.”
In the short term, she is keen on remaining attached to the sport by playing with either Chelsea or Sikat, the teams she is looking forward to see action with. Before that though, the senior player plans to undergo shoulder and knee operations, after picking up nagging injuries in the said parts. “Football kasi hindi na mawawala ‘yan,” remarked Luna. We may have witnessed the last of her playing for UST, but for a strong-willed character like Rara, going the extra mile for something she’s passionate about is part of her DNA, and there’s no doubt that football has a place in her life.