Just hours before the national team took on Vietnam in the bronze medal match of the ASEAN Grand Prix first leg in Nakhon Ratchasima, Majoy Baron woke up from a blissful dream.
“Noong morning, sinabi ko doon sa boyfriend ko [Timo Uichico] na napaginipan ko na natuwa ako kasi parang pag gising ko, naka-smile ako na parang kilig,” Baron cheerily recalled, barely able find the words to describe it.
“Parang kinikilig ako na naalala ko na parang nag-Best Middle Blocker daw ako.”
Euphoric as it was, however, the former La Salle stalwart couldn’t afford to get stuck daydreaming. She had to pay attention to reality — the reality that the Nationals were winless after two games in the regional meet.
So Baron buckled down to business, steeling her resolve to deliver a breakthrough win for the Philippines.
Throughout the cardiac affair, the 5-foot-11 middle blocker was a force to be reckoned with above the net, giving every Vietnamese a rough time scoring. She also delivered the goods on offense as she rained down a flurry of quick attacks.
As the dust settled, Baron churned out a clinical defensive performance with six kill blocks en route to 13 crucial points. To make things sweeter for the national team member, the Philippines secured a podium finish.
“Noong una, parang siyempre hindi naman kami nage-expect na manalo ng medal. Ang gusto lang namin ay makakuha ng experience and parang… Kung ano ‘yung matutunan namin sa camp, malabas namin sa tournament,” she bared.
“And after namin manalo against sa Vietnam, ang saya sa feeling. Tuwang-tuwa kami.”
The a bronze medal around her neck already brought much happiness to the mild-mannered Baron. Still, she never knew nor expected that another blessing would come her way.
“After ng game, awarding, ayun, biglang tinawag yung pangalan ko. Noong una, in Thai pa yung naga-announce, so parang narinig lang namin Philippines. So, nagtinginan lang kami, ganun-ganun,” Baron recounted with a chuckle. “Tapos noong trinaslate na sa English, parang tinawag na yung pangalan ko.
“Noong una hindi ko pa maintindihan na, ‘Ha? Ako ba yun? Ako ba yun?’ Parang ganun, ang saya.”
As it turned out, Baron — who averaged 12.3 points per game, spiked by nearly five kill blocks per outing — was hailed as the Best Middle Blocker of the tournament.
In a way, the 23-year-old has proven that, even at such a relatively young age, she has what it takes to be the best middle blocker in Southeast Asia for the years to come.
Still, Baron remains the ever humble yet resilient athlete she has always been.
“For me kasi, ayaw ko isipin na dahil nagka-award ako parang magsa-stop na ako matuto eh,” she confided. “Ayaw ko siyang isipin na nanalo ako ng award. Basta sa akin, kung anong sistema nila coach na job ko sa loob ng court, yun talaga yung gusto kong i-focus.”
“Yang mga award award na yan, parang wala lang yan eh. Dapat hindi mo siya iniisip kasi darating na lang siya at the end of a tournament,” she then continued.
“Though, siyempre, at the back of my mind, may added confidence sa akin yun na o, dapat maglaro ako ng tama kasi alam mo yun? Parang dagdag confidence, ganun lang, nothing more.”