Two years ago, the University Athletic Association of the Philippines (UAAP) passed a provision that all student-athletes from a member university’s high school must undergo two years of residency, should said student choose to enter another member university for their tertiary education. That is now a thing of the past, as President Benigno Aquino III signed RA 10676, or the Student-Athletes Protection Act, that ruled such residency provisions illegal.
One of the student-athletes who was delighted that the law was now in full effect is Anna Dominique Bartolome or Mikee, as she is also known, currently a Speech Communication major and a swimmer for the University of the Philippines (UP). Bartolome fought for her right to compete in the 76th Season of the UAAP, and was granted a Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) that allowed her to do so.
In an exclusive interview with Tiebreaker Times, Mikee shared that she did not know that the law was signed before we told her about it. Upon learning she exclaimed, “I’m very happy. Siyempre, kasi napakinggan na yung hiling nung mga student-athletes who went through what I went through. And, of course, [I am] happy because it would greatly benefit other student-athletes as well.”Looking back, the young swimmer recalled that she had her sights set on studying and competing for UP. Her brother, Ron Anthony, and her sister, April, are both in UP, and her family resides in the area as well. In addition, her father, Vic, also works for the UP men’s basketball team, which helped solidify her motivation. In fact, her motivation was so great that Mikee was willing to take the risk to get her release papers from University of Santo Tomas (UST) after her high school graduation in order to play for UP. Her sister April experienced the same scenario when the one-year residency rule was in-effect. She expressed, “my family and my team were already willing to do everything that we can para ma-release ako, so that I could swim [for UP].”
Prior to Season 76, the league extended the residency for such student-athletes from one year to two years. The precedent? FEU-FERN standout, Jerie Pingoy, committed to attend to rival school Ateneo.
The youngest Bartolome was in shock after hearing about it. Mikee shared, “in the first place, I already disagreed with the one-year residency rule, because everyone would really have to adjust from high school to college, no matter what school you go to (mag-transfer ka man o hindi). So, wala na talagang sense yung one year eh ‘di what more yung two years. I was really disappointed and angry.”
Bartolome relayed that being out of formal competition for just a year is already detrimental to an athlete’s conditioning. The lifelong swimmer explained, “competitions like the UAAP are considered as a big league competition in the high school and collegiate level. So not being able to a compete in something like the UAAP lessens your chance to compete against top athletes in your sport, which we all know is a very big privilege.” She added that the athlete loses momentum and motivation to train, knowing that he or she would not have a tournament to prepare for.
With sheer determination, Bartolome sought the help of others, so she could compete in her maiden season. “We really just wanted our voices to be heard that time,” she said. The decorated swimmer was thankful to Senator Pia Cayetano, who helped her raise her concerns to the courts. Bartolome further added that, “siyempre, alam ko naman na tama yung pinaglalaban namin, plus we have people like Senator Pia to help us back up our fight; mas nagkakalakas ka ng loob to fight. And so, yun nga ginawa namin.”
By winning her case and being granted a TRO, Bartolome was able to compete in the 2014 UAAP Swimming Championships, and helped UP get its fifth straight championship, its 14th overall. In the following year, she was finally given release papers by UST.
For Mikee, academic freedom is very much a right of every student. She explained, “well, it all boils down to having a choice. Having academic freedom gives you the choice to choose what school you want to study or to play for. Ang hirap naman kasi ng you go to a school you don’t like, it wouldn’t give you that drive to perform your best both in academics and in sports.”
With the Student-Athletes Protection Act passed, student-athletes like Bartolome and Hubert Cani are now truly “free” to go to whichever school they like.
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