December 7, 2019 marked an end of an era for the decorated RP Blu Girls.
Besides seeing team captain Cheska Altomonte run the diamond for one last time, one of the program’s pioneers Garie Blando also retired from the team.
But unlike Altomonte, who wants to pass on the torch to the next generation of batters, Blando cannot pass up the opportunity to fulfill her dreams — to be a doctor.
For the past few years, Blando has been flying back and forth from Miami, Florida to the Philippines to train with the team. Besides this, the team has also gone on trips to Canada, Australia, China, and various parts of Southeast Asia to either compete or train.
And it has been taxing on her.
“It’s worth it to me. If it weren’t for the Philippines, then I wouldn’t be playing right now. It’s all worth it. I made it work,” said the 25-year-old, who is in her final year in her three-year doctorate degree in Physical Therapy at University of Saint Augustine in Miami, Florida.
The 5-foot-6 shortstop intended to retire from the game earlier, but passing up on playing for the 30th Southeast Asian Games in her home country was not an option.
“I wanted to end my career on a good note representing the Philippines, knowing a hundred-percent sure we’re going to get the gold,” she shared.
“So I wanted to end my career on a good note.”
And it ended up all worth it, as she then helped the Blu Girls win their 10th straight crown in the biennial meet — and her second.
For head coach Randy Dizer, Blando was a huge part of the Blu Girls program since she opened the gates for more Fil-Ams to join the team.
“I’ll try to convince her to come back but the only problem is she will be a doctor eh,” said Dizer.
“She’s really a big loss. She was part of our Fil-Am program back in 2014. She was always part of our progress.”
If this was indeed her last dance, Blando would not have had it any other way.
“The whole Fil-Am program started five years ago. We’ve built this program from the ground up. And I think this program is going to skyrocket, putting the Philippines on the map,” she said.
“We’re already ranked number thirteen in the world and we’ve beaten nine of the top ten countries and I think it’s a good start.”
Perhaps it is not quite the end of an era. After all, Blando has paved the way for a new wave of young Filipino-Americans to come back home.