While relatively behind the more popular sports like basketball and volleyball, the University of the East has quietly imposed its will in the UAAP Fencing tournament.
In fact, the last four years saw the UE fencers shutout all other universities after dominating the men’s, women’s and junior ranks in the the sport.
UE’s women’s team alone is on a nine-year title run.
National team member Lee Eigran Ergina witnessed this dominant run but stressed that the Recto-based university’s string of championships was due to their passion and hard work.
Nonetheless, Ergina admitted that Season 79 won’t be easy, which is why they remain committed in getting better to ensure they maintain their stranglehold in the sport, which won’t start till the middle of February 2017.
“Hindi magiging madali yung season ngayon. May mga bago din sa iba na malakas din so training lang, hindi kami titigil. Pahihirapan pa rin namin sila para kunin ang championship dahil amin pa rin, amin lang,” Ergina told FOX Sports during the UAAP opening ceremony at the UST Plaza Mayor Saturday night.
Ergina’s story itself was a living proof of UE’s elite fencing program.
The Sorsogon, Bicol explained he had no prior knowledge of the sport six years ago while searching for a scholarship program to sustain his college studies.
“Halos karamihan sa amin na pumasok sa UE, zero knowledge. Talagang grassroot sprogram kami. Nagsimula kami talagang basic na basic,” he said.
“Masasabi ko na top yung UE sa program ng fencing sa UAAP kasi nandun yung discipline, yung passion at hard work nandun lahat. After pa lang ng tournament ng UAAP start na kami agad for another season. Hindi nababalii yun na after season, pahinga, no. Zero ulit para sa bagong season.”
Now, Ergina is in his third year in the national team, and has since competed in several international tournaments, most recently the ASEAN University Games last June where the UE fencers comprised majority of the Philippine delegates.
“Simula 2013, part ako ng Philippine national team. Parang magandang exposure din sa mga UAAP players na maging national team kasi nali-lift yung sport na hindi lang pang-national, nagiging international yung sport na meron tayo sa Pilipinas,” he said.
“Sa ASEAN University Games sa Singapore naka-3 golds, 2 silver, 5 bronze kami. Kami yata yung may pinaka-magandang performance na nakuha sa AUG,” he added.
While Ergina’s playing year in UAAP is over, he remains a part of the team and helps the coaching department of the UE Fencers while trying to finish his academic duties.
“Tumutulong na lang ako sa team for the guidance and improvement ng mga bago naming members. Yung plano after ko gumraduate sa coaching staff na ko,” he said.
“Wala pa naman akong planong tumigil sa fencing hangga’t kaya kong maglaro. Ang plano ko hanggang 2019 dahil dito gaganapin yung Southeast Asian Games. Tululy-tuloy pa rin dahil mahal ko ginagawa ko.”
As for the upcoming UAAP season, Ergina has full confidence the Red Warriors’ unbeaten run will not be stopped.
“Mas malaki tiwala ko kasi iilan lang kaming nawala, core team pa rin yung natira. Kahit sabihin kong nabawasan kaming anim, yung mga natira solid pa rin. Kahit anong mangyari, hindi lang sa men’s, women’s, boy’s at girls kaya naming kunin. Tiwala lang, training lang, passion lang sa ginagawa,” he said. – John Chester Fajardo