By Mark Oliver P. Molina (FEU Athletics Director)
My many years as athletics director of Far Eastern University have been filled with many heroes and champions. Arwind Santos was truly one of a kind as he willed the Tams to three consecutive men’s basketball titles. Then there was Rachel Daquis, a true gem of a person and athlete. Rachel brought UAAP volleyball to unprecedented heights with her game.
I also witnessed the greatness of Janelle Frayna. The Philippines first and only Woman GrandMaster and a multiple UAAP champion, MVP and Athlete of the Year. Many other great champions come to mind. Mac Belo, Roger Pogoy, Mark Isip, Denok Miranda, Edjet Mabbayad, Wendy Semana, Paolo Bugas, Lloyd Escoses, Bevely Villar, Allana Lim, Raiza Palmera and a whole lot more. Then we have this girl from Negros Occidental who captured the hearts of the FEU community.
Bernadeth Pons reluctantly left her hometown to study at FEU. She did not want to leave her family but the chance to make a better future and study at a school in Manila was her ticket to a better life. From day one, she exhibited everything you would ask from a student-athlete: good grades, great work ethic, leadership and extraordinary humility. In a time when UAAP athletes can be a source of braggadocio and hubris, Bernadeth was a breath of fresh air.
She was part of a rebuilding FEU team that struggled through her first season but became title contenders as the Lady Tams made the Final Four in the past 4 seasons. She consistently led the team in points, digs and receptions and became a triple double machine. Very shy and unassuming, Bernadeth let her game and perseverance speak for herself.
In her final season with the Lady Tams she was named team captain by Coach George Pascua. But she became more than a captain, she was the “ate” and she put everyone’s interest above hers. Every week Bernadeth will take each of her teammates ticket needs for the UAAP games and submit them to the athletics office. If any of the players had a concern, they would all go to her and Bernadeth always made sure it was addressed. Her leadership was based on service, humility and selflessness.
When FEU beat Ateneo in the Final Four and made it to the UAAP Finals for the first time in 10 years, the team celebrated with dinner at Grilla restaurant near the Mall of Asia Arena. With a lot of the parents and families joining the team the place was packed. Bernadeth made sure all their teammates and families were seated and served food before she took a seat with her brother and sister. In the aftermath of her biggest victory in the UAAP, she still put everyone’s needs ahead of hers.
Success in sports are always measured by championships and trophies and Bernadeth did not win any in an illustrious UAAP career that saw her lead the Lady Tams in scoring in each of her five seasons. But she sure won a lot of our hearts. In the final weeks of UAAP Season 80, #MVPons was all over social media. Volleyball experts voiced out that this is Bernadeth Pons year to win the MVP award but it was not meant to be. Five outstanding years without a single award in the UAAP should not matter for Bernadeth Pons.
She entered FEU in a state of uncertainty and leaves with a newly instilled winning culture that brings hope to the UAAP’s winningest volleyball program. Bernadeth Pons fits the ideal definition of a student-athlete: High grades, total dedication to her sport and team, fierce loyalty to the school and the FEU community and trophies are not needed to cement the legacy she leaves us. Thank you Bernadeth! You were an inspiration to the FEU and volleyball communities and at the end of the day, this is what matters the most.