Bannering the theme “It All Begins Here,” the highly anticipated UAAP Season 81 officially commenced earlier today with a star-studded opening ceremony at the Mall of Asia Arena, Pasay.
Host National University lined up special performances that attracted not only UAAP loyalists but also the general public; Sponge Cola, James Reid, and Korean pop icon Minzy performed in front of a huge crowd.
But what made the event unforgettable was the presence of an NBA superstar—a first in UAAP history—in the person of no less than three-time champion and two-time MVP Stephen Curry. Curry visited Manila for the second time, and graced the opening rites as part of his Asia Tour, where Philippines is the first stop. Taking the lead, Curry delivered the Oath of Sportsmanship, while all the student-athletes followed.
UAAP President Nilo Ocampo, along with Board of Trustees member Dr. RJ Ermita, officiated the commencement. “Welcome to your new UAAP experience. Beyond the competition, we celebrate the value of sports. Ladies and gentlemen, sports is life. Welcome to the UAAP. It all begins here[…] Let the games begin!”, Ermita declared.
After the glitz that marked the opening ceremonies, it was all business back on the hardwood.
In the opening game, the University of the East (UE) Red Warriors stepped face-to-face against the University of the Philippine (UP) Fighting Maroons; after an authoritative second-half performance, the Maroons completed a demolition of UE, defeating the Red Warriors, 87-58. Newly acquired center Bright Akhuetie anchored the victory, tallying 15 points and 18 boards.
In the succeeding game, the National University Bulldogs, after having secured a 17-point deficit late in the game, were able to outlast a late-game rally courtesy of University of Santo Tomas Growling Tigers, ending the game at 75-70. The famed Ildefonos played a crucial role in the victory; younger sibling Dave finished with a steady 19 points and seven rebounds, while eldest Shaun recorded a double-double of 10 points and 11 boards.
With reports from Joshua Fidel Feria and Kevin Joshua Rebultan.
Featured image by Manila Bulletin.