HER support for the University of the Philippines Maroons has been unwavering, even if she admits that season after losing season have prompted fans and non-fans to call their beloved team the "UP Marooned."
She also doesn't meddle in the team's internal affairs and neither does she call attention to herself when watching the games, although she admits nagging the team managers with the most basic question that's also on the minds of the most diehard fellow rooters:
"When are we going to win?"
Robina Gokongwei-Pe has been among the major backers of the UP Maroons for the last four seasons - a stretch that yielded a grand total of three wins, she herself pointed out. But she is not giving up on the perennial doormats for one simple reason: Love of the school.
“We will continue supporting the UP Maroons, even if people call them UP Marooned,” said Gokongwei-Pe in a candid email interview she granted to Spin.ph. “The reason is that we love the school (naks).”
Although she did not graduate from the state-run university having finishes her studies in the US, Gokongwei-Pe said she has fond memories of the time she spent at the Diliman campus.
She is also a basketball fan long before her family put up multi-titled PBA team Great Taste - “I used to be a fan of basketball during the MICAA days. That’s how ancient I am,” she said - so opting to support the school's basketball program beginning in 2009 was a natural choice for her.
“I went to college at UP Diliman, and so did the general manager of Robinsons Supermarket, Jody Gadia, and the vice chairman of Handyman, Willy Co,” Gokongwei-Pe shared.
“I did not finish at UP, I eventually went to the US to get my college degree, but I have fond memories of UP. The three of us have fond memories of UP, so we all agreed to support the men’s basketball team,” she added.
Gokongwei-Pe has stood by the team through thick and thin - mostly thin - even if she often finds herself 'marooned' in near-empty sections of the UP gallery during games and wishing one day the team would have as big a support as the school's successful cheerdance team.
Asked why, unlike most major backers, she mostly stays in the background during games, Gokongwei-Pe said, in jest of course: “I am anti-social."
She continued: “I watch the games as often as I can, and sometimes we find ourselves the only group sitting in that section rooting for UP ... Of course, I wish we have the same kind of crowd that we see during the cheerdance competitions.”
Unlike the other schools' heavyweight supporters, Gokongwei-Pe also doesn't dip her hands into the team's affairs. And neither does she plan to get involved in the recruitment battle over blue-chip prospects where championships are won or lost these days.
“I support the decision of the team managers. That’s why they are the team managers,” said Gokongwei-Pe. “I’m not hands-on (with the team). All I do is nag the team managers and ask them when we are going to win.”
“On the recruitment side, I am not a basketball expert. I wouldn’t know what to contribute when it comes to recruitment,” said Gokongwei-Pe, who was one of the sponsors in the building of a new basketball gym for the squad that replaced the 'leaky' one a few years ago.
Still, Gokongwei-Pe knows enough about basketball to realize that wooing good basketball players to play for the Maroons isn't easy for the school - and entails a lot of sacrifice for the players.
“I know that when you agree to play for UP, you are playing for love of the school. There are no perks, and you have to maintain a grade point average," she said.
“Imagine also having a leaking gym for the longest time and which they have to share with other sports teams. Sometimes the volleyball ends up flying into the basketball court.
“It’s a good thing UP has a new basketball gym now with a floor that is not uneven like the old one. You really have to love the school and the sport to go through these."
Still, she shares the hope of every UP Maroon fan that one day soon things will turn around for a team that has not come close to a championship since winning its only UAAP title in 1986 with a team coached by Joe Lipa and led by Benjie Paras and Ronnie Magsanoc.
"I can’t predict the future, but I do hope we don’t keep ending up dead last, or winless," she said.