LIKE a line of dominos, one singular, unexpected event — the departure of star Growling Tigers captain CJ Cansino — blew open allegations of quarantine violations, bad food, and a mass exodus of collegiate players at the prime of their careers.
Now, the UST men's basketball team lies gutted, top sports officials have resigned, and a joint government task force is investigating several schools for breaking health protocols during the pandemic.
The sound you heard wasn’t a bubble popping. It was an explosion whose echoes will be heard for years to come.
Here’s a timeline of everything we know that led up to this point.
August 20, Thursday: In ground zero of this entire saga, team insiders bared to Spin.ph’s Randolph B. Leongson that CJ Cansino had departed the team. Cansino had been a Thomasian lifer, the Season 80 UAAP Juniors MVP from the Tiger Cubs who had clocked in two solid years in España before that day’s unexpected news.
Various schools, including UP, Ateneo, La Salle, and Letran, were reported to have pitched for the services of the now-teamless captain. Other UAAP ballers jokingly vied for Cansino’s attention on Twitter.
August 21, Friday: Cansino revealed: “Tinanggal ako eh. Hindi mo naman kasi puwede ipagpilitan yung sarili mo sa team na ayaw na sa ‘yo.”
Later that same day, Fighting Maroons coach Bo Perasol announced that Cansino had transferred to the University of the Philippines.
Cansino confirmed the news, saying, “Ang naging pakiramdam ko po ay mas bagay talaga ako sa UP, mas comfortable ako sa UP."
On social media, Cansino’s departure had caused various rumors of a “Bicol bubble” training conducted by the Growling Tigers camp to, well, bubble to the surface. The two, the speculations surmised, were inextricably linked. But all parties — from Cansino to the school — kept their silence on the allegations.
August 22, Saturday: Cansino told the Anong Tunay!? sports podcast that he remained mystified as to why he had been kicked out of the team. Insiders had been telling Spin.ph that it had been caused by a rift between the 6-foot-2 guard and head coach Aldin Ayo.
He also spoke about his lightning-fast transfer to the Maroons. Cansino, however, expressed his sadness at leaving the Growling Tigers. On Twitter, his former teammates — including Renzo Subido and Rhenz Abando — posted tributes to the “King Tiger.”
Over the past few days, more “Bicol bubble” speculation had surfaced, with videos on social media showing that the team had been training in Ayo’s hometown of Capuy, Sorsogon since at least mid-June. On the same podcast, Cansino continued to refuse to comment.
August 23, Sunday: The strongest documentary evidence for the Bicol Bubble emerged online: a copy of a waiver to be signed by the Growling Tigers’ parents and/or legal guardians, allowing their child to train in Sorsogon.
The waiver was addressed to UST Institute of Physical Education and Athletics (IPEA) director Fr. Jannel Abogado.
Spin.ph reported that the waiver corroborated what its reporters had been hearing from team sources about the Sorsogon training.
In addition, “an IATF-created body made up of representatives of the Department of Health (DoH), Games and Amusement Board (GAB), and the Philippine Sports Commission (PSC) is also investigating if the team broke quarantine protocols during the bubble training.”
UST spoke publicly about the investigation, saying it had learned about the issue only today, and that it was conducting its own internal investigation. The school also said it had declined to attend a PSC meeting about the matter.
Later that day, Ayo released a lengthy statement. He said that he was “fully cooperating with the ongoing investigations,” and also alluded vaguely to “marked differences” between himself and his star player CJ Cansino.
Social media screenshots of the NU Lady Bulldogs team, allegedly conducting their own bubble training, also appeared online.
Remaining UST players still inside the bubble were reportedly set to come home, and that UST would present findings of its internal probe to an IATF-created body the following day.
August 26, Wednesday: Cansino released screenshots of a group text between various members of the Growling Tigers and their parents/guardians regarding the allegedly less-than-ideal circumstances within the bubble.
The chats claimed that some players fell sick, but were left to fend for themselves — an allegation that Growling Tiger Ira Bataller later spoke publicly to Spin.ph about.
Among the major bubble grievances raised by the players was about the food, which was supposedly “mamantika” and “walang lasa.” PBA players like Vic Manuel and Leo Avenido would react to this complaint on their social media accounts.
Cansino told Spin.ph that he had posted the screenshots with the permission of his teammates. He would, however, delete the screenshots shortly thereafter.
Photos of the Growling Tigers sharing a seafood boodle and a Korean-style meal also appeared on social media.
Monitoring the government's investigation, Spin.ph’s Reuben Terrado also reported that UST skipped out on yet another meeting conducted by the IATF-created body. Games and Amusements Board chair Baham Mitra also told Terrado that he believes that the UAAP should police its own member institutions.
In a follow-up, the Sports JAO would re-convene on Tuesday, September 1, with UST required to attend.
August 27, Thursday: Various UST athletes tweeted their gratitude and support for the resigned Fr. Jannel Abogado. Volleyball player Imee Hernandez also talked to Spin.ph about the issue.
The UST issue is mentioned in the day’s Malacañang press briefing, with CHED commissioner Prospero de Vera demanding answers from the school.
August 28, Friday: Rector Fr. Richard Ang, OP and new Institute of Physical Education and Athletics (IPEA) director Fr. Ermito de Sagon, OP, reported findings of UST’s internal investigation to the UAAP. No public statement was issued.
August 29-30, Saturday and Sunday: A flurry of reports over the weekend exposed the backdoor deals Growling Tigers were reportedly making to escape the España-based squad. In short order, Brent Paraiso, Ira Bataller, Rhenz Abando, and Jun Asuncion were linked to departure rumors.
September 1, Tuesday: The government’s Joint Administrative Order (JAO) investigative body received the reports from both UST and NU on their alleged bubble violations, “[b]ut the day ended with no resolution in sight,” wrote Spin.ph’s Leongson.
The investigation would now be split into two. UAAP's Board of Managing Directors (BMD) composed of the athletic directors of each school planned to convene on Thursday to discuss the issue. Meanwhile, the government officials — including the GAB, the Philippine Sports Commission, the Commission on Higher Education, and the Department of Health — would also continue their probe.
Baham Mitra of the GAB told Spin.ph’s Gerry Ramos that he believed that the UAAP “appears to be leaning towards letting other bodies to decide the fate of the entire Tigers squad.” If that were the case, Mitra continued, the IATF would be the one to sanction the school.
Meanwhile, Soulemane Chabi Yo and Mark Nonoy spoke to Spin.ph about the status of the Growling Tigers. Both wished their departing teammates well. But while Chabi Yo was sure he would remain in UST, the Season 82 Rookie of the Year was not so certain.
September 2, Wednesday: Spin.ph learned that the day before, the UAAP BMD furnished videos from mid-July allegedly showing the UP Fighting Maroons in a training camp.
Maroons coach Bo Perasol confirmed a shootaround session between himself and center Bright Akhuetie, but issued a public denial that there was any team training.
September 3, Thursday: The UAAP BMD reconvened to discuss the various bubble allegations that have arisen over the previous weeks. The meeting ended with recommendations that the body sanction UST head coach Aldin Ayo.
According to insiders, the Board concluded that it was he who was responsible for the Sorsogon trip.
Meanwhile, Coach Derrick Pumaren laughed away allegations that La Salle had conducted its own training and violated quarantine protocols.
September 4, Friday: The JAO Group met to discuss possible violations committed by UST on quarantine protocols. GAB’s Baham Mitra said the Department of Justice would take the lead in sanctioning the school.
“The IATF is a policy-making body while the DoJ can pursue an investigation,” explained Mitra on Friday. “If they (DoJ) found them guilty, yes (it will file a case). And the DoJ is a member of the IATF.”
From the Letran camp, Alfrancis Chua, special assistant to the rector for sports development, denied reports that Colegio de San Juan de Letran was bringing back Aldin Ayo into the Knights’ fold.
Later that night, Ayo tendered his resignation from UST. You can read his full resignation letter below:
“I take responsibility for my actions and shall face the appropriate sanctions," part of his resignation letter read.
September 5, Saturday: With a "heavy heart," UST accepted Ayo’s resignation.
Later that day, both Nonoy and Deo Cuajao would be linked to more departure rumors — this time, to Adamson.
September 7, Monday: The JAO forwarded the results of its investigation to the Deparment of Justice as well as the Department of Interior and Local Government.
In an online press conference, CHED commissioner Prospero De Vera said the government would be issuing "show-cause orders to NU and UST explaining why sanctions shouldn't be imposed on its officers, teaching and non-teaching personnel, for its failure to comply with the guidelines of CHED."
The collegiate commission then announced that it would conduct its own investigation. The DILG would do the same.
Meanwhile, sources bared to SPIN.ph that Abando, Paraiso, and Bataller would transfer to the Letran Knights.
UST school paper The Varsitarian also released its own investigation in the matter. The report confirmed that CJ Cansino, who had set all these events in motion, had indeed been kicked out of the team for leaving the Sorsogon bubble early, together with Brent Paraiso and Bismarck Lina. Players also apparently had to attend a farming seminar and visit a piggery.
September 9, Wednesday: The UAAP Board of Trustees (BOT) ratified the BMD decision to ban Aldin Ayo from participating in any UAAP events.
"The ban is based on the UST report that showed Ayo endangering the health and well-being of the student athletes under his charge when he conducted the training during a government-declared state of public emergency intended to arrest the COVID-19 outbreak," said the BOT statement.
This story is developing. We will add to the timeline as events happen.