SUBIC — Staging the 2021 Gatorade-Philippine Superliga Beach Volleyball Challenge Cup is like holding the league’s usual out of town events, only with more restrictions and more expenses, according to officials.
“It’s like Spike on Tour but maraming restrictions hindi ka pwede lumabas ng hotel, hindi pwede lumabas ng venue. It’s only the hotel and venue,” said tournament director Ginio Panganiban.
“Pag ganyan ang situation it also entails a lot including finances pero as much as possible we keep it as minimum as possible.”
PSL chose Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA) since its Sands Court is just across the Peninsular Hotel.
The 70 players, team and league staff, whose COVID-19 saliva test conducted by Red Cross Olongapo all came out negative, only have to cross the street from the hotel to the venue.
“Yung risk is minimal kaysa sa sasakay ka pa,” Panganiban said.
The participants are only allowed to go out of their rooms during matches — 8 am to 12 p.m. for the morning session and 2 to 6 p.m. for the afternoon matches — and the usual temperature check and QR code scanning for health monitoring are required.
No one is allowed to leave even during mealtimes, and food either from the hotel restaurant of ordered outside are delivered to the rooms.
“Hindi ka na pwede basta basta lumabas yung food mo iiwan lang sa door mo. Tiis lang talaga,” said Bang Pineda of Sta. Lucia B.
“Kailangan nakaface mask ka at face shield. Minsan nga nakakalimutan namin tapos babalik kami,” Pineda said. “Yun ang kailangan namin i-practice naka-face mask at naka-face shield and social distancing.”
The volleyballs are frequently disinfected, and players and coaches are discouraged from doing high fives and huddles.
“Yung mga gamit nila dapat hiwalay wala na huddle, wala na high five as much as possible pati yung fist bump. Bow na lang muna yung ginagawa nila ngayon,” Panganiban said.
“Everyone’s negative naman but still we don’t take the risk. We still follow the health protocols.”
There were no penalties, though, as participants — back in action after 11 months of inactivity — could not avoid celebrating points and matches won.
“Minsan nakakalimutan talaga pero tinatry namin magadjust sa new normal,” said Alexa Polidario of Abanse Negrense A.
Players says the weirdest part of the bubble tournament is playing without fans — Sta. Lucia and Abanse Negrense had the advantage there, having two teams each in the bubble, which meant people other than the coach could create some noise at the sidelines.
“Yung audience yun yung big factor din sa laban,” said Erjane Magdato of Abanse Negrense A. “Siguro weird pero nakafocus naman kami sa game.”
Polidario agreed: “Yung mind namin sa laro lang so kung may audience o wala laban lang.”
“Gusto kasi namin may mga nanonood and nageenjoy sa laro. Naninibago lang pero masaya pa rin kasi nandoon sila na nagsusupport sa amin,” said Jennifer Cosas of Abanse Negrense B.
Abanse Negrense team manager Carmela Gamboa said she was pleased with the protocols.
“Makikita mo talaga na safe din kami syempre lumuwas pa kami ng province papunta pa dito. Ang layo ng binyahe namin and then to be here strict talaga siya,” said Gamboa.
“May nagsasabi talaga na wear your mask, distance talaga. So may nagcocorrect kung may mali, we appreciate that kasi we know that PSL is also protecting the people who are in the bubble,” she added.
Despite all the adjustments and changes in beach volleyball’s new normal, the players are just happy to be back in a tournament.
“Masaya kasi ang tagal almost a year lahat ng inipon naming pagtitiis training lang at home and alam mo yun lahat atat na talaga,” Pineda said. “Ito talaga yung chance namin na ipakita yung desire namin to play and mag all-out.”
“Sobrang excited kami maglaro kasi grabe yung training non-stop kahit nasa bahay lang as in almost a year. Sobrang nakakamiss humawak ng bola at sobrang saya bumalik na yung PSL,” added Jonah Sabete, Pineda’s teammate.
The league staff felt the same as they were able to work together again after nearly a year of inactivity.
“Masaya parang nabunutan ng tinik na nakapag-referee na ulit,” said Joven Racelis, an Asian Volleyball Confederation international referee. “Sana tuloy-tuloy na magkakasama na ulit. Babalik na ulit yung passion bukod sa source of income masaya kami nagkasama sama at nabigyan ng pagasa.”
PSL hopes the three-day event inspires its players, aside from athletes from other leagues.
“Etong tournament na ito, it was approved by the IATF, is just one event na talagang will give panibagong pag-asa sa ibang mga liga or events na magpursige para maresume na yung events nila,” Panganiban said.
The league was able to stage the Challenge Cup after it was postponed last November due to several typhoons that struck the country. It was the first amateur sport and volleyball league to return to action, that despite losing five of its eight club teams.
What’s next? PSL already started plans for the All-Filipino Conference, which is most likely to be held in another Subic Bubble.
“Talagang nagpaplano na kami and we’re talking about the All Filipino Conference,” Panganiban said. “We also anticipate na ito ay isang bubble. I hope na it will become normal soon but the way it is going on with more cases reported mukhang matagal pa siguro.”