The men’s basketball portion of UAAP Season 81 proved to be one of the most thrilling events in recent memory. From Ateneo’s grace and dominance of the elimination rounds to the UP Fighting Maroons’ Cinderella story to the finals, this year grabbed the attention and hearts of fans and supporters around the country.
Though the competition and celebrations are over, the fun never really stops with these UAAP couples. Let’s take a look back on those that caught our eye and captured our hearts over the past first half of the UAAP season.
Paul Desiderio and Agatha Uvero
Not many catchphrases are as widely popular and attributable to a single player as UP Captain Paul Desiderio’s battle cry “Atin ‘to!”. The King Maroon, who is known for his clutch ability and passion for the game, is beloved by the UP community, serving as a physical embodiment of the hope and spirit that the Fighting Maroons continue to show.
Though he is forever beloved by the UP community, only one special Fighting Maroon can claim na “Akin ‘to’” when referring to Paul. Former UP courtside reporter Agatha Uvero was a regular mainstay in all UP games this season, as seen cheering her heart out for the Maroons and her beloved captain.
Getting together when Agatha became courtside reporter for the team in UAAP Season 80, we can’t see what will come next for this superstar and his lovely courtside reporter.
Diego Dario and Sam Corrales
Speaking of UP Fighting Maroons and courtside reporters, super senior Diego Dario found his own version of inspiration in the form of Season 81 UP courtside reporter Sam Corrales. Unlike Paul and Agatha, these two have been a couple long before she took the mic for Team Maroon and Green.
A former star flyer for the UP Pep squad, Sam is no stranger to the limelight when it comes to the UAAP courts, representing her school in numerous UAAP Cheerdance Competitions during her stay.
This adorable couple has shown their out-and-out support throughout the years. Anfd it was only fitting that they spend their last year in the UAAP together, in UP’s fairytale run to the finals. We can’t wait to see what heights they’ll reach next!
Mike Nieto and Aimee Lontok
We can’t let this list go by any longer without mentioning one of the champs. Former UAAP Juniors division MVP turned two-time champion Mike Nieto seems to have found that lucky charm he needs in the form of an ever-present fan found in the stands during Ateneo games.
Former track varsity for Fighting Maroons Aimee Lontok has been with the big man throughout his accomplished collegiate career. The current journalism student is a mainstay in the blue crowd, even wearing blue and white as Mike took on her own UP Fighting Maroons this past finals.
Here’s to hoping they get another chance at celebrating their victories together next year.
Kib Montalbo and Desiree Cheng
Kib Montalbo’s last season as a Green Archer proved to be a heartbreak, as his beloved team fell against the FEU Tamaraws and lost a spot in the final four. Though his excellent career has ended, we can’t quite feel too bad for La Salle’s skipper when he has volleyball star Desiree Cheng by his side.
This tandem of Lady Spiker and Captain Archer are as inseparable as they are as successful, with both of them raising the championship for their respective teams.
Our Animo heart is wishing that Des will have a better shot at the prize for this coming volleyball season.
Philip Manalang and Cesca Racraquin
One couple we’re hoping to see more of is UE’s court general Philip Manalang and former Lady Archer turned San Beda Red Lion Cesca Racraquin.
The volleyball star currently plays for the Pocari Sweat Lady Warriors in the Premier Volleyball League while Philip manned the backcourt for the UE Red Warriors in his collegiate career. These two may not be as public with their relationship as the rest on this list, but we’re hoping to see what the next few years will bring for these two warriors.
Janjan Jaboneta and Isa Molde
There must be something in the air in Diliman that so many cute college couples are sprouting. UP’s swingman and resident 3-and-D specialist Janjan Jaboneta has definitely hit the mark with “Isamazing” Isa Molde.
The Lady Maroon instantly made an impact for the struggling UP’s Women’s Volleyball team, winning rookie of the year in the 79th season of the UAAP. Her quest to the top has continued as she brings the UP Lady Fighting Maroons success that they had not seen in decades. Janjan himself is no stranger to this narrative. A consistent starter for Season 81’s miracle team, Janjan’s hustle and grit helped propel the team into the final four, and eventually in the finals.
These two are no strangers to miracles and upsets, and we’re hoping that they’ll continue to bring as much pride and joy to each other as they do for the UP community.
Arvin Tolentino and Brandy Kramer
Though Brandy Kramer is no UAAP athlete, competing for the San Beda Red Lions in the NCAA, you cannot deny that some Ateneo Blue must run deep in her blood. Sister of former UAAP champion and beloved power-forward of the Ateneo Blue Eagles, Doug Kramer, Brandy seems to have a soft-spot for former Ateneans, considering that she is currently dating one who is now the star player of the FEU Tamaraws, Arvin Tolentino.
Arvin, known to be a sniper in the court, certainly picked his shot when he met the lovely Brandy, as he continuously fills his social media accounts with pictures of his beloved girlfriend. Though his UAAP career has come to an end, Arvin will have no trouble finding the light in the years to come with his lady by his side.
Miguel Dypiangco and Migs Gomez
Now, it's time for a couple that is certainly different from the rest! NU courtside reporter Miguel Dypiangco, and UE courtside reporter Migs Gomez have certainly developed a bromance like no other in the UAAP!
Though the two are schoolmates in UP Diliman, they only initially met when both were given the opportunity of a lifetime to represent NU and UE as courtside reporters in Season 80. Their talent and natural charisma led both to be fan favorites, continuing their tenure into the 81st season.
These two brothers on-the-mic may represent different schools, but there is no doubt in our hearts that they have found a lasting friendship in each other that will transcend any school rivalry.
Sean Manganti and The UP Crowd
And now for a relationship that we struggled calling a couple, but found it too touching to leave out of this list. Adamson Soaring Falcon Sean Manganti, or “The UP Killer” as he was affectionately labeled this season, has been a thorn on the side of UP fans everytime he faced the Fighting Maroons.
A talented wing who managed to bring his game to the next level whenever he saw the color Maroon, Sean would provide heartbreak after heartbreak for the UP community during the elimination rounds. Fate would have it that Sean and the Adamson Soaring Falcons would face the UP Fighting Maroons in the first round of the Final Four. In what would be Sean’s last game in the UAAP, the UP Fighting Maroons managed to provide an upset, and effectively ended repaying Sean what he had given them.
And yet, the mutual respect the player and the community have for each other has never wavered. As Sean stepped up to receive his awards during the second game of the UAAP finals, UP fans applauded and cheered for him as if he were one of their own. He may not have been a Fighting Maroon, but UP fans will always hold a special place in their hearts for Sean Manganti.
The hoops competition may be done, but the 81st season of the country’s premier collegiate athletic association is far from over with the second half of the league’s calendar year coming next year. Here’s to hoping that, along with more heart-pumping action and tear-inducing drama, we get to see more of what the UAAP has to offer in terms of the romantic air!
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