Sports

Does The Ateneo-La Salle Rivalry Still Mean Anything?

We ask students and alumni of the two warring schools from more recent years.
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Last Sunday's UAAP Men’s Basketball game was a heart-stopper. To cap off the first round of Season 80, Ateneo de Manila University and De La Salle University went head-to-head, and it came down to the last 10 seconds. Ateneo came out on top by a single free throw point to sweep all their first round games 7-0, but more than proving their dominance, both teams showed how exciting an Ateneo-La Salle game can be. The schools’ legendary rivalry, which we’ve discussed at length before, was alive and bursting from the seams of the MOA Arena last night—a reminder that after all these years, Green versus Blue is an ongoing sports narrative.

But it doesn't seem to be what it once was—at least to a new generation of Ateneans and Lasallians. In the wake of last night’s game, we asked students and alumni of both schools from more recent years: What does the Ateneo-La Salle rivalry mean to you? Here’s what they had to say (This article is being updated with new responses so feel free to answer the question in the comments):

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“It’s really one of those things that's always been for fun for me, though when I was still a student you really felt it in the air. Though I'm not going to lie, even as an alumnus affiliated with a different institution, I still feel it every rivalry game. Conditioning, haha. I will say this: It's rather nice that at least in recent years both teams have lived up to the rivalry billing. Especially because during my time as an undergrad, it was pretty one-sided. Makes games truly exciting. Just hoping there's no mean-spiritedness involved. None on my part, for sure. La Salle is a good institution and I have nothing but love and respect for many of their graduates.” —Paco, AdMU Batch 2013

“I only went to one Ateneo-La Salle game and that was back when I was a freshman; we lost. Never went back and never bothered to watch on TV after. I think more than anything, the rivalry just gives people something to talk about and bond over. Doesn't mean much outside that context.” —Vince, AdMU Batch 2012

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"The cheers are louder, the dads and titos are angrier, and every possession matters more than usual."

“It’s a relic of a bygone era.” —Jerome, DLSU Batch 2012

“It's everything—you hate the other side with a burning passion when it comes to games, or any competition for that matter. Even if I come from AdMU in college, I still heavily associate myself with La Salle, coming from LSGH. It pushes me to be better than my colleagues just outperform myself and do better. Which I think the rivalry is really about: being better in a good healthy and competitive environment.” —Jio, AdMU Batch 2012, LSGH Batch 2008

“It brings back the fighting spirit and school pride of cheering for La Salle! Even if I am an alumni already, nothing compares to the satisfaction it brings when we beat Ateneo. I have a lot of friends and colleagues who studied in Ateneo so at least for a while during the game, we go back to being rivals once again to prove who's the better school and all the trash-talking comes into play!” —Paelo, LSGH Batch 2006

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“Having studied in both schools (kinder to high school in La Salle, college in Ateneo), I’ve grown to be neutral about the rivalry. When I watch a game, I just sit back and enjoy knowing that there’s no basketball game more heart-stopping than an Ateneo-La Salle grudge match. While it’s a long-standing rivalry and some might even say that the jeers and taunts from both sides are already kind of crass for today’s standards, it really does uplift each school’s competitive spirits.” —Jiggy, AdMU Batch 2013

"I'm a Baguio City native. Moving down to Ateneo for university, I was genuinely surprised at this [manufactured?] hate that the student body had towards our brothers and sisters from Taft. I love the game of basketball, but I could never sink my teeth into the Ateneo-La Salle beef; primarily because I couldn't develop an emotional connection to it, and secondly because the beautiful women from La Salle who I met in college were always genuinely interested to pick the brain of an Atenean who didn't give a shit about the rivalry." —Enrico, AdMU Batch 2007

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"[The rivalry] is really about being better in a good healthy and competitive environment."

“I've been watching UAAP since the ’90s and [I’m] happy to have had four championships during my stay in DLSU (1998-2001) but an Ateneo-La Salle game is the one I have a love-hate relationship with. I love it because it's been the longest and most legit rivalry this country has had to witness, and it's really special to me because I've been there live—win or lose.

It somehow divides us but I think is stronger in allowing us to come together even before the dust settles after each game. I think while a lot of people see this as an elitist rivalry of sorts, but we can't deny that it remains relevant only because it has weathered the test of time and has been passed on few one generation to the next and thankfully improved over the years (no more recent riots or broken car windshields). The rivalry probably has made me more than just a fan but also a good friend to both Ateneans (I've gotten them tickets to games at times) as well as to players of both teams. The only thing I hate is when comments and criticisms are done below the belt, but for everything else, it's fair game.” —Martin, DLSU Batch 2001

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Bayaran man ako, I will still say to you: I’d rather be Green than be blue.” —Willy, DLSU Batch 2012

"I came from a family who has always loved basketball, so my love for the sport began when I was a kid. In high school, I studied in one of the most dominating schools in the NCAA and immediately got hooked to that electrifying feeling of being in an arena, watching a basketball game between schools with rivalries that spanned years. When I ended up in Ateneo, the men’s basketball team won four straight championships during my entire college stay. I was pretty much way too into by then—there was no escaping it. However, growing up with it has always taught me that sports rivalries are all in good fun, and ultimately are a great way to foster sportsmanship, humility and community-building. Now that I’m working I still indulge in collegiate basketball here and there, and the Ateneo-La Salle rivalry is still the one that gets me going the most. I think it brings me back to a time when a lot of things are much simpler: watching Ateneo win basketball games was a win for me and a community I belonged to, and I didn’t need much else back then. It’s just so much more satisfying when it’s against La Salle." —Bea, AdMU Batch 2013

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“The Ateneo-La Salle rivalry, for me, frankly, is the best Philippine sports has to offer. There’s just something about it that’s special, something that’s legendary. When you’re a student from either school, you’re instantly drawn to the rivalry. You cheer for your squad and you boo the opposition. You talk trash to students and alumni from the other side in defeat, and you hug your school-mates in victory. It’s historic, and being part of that rivalry makes you feel like a part of history. It’s something that will live on forever.” —Naveen, DLSU

"The rivalry just gives people something to talk about and bond over. Doesn't mean much outside that context."

“There is no greater feeling than seeing Ateneo beat La Salle. I've been watching the games live for as long as I remember, and the atmosphere of the arena and raw emotion are so much different from any other basketball game. The cheers are louder, the dads and titos are angrier, and every possession matters more than usual. For me, Ateneo versus La Salle will always be important, and I'm sure many from both schools will feel the same way.” —Kirby, AdMU Batch 2020

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"In all honesty, the rivalry is not as it once was. It's more like having that annoying friend who constantly tries to one up you... but can't." —Maria, AdMU Batch 2007

“The La Salle-Ateneo Rivalry helped shaped my identity as a Lasallian. For a time, it was to me, the ultimate expression of school pride. Growing up, I saw Ateneo as the antithesis of La Salle. Elite and a foundation for knowledge like La Salle, but brash and arrogant unlike my alma mater. Lasallians were proud, yes, but at least we were aware of it and humble enough to admit it. The Ateneans on the other hand perceived themselves to be humble and were unaware of their own arrogance. La Salle Green Hills reinforced this disdain in me by having teachers that were into the rivalry as well. Most of my classmates were also either antagonistic towards Ateneo or didn't really have a favorable opinion of it.

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But as time went by, the rivalry has cooled down. I myself no longer watch the games live. As most of us have grown older, I think we have begun seeing the rivalry as something largely petty compared to the problems society faces today. We have more things to worry about than ‘burgis’ basketball. But the influence of the rivalry lingers. I am no longer antagonistic to Ateneo, but I still don't have a favorable opinion of it. I didn't take the entrance exam to the university (as some of my batchmates did). I still don't want to send my kids there. I've only recently gotten myself blue shirts (although I've outgrown my Lasallian merch). And I still throw subtle jabs at my Atenean friends at work from time to time. We've outgrown it, but its lasting effects linger.” —Jan-Ace, DLSU Batch 2012

"As a former archer who put the bow down to fly with the eagles, the rivalry was, for a while, a constant source of internal conflict for me. After a while, though, you realize that the rivalry is not as serious as it used to be. It's been three years now since I made the move to Katipunan, but I am still the lone speck of green in a sea of blue next to my blockmates in the Big Dome. I love Ateneo more than words can say, but I still know where I came from. You can take me out of La Salle, but you can't take La Salle out of me. At the end of the day, it's all fun and games, and there are more important things waiting after the final buzzer." —Franco, AdMU Batch 2019

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"Having a rival is fun—you get someone to trash talk, but also someone who pushes you to get better. I've been on both sides—green in high school, blue in college—and they're more alike than they're willing to admit." —Cedric, AdMU Batch 2013, LSGH Batch 2009

"The cheering, jeering, and even the trash talking tends to bring out the best in everyone involved."

“Ateneo-La Salle is part of history. The two schools come hand-in-hand in the context of Philippine sports. Every time my school wins, no matter who we're against, I feel proud, of course. A win over La Salle, though, ignites me like no other. It's not hatred or disdain, but of pure rivalry. You just want to prove your worth by beating the other. I can have friends from DLSU, but when it comes to a sports game between our two schools, you can't help but feel like you really want to one-up them. It's just how it is now with the history of the rivalry, and how it will be forever.” —Carlito, AdMU Batch 2018

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“I studied in La Salle since I was kinder up to college (LSGH-DLSU). I've been part of the pep squad since Grade 7 and even competed in the UAAP as part of the DLSU PEP/Animo squad during college. Needless to say, La Salle pride is deeply ingrained in me. Losing is bad, losing to Ateneo is the worst. I grew up in a family of Lasallians and this is the type of culture I've gotten accustomed to. Yesterday's game was one of the best games I've seen! Definitely a nail biter! Even though we lost it was still a great game! That is what I call a competition. This competition is what separates us (La Salle and Ateneo) from the rest. This is also what makes it special. You cannot be part of it unless you're from these two schools. That sense of belongingness adds to the pride of each individual. No matter what happens, I will always and forever be for the green and white. Animo!”  —Adrian, DLSU Batch 2008

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"The rivalry gives a Finals feel to every game between the two schools. It brings out the best within both teams and ensures the audience that what they will see is going to be the pinnacle of what sports stands for." —PJ, AdMU Batch 2020

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Miguel Escobar
Assistant Features Editor for Esquire Philippines
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