The UP-Ateneo Rivalry Goes Back to the 1920s

The Ateneo Blue Eagles and UP Fighting Maroons face off in the UAAP finals after three decades.

Behind talk on UP and Ateneo’s much awaited reunion on court for the University Athletic Association of the Philippines’ (UAAP) Season 81 basketball finals is a little known fact veiled to many—that the two had been the first rivals even before the height of the momentous clash between blue and green. This year, two of Katipunan’s biggest universities again meet head on in a battle 32 years in the making.

UP and Ateneo’s first encounter dates back to the 1920s, when Iskos would troop to Ateneo’s Intramuros campus to play ball with the Ateneans. In an article published in The Guidon, the Ateneo de Manila University’s official publication, Eric Abenojar and Paula Peralta write that it was during this time when Ateneo formed its organized cheering squad, The Blue Babble Battalion. The pep squad was set in place to distract and intimidate the school’s opponents through cheers and jeers.

“The UP team was already called the Maroons [and Greens] and the Ateneo was then known as the Blues and Whites,” recalls Martin Lacdao, former editor of The Guidon, citing an article on Ateneo rivalries published in the paper’s 60th anniversary issue. “Varsity athletics took its cues from the American model and there were cheers. The games with UP gave birth to the Ateneo’s cheering tradition. The first school cheer went: ‘Fight! Fight! Blue and White! Go! Go! Ateneo, sisboombah!’"

The UP-Ateneo rivalry extended to other sports, such as football. In the last six years, Ateneo and UP have faced off in the UAAP Football finals twice, with each school winning once.


UP and Ateneo’s first encounter dates back to the 1920s, when Iskos would troop to Ateneo’s Intramuros campus to play ball with the Ateneans.

Following the universities’ first hoops encounter in Intramuros, the two universities would then enter the NCAA in the 1930s, joining other founding members National University, Far Eastern University, and University of Santo Tomas (UST). During this era, the Fighting Maroons, dubbed the league’s powerhouse team, won a few titles before losing to Ateneo in 1929.

In the 1930s, UP withdrew from the NCAA together with UST to form the UAAP. In 1978, Ateneo would eventually leave the NCAA due to violence and shifted its athletic capabilities instead to the UAAP.

The universities would again meet in 1988 during the UAAP’s 51st season. Ateneo and UP fought it out in the last eliminations game, with the former trumping the latter and consequently bagging a back-to-back championship title (shared with the De La Salle Green Archers).


UAAP's Season 81 Sees the Battle of Katipunan

In 2009, Ateneo was again set to win a championship. During this time, UP, though at the bottom of team rankings, surprised basketball fans by beating Ateneo in a move that also drove out hopes of a blue-and-white sweep for season 72.

Fast-forward to today’s “Battle of Katipunan” where the UP Fighting Maroons join defending champions Ateneo Blue Eagles in the finals, ending a 21-year-long wait for a final four seat. UP has only had three final four appearances over the course of its affiliation with the UAAP.

UP last secured a UAAP basketball championship title in 1986, led by center player Benjie Paras. Ateneo would follow suit, bagging their first championship title in 1987.  

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“We need to keep fighting, no matter what the odds are,” UP Coach Bo Perasol said in media interviews. “That had been our team principle in this season.” Perasol also served as Ateneo’s Head Coach from 2013 to 2015.

“[UP is] much more determined, much more cohesive. They understand their personnel,” Ateneo Coach Tab Baldwin said, echoing Perasol’s sentiment. “They understand how to create shots much better and they play for one another. That always makes a team tougher.”

Baldwin, however, remains hopeful of another win for the Blue Eagles in today’s meeting. “We can't expect anything less from [the team]. We have to expect a lot more from our defense."


The UP Fighting Maroons and the Ateneo Blue Eagles are set to battle it out in game 2 of the UAAP Season 81’s men’s basketball league today at 3:30 p.m.



A UAAP Fan's Guide to Rivalries

NCAA Libraries

The history of the “Battle of Katipunan” on and off the courts

When old rivals meet: Drama, subplots behind Ateneo vs UP

May the best ‘Katipuneros’ win

Why Tab Baldwin doesn’t want to play Fighting Maroons in UAAP finals

Eric C. Abenojar and Paula V. Peralta (2004-10-07). "Tradition continues: The Eagle and The Archer". The GUIDON

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