A-GRADE SEASON: WITH FR. ALDRIN, ADAMSON SPORTS PROGRAM SEES THE LIGHT
Depending on the setting, it could either be effortless or a tall task to spot Father Aldrin Suan CM.
At a jam-packed UAAP game venue the size of arenas or coliseums that is filled with young students from member universities, he and his youthful, light, and father-like aura blends with the crowd with ease.
Especially in the busy Season 85 where Adamson University is the host, Fr. Aldrin, as he is fondly called in the San Marcelino community, is almost always present at the events, quietly yet efficiently overseeing the goings-on of the league and securing the safety of all participants.
Upon making sure everything is flowing smoothly, he becomes just like every avid sports fan in the building, sat on the bleachers enjoying the action.
One could even easily mistake him for an athlete’s parent with him beaming with pride on the sidelines of an Adamson game in the women’s volleyball division one Saturday afternoon when the team ended a long nine-year Final Four drought.
That is until you see big sports names from the past and the present approaching him no matter how far their seats are apart just so they can pay their respects.
“Ako’y naging Athletics Director (ng Adamson) noong 2014. Pa-ten years na,” shared Fr. Aldrin, seemingly surprised how the past decade has flown by.
He is everything, everywhere all at once for the welfare of Adamson student-athletes but he’s the first to admit that his schedule makes it impossible to attend every single event.
The fact that he’s trying, however, is not lost on the players he and Adamson continue to raise in the hopes that they one day spread the Vincentian spirit not only in sports but in the world, in general.
“Ako talaga dapat ang unang susuporta sa mga bata,” he said matter-of-factly. “Kung may primary commitment ‘yung position ko aside from fulfilling their needs, supervising preparations inside the school, I think it’s my job din and responsibility is just to be with the players sa mga laban nila. Not only sa sports kundi pati sa other activities nila.”
“Whether breakthrough or breakdown, dapat kasama nila ako,” Fr. Aldrin added.
Inspirational lines like this come as a common occurrence in his presence.
To casual fans, they might be seated next to him and not know who he is and what role he plays in Adamson’s newfound power in the UAAP.
But to those who know, he is like a glue—settling invisibly in the middle of seams—that holds the Falcons, the Adamson community, and the sponsors together in harmony, making them a new force to be reckoned with in the league.
Aside from the decade-long dominance of the school’s women’s softball team and the consistent showing of the Adamson Pep Squad in the UAAP, the program has also been rising in other sports.
This year alone, their high school boys’ basketball team and girls’ volleyball team both made it to the Finals, only falling to already-powerhouse and established programs of FEU and NU, respectively.
And with the women’s volleyball team now assured of its first semifinals appearance since Fr. Aldrin took over the Athletics Director post, he can’t help but brag like a proud father of his kids’ achievements.
“For the past eight years, as we try to assess the performances of my teams, ito ‘yung medyo the best. May naglalaro sa championship. Tapos nagtaasan ang mga rankings,” he gleefully shared.
“‘Yun nga ang tanong nila sa akin: ‘Father, ano’ng ginawa mo at bakit ganito bigla ang performance niyo after the pandemic?,’” he added. “‘Yung matagal na pinaghirapan at itinanim nating lahat, nagbubunga na. Nalagay bigla ang Adamson sa map ng sports this year.”
And in this year of breakthroughs, a special small win keeps Fr. Aldrin grinning and hopeful for the flourishing sports program.
“For the past nine years ko as Director, first time ko sa volleyball na nagkulang ako ng ticket na binebenta sa Adamson. ‘Yung game against Adamson and La Salle. It was the first time na ‘yung tickets na allocated sa akin ay naubos at nagkulang pa,” he shared.
“That is already a statement na umaangat ang level ng volleyball program. At mauulit pa ‘yun,” he added.
In the big arenas where kids dream and dreams come true (where the first part of the interview with Akari Sports happened), Fr. Aldrin is a quiet force whose vision is slowly but surely coming to life.
Three floors up, though, in the VIP section of the Mall of Asia Arena where the leaders and school representatives stay to oversee everything, literally and figuratively, Fr. Aldrin stands out.
In a room full of stern-looking men and women in their crisp shirts and even suits while out on a mission to keep UAAP one of the most loved leagues in the country, the Adamson representative and current league President is a ray of sunshine.
Almost looking shy that the spotlight is on him, he politely requested to continue the interview in the adjacent empty room where he started talking about one main ingredient in the university’s recent wins in the UAAP: Akari.
“This is something I’ve always appreciated kay Akari—‘yung parallelism ng company with the sports program of Adamson. Sabi ng Akari, when the company started as a lighting company, they were at the bottom. Share ng market, nasa ilalim. Pero through the company’s effort, gradually, umaangat. Ngayon, they are now at par with other brands,” he shared.
“Sabi niya (Chris Tiu, Akari owner): ‘I want the same vision for Adamson.’”
“What is noticeable with the entry of Akari both for basketball, volleyball, and cheer dance, ‘yung cheer dance biglang nag champion. ‘Yung volleyball halos nasa Final Four pati ang basketball. Tapos ngayon naman volleyball, talagang lumalaban na. It took time lang,” he added.
True enough, the partnership between Akari and Adamson continues to grow into a good model of sports sponsorship in the amateur level.
From building a grassroots program in the juniors volleyball division that is now a great source of homegrown recruits for Adamson to responding to the needs of student-athletes when the university is stretched thin on some days in sports funding, Akari has established itself as a great partner in the Falcons’ resurgence in the UAAP.
But Fr. Aldrin reveals that the partnership between Adamson and Akari goes beyond sports.
“They donated sa construction ng building. May nine floors dyan na named after the father of Chris (Tiu). We call that Dr. Carlos Tiu Building. That’s the newest building ng university. They donated substantially just for the construction of the building,” he happily shared, looking overwhelmed.
“Ang totoo niyan, meron din silang scholarship program sa Adamson. Marami silang scholars. Hanggang ngayon meron pa silang pinapa-aral like kapatid ng players. Malaki ang scope ng tulong nila including sa academic development ng school especially sa Engineering,” he added.
More than anything, the latter part of the interview just highlights one thing: Fr. Aldrin is not one to hog the spotlight.
Every time he catches himself talking about himself, he immediately shifts focus on other vital people and organizations that play an important role in the recent wins he’s been experiencing.
Because even though he glows with a positive aura in a room full of VIPs and big names, he is always ready to deflect that shine so others could sparkle.
All these so he could return to the sidelines in his simple dry-fit Adamson shirt, happily being just a speck of dust in the huge spectacle that is the UAAP.
“Dahil sa performance ng mga bata, nagiging proud ka na rin. Tapos pati ang alumni at community nagiging proud,” said Fr. Aldrin on the fulfillment that keeps him going.
“That has always been enough,” he closed.