Question: What does it take for an athlete to be given the privilege of paying the President of the Philippines a courtesy call at Malacañang Palace?
a. Coming from a school with a droppable name, such as Ateneo de Manila University or De La Salle University?
b. Having Benigno Aquino Jr. as a fellow alumnus from, again, Ateneo?
c. Playing a game, such as women’s volleyball, that attracts TV advertisers, especially if the championship match features (drum roll, please) Ateneo against La Salle, as was the case in the recent 2015 UAAP finals (Ateneo won, via a 14-game sweep)?
Answer 1: One of the above, as seemed to have been proved by the Lady Blue Eagles late this month getting invited to the official residence of the country’s leader, apparently in recognition of their latest feat.
Answer 2: None of the above, perhaps, because it will just take activating the old-boy network for even non-athletes to be allowed past the Palace door as long as they are dressed in blue (Katipunan) or green (Taft).
Arguably, if you don’t belong to exclusive schools whose graduates are in the highest places in business and the government—even if you are the best 100 meter freestyle swimmer in Asia—then you must be from some unknown (read: middle-class) college, and so perish the thought of shaking hands or making beso-beso with the highest official of the land.
Okay, have you ever heard UAAP back-to-back (2014 and 2015) men’s football champions from Far Eastern University setting foot on Malacañang?
Or the women’s softball team of Adamson University just recently crowned the NCAA titleholders for the fifth (!) straight time getting to first base in the Palace?
Perhaps the reason why football and softball and other sports do not rate much with the government is that everybody and his uncle here are infatuated with basketball or boxing or whatever is it that helps sell products and stuff, hopes and dreams to poor Pinoys.
In these parts, you would only have a half-career if you chose the UFL over the PBA or tae kwon do over what has made Pacquiao a billionaire.
There simply are no rules on who gets to see the President up close officially and if there are, they are apparently applied capriciously and whimsically to “better” schools and restrictively and arrogantly to “lesser” schools.
We suggest that Malacanang set criteria for athletes on courtesy calls, lest it be accused of school profiling based on English-language proficiency (with a matching accent, not Filipino), luxury car ownership or ritzy residential address.
Be fair, and not to take anything away from any athlete who had had the opportunity to be cleared for a Palace audience with the President, the Eugenes and the Chieffys, the Eumirs and the Francis Caseys equally deserve to be honored with an appearance at the grand old house by the Pasig River.
The waiting list is long, and so tight screening will save Malacañang from accusations of favoritism.