It looks like tycoon Manuel V. Pangilinan has patched things up with Ateneo de Manila University barely two months after their celebrated breakup.
Five unimpeachable sources, including those privy to the reconciliation talks, told the Inquirer on Saturday that Pangilinan, chair of the PLDT group of companies, has kissed and made up with his alma mater and will renew a relationship that has seen the Blue Eagles capture five straight basketball titles in the University Athletic Association of the Philippines (UAAP).
“It’s just like marriage. They were separated, but they didn’t divorce,” one of the sources said. The sources asked that they not be named because they did not want to preempt the announcement of both camps.
The impending reconciliation has also prompted Ateneo to bring back Bo Perasol, the former pro coach endorsed by Pangilinan, to mentor the Blue Eagles in the next UAAP men’s basketball tournament.
Two months ago, Pangilinan severed ties with Ateneo—the alma mater he generously helped in various ways, from bankrolling the sports program to putting up new school buildings—due to their opposing views on mining and the contentious reproductive health bill.
But the Inquirer sources said there were “ongoing talks” between the two camps the past days to mend what had been described as “irreconcilable differences.”
“They have been talking and rebuilding the relationship. It looks very positive,” a source said. It was not known how the two parties dealt with the differences.
The university is set to make an official statement on Monday with a letter from Fr. Jose Ramon “Jett” Villarin, Ateneo president, to the alumni. Pangilinan himself was said to have given his input to the letter.
Among those greatly affected by Pangilinan’s “complete disengagement” from Ateneo in September was the Blue Eagles, whom the tycoon solely bankrolled in the past decade. The breakup had come in the middle of Ateneo’s drive for a fifth straight UAAP championship.
Although the Blue Eagles went on to defeat University of Santo Tomas in two straight games to capture the championship, Pangilinan’s withdrawal forced Ateneo to quickly set up a basketball endowment fund to draw contributions from the alumni and other sponsors to help sustain the Blue Eagles’ successful sports program.
Offsetting the loss
“With MVP’s departure, we have had to reassess our basketball programs and institute structural changes to offset this loss,” Father Villarin, wrote in a memo to the university.
Pangilinan quitting as the university’s top sports patron also forced Ateneo and Perasol “to release each other from the obligations” of a three-year coaching contract.
Perasol said he had to back out of the appointment as successor of coach Norman Black, saying there’s “no doubt in my mind as to who my patron and benefactor is.”
Even before steering the Blue Eagles to a fifth-straight crown last month, Black had announced that he was stepping down to return to the pro league, the Philippine Basketball Association and a smooth transition had been set for Perasol’s takeover.
“It’s time to call it a day,” wrote Pangilinan, who also chairs Philex Mining Corp. “[Ateneo’s stand is] irreconcilable with our corporate position on mining and, for me, more importantly, my conviction as a Filipino.”
In reaction, Black also offered to resign in the middle of the UAAP season, but Pangilinan turned it down and said “the team shouldn’t suffer” from his decision.
Pangilinan supported the Blue Eagles until the end of their campaign in October, but was no longer a fixture at the Ateneo gallery.
But a “casualty” perhaps in the Ateneo-MVP reconciliation is the University of the Philippines, which looked headed to gain support from Pangilinan.
During the 50th anniversary of UP’s Alpha Sigma fraternity in October, Pangilinan donated P5 million to the state university “as an expression of my commitment to the future of UP.”
In his speech, Pangilinan made special mention of the Fighting Maroons, UP’s cellar-dwelling men’s basketball team, as one of the possible beneficiaries of his donation.
“There are many things about the people and spirit of UP which impress me,” said Pangilinan. “Every time I watch your men’s basketball team, I say to myself: Mukhang mababait naman sila (They look nice).”