John Vic's unforgettable match

John Vic's unforgettable match

It was a match that will forever be etched in Philippine sports history as a turning point in men’s indoor volleyball with national team skipper John Vic de Guzman recalling the details of the semifinal showdown between Thailand and the host country in the SEA Games at the PhilSports Arena last December.

De Guzman, 26, played in his third straight SEA Games and in his previous two appearances, the Philippines failed to land a podium finish. Against Thailand, the Philippines wasn’t expected to win. After all, Thailand was ranked No. 39 in the world and the Philippines, No. 131. But playing before a rousing home crowd and a live audience of 6,700, the national squad wouldn’t be denied a place in the finals for the first time in 42 years.

De Guzman spoke about the classic encounter during the Philippine Star’s sports talk show “Beyond The Game With The Dean” live on The Philippine Star and Pilipino Star Ngayon Facebook pages last Monday night.

“Hindi ko makalimutan the night before, kami mga players, ang dami namin shinare sa bawa’t isa, nagtatawanan kami, pero ang moment na ‘yun makikita mo ang kaba at excitement sa mukha namin at coaches,” he said. “Then, the day na naglaro kami against Thailand, hindi talaga namin expected na ganoon ang mangyayari dahil four-time defending SEA Games champion sila so ang mindset namin was baka sakali lang makuha ito, alam namin ang laro nila, bawa’t isa sa kanila pinag-aralan namin. Ang pinaka-memorable part sa semis was sa fourth set dahil 24-21, up sila, maraming umuwing tao kasi one point na lang tapos na ang laban, laglag na kami but noong nakuha namin ang fourth set, mas naramdaman lahat ng mga Pilipinong sumusuporta sa volleyball dahil, sa fifth set, lumamang kami at nakahabol sila tapos nag-duece na nag-duece bago last point kay Bryan (Bagunas). Sobrang sarap ng feeling na ganoon ang naging tanggap ng crowd sa men’s volleyball at ‘yun lamang hinihiling namin ever since na sana dumating ang point na mapansin ang men’s volleyball at mas ma-grow dahil may mga players na pwede in the future sila ang babawi for us na makuha ang gold medal sa SEA Games.”

The Philippines survived three match points in the fourth set and one in the fifth to shock Thailand, 17-25, 25-20, 23-25, 27-25, 17-15 in two hours and 18 minutes of gripping action. Two of De Guzman’s teammates Bagunas and Marck Espejo had played as imports in foreign leagues. De Guzman said he was once approached to play for Hokkaido in the Japanese league.

“Syempre pride and honor ng country natin, dala dala pag naglalaro sa isang club team internationally,” said De Guzman. “Noong nasa Japan kami, may nagtanong sa akin sa Hokkaido team but mahirap ang schedule at talagang kailangan pag-isipan ng mabuti dahil magko-cross din ako sa acting at tiwala ako sa advice ng mga boss ko sa talent agency kung ano ang maganda for me at pinag-pray ko na kahit anong opportunity na dumating sana maganda ang decision-making.”

De Guzman made his acting debut in the 2016 Metro Manila Film Festival entry “Seklusyon.” There were movie offers that came his way after that but he decided to focus on earning his Human Resource Management degree and playing for St. Benilde in the NCAA. In 2017, De Guzman’s efforts paid off as the Blazers won the NCAA men’s indoor volleyball crown and he took MVP honors. The next year, he appeared in another movie “Class of 2018.”

During the lockdown, De Guzman was with the Rivero family in Ilagan, Isabela for three months. The trip was supposed to be only for a few days but it extended because of the ECQ situation. De Guzman made productive use of his stay by joining his buddy Ricci and the Riveros in distributing rice, relief goods, sanitizers, nasal sprays and essentials to frontliners and the less privileged. He also donated blood. De Guzman returned home to Calamba in time to give away clothes from his clothing line to policemen, janitors, gardeners, fishball vendors, barangay tanods and lapida makers on Father’s Day.