Do I have your attention now? 

If we were under normal circumstances, we’d already be done talking about CJ Cansino, the UST Growling Tigers, and the UAAP in general. News flows quickly. All it takes is a commitment from a star player to slow down a news cycle in sports.

CJ Cansino is going to the UP Fighting Maroons. We should be good already, right? All’s well that ends well. UP gets their new star, while UST now tries to move on from losing their captain. Let’s call it a day.

But that could not be farther from the truth.

Cansino’s commitment to UP was the only the first domino to fall. There’s many more to talk about and with a single tweet, we were witness to a can of worms opening before our very eyes.

Earlier this afternoon, CJ Cansino tweeted a series of screenshots about UST’s controversial Bicol Bubble. These were the main points we got out of the messages posted by Cansino:

  • There were issues about food being served to the players
  • Players were getting sick inside the bubble
  • There was poor signal in the bubble
  • Players were homesick
  • Players were unhappy

Reactions to the thread by Cansino were mixed. Of course, Aldin Ayo was accused of being a dictator by a lot of fans. However, there were also some athletes accusing CJ of being papansin. Why the need to even tweet these things? Doesn’t Cansino realize that these revelations won’t even affect him anymore since he’s transferred out of the Growling Tigers?

The now-deleted thread by Cansino was a pipe bomb. A pipe bomb does not care about what other people may think. A pipe bomb will hit A LOT of people, more than you’d even expect. Is it controversial? Absolutely. Is the person delivering the pipe bomb polarizing? There’s no doubt about that.

But a pipe bomb like this is delivered for good reason. It is the result of pent up rage from a passionate individual who recognizes that something needs to be changed with how things are being done in the present. The present we’re in? A collegiate team holding questionable bubbles in the middle of a pandemic.

The easy way out of addressing this issue is to say, “Just don’t hold bubbles! Aldin Ayo is an evil person!” However, reducing the issue to the fault of one person would be an insult to the pipe bomb that was delivered. Pipe bombs aren’t meant to be contained pops. They are always meant to tear away at the surface and expose the inner workings of certain issues. Let’s try to answer question number one: Why did Aldin Ayo even hold a bubble in the first place?

The answer: To win. To gain a competitive advantage. Even then, the questions will continue to pour.

Why the need to win in the middle of a pandemic?

What has conditioned coaches to prioritize winning over their players?

Here’s the dirty little secret people have tried to hide regarding amateur hoops in the country: College basketball in the Philippines is INCREDIBLY commercialized. In a word, money. Money, as this bubble has shown us, causes people to make questionable decisions that are immoral and medically dangerous.

But people will argue, money! You don’t even need to explain it in length. Money is a language that is universal. It is something people will understand.

What Aldin Ayo and the UST Growling Tigers management did was wrong. Holding a training bubble involving STUDENTS, in the middle of a pandemic, mind you, is irresponsible. He deserves to be sanctioned accordingly because of his actions.

But the problem doesn’t end with Ayo alone. His actions are the result of a system that has conditioned everyone, from the fans and even the decision-makers of teams, to treat players as commodities. This shouldn’t be the case. They’re students. The UAAP as a league should be a platform for these athletes to develop, in the hopes of pursuing a professional career in the future.

Even then, the questions will continue to pour.

Why shouldn’t players and coaches in collegiate leagues be compensated for their work?

Why not talk about recruitment practices? There are so many schools that benefit from that!

CJ Cansino delivered a pipe bomb. A messy hole of uneasy realities was exposed. There is a flawed system that has negatively affected our athletes, the ones who are supposed to be the primary beneficiaries of the UAAP. Something must be done. This issue must have your attention now.