Cebu's legendary volleyball coach Eugene de la Cerna passes away
CEBU, Philippines - The Cebu volleyball community lost one of its strongest pillars following the death of the well-loved patron of the sport Eugene de la Cerna from complications due to diabetes the other night at the Visayas Community Medical Center (VCMC). He was 65.
"I was really saddened upon hearing the news," said Cebu Volleyball Association (CEVA) president Glen Anthony Soco, whose career path as team captain of the University of San Carlos (USC) varsity squad some years back was charted under the watchful eyes of De la Cerna.
"During our stint with him (De la Cerna), we considered him as our second father. He instilled in us the values of discipline and hardwork that helped us what we are right now," said Soco in paying tribute to his former mentor.
Soco said De la Cerna's passion and unparalleled concern for the upliftment of the state of volleyball in Cebu is worthy of adulation and should serve as a fountain of inspiration to the present and future generations.
"It pains me now that he's gone because I see his dedication and passion for volleyball is beyond measure. For so many years, he stayed as coach (with USC) and remained as a staunchest supporter of the sport. He performed beyond what was expected of him," said Soco, who credited De la Cerna as one of the chief architects in the formation of CEVA aimed at reviving the shrinking popularity of volleyball in Cebu a decade ago.
A few days before De la Cerna's passing, the USC volleyball varsity players and alumni through the initiative of Soco were organizing a friendly exhibition games billed as "Volleyball Cares for Sir Eugene" scheduled at 9 am on October 17 at the USC-Main gym purposely to raise funds to help defray the medical expenses of De la Cerna who was then in critical condition at the hospital.
Inspite of De la Cerna's demise, Soco said they will still push through with their fund-raising activity to help the bereaved family of De la Cerna, a highly-esteemed coach, educator and once a decorated athlete.
De la Cerna's contemporary and former players also lavished him with praise and kind words.
"I’m very sad when I knew about it last night (Saturday). I was really shocked and I cried hard because we lost a volleyball legend. He’s really a very good coach and Eugene was my best friend,” said coach Thelma Datig, who was with De la Cerna when they were enshrined into the Cebu Sports Hall of Fame in 2004.
University of Southern Philippines Foundation (USPF) coach Jordan Paca echoed the same sentiment saying that “He’s one of the patrons of volleyball. When I started playing volleyball, he was already considered a legend."
“He’s an exemplary coach as he was able to produce national athletes. And what inspired me from him being a coach is his good relationship with his players and alumni. He’s well respected because of his character,” Paca added.
For current USC coach Roderick Arenasa, De la Cerna "has been a second father to all of us, especially to me. He has helped a lot of players and he molded us into a better person.” “He’s a big loss to the USC volleyball team because he was one of the pillars and the reason why USC has the heart and passion for volleyball as this was his legacy since then.” Arenasa said he wept to tears when he knew that De la Cerna died because it was just hours after his graduation rights and the end of the CESAFI tournament.
Two years ago when his health condition deteriorated, De la Cerna told Arenasa that he will wait until the latter will graduate from college. In a bizzare turn of events, De la Cerna was able to fulfill that promise.
“When we went to the hospital and saw Sir Eugene, all the goodness that he did to us flashbacked into our minds. We reminisce all the smiles that he gave to us when we have out-of-town tournaments and he really supported us financially. Without Sir Eugene, I will not be this strong and disciplined now,” said USC women’s team captain Jerymie Montalvo.
De la Cerna has been phenomenal in winning championships in both local and national fronts. He also gained fame for producing top-caliber players in the mold of the renowned Jao twins Marilou and Marichu (now Ramirez and San Juan, respectively) and Maribel Rusiana, who also became members of the national team.
In 1969, De la Cerna was one of those who initiated the inception of the Cebu Catholic Schools Athletic Association. He has been serving as USC's head coach for almost four decades from 1970 and retired in 2006 after the USC men's team ended its 10-year title drought in the school-based athletic league.
De la Cerna's body now lies at the Sacred Heart Chapel along D. Jakosalem Street, this city. – with Marigold P. Lebumfacil (THE FREEMAN)