UAAP women’s volleyball might be the most popular volleyball league, but it’s not the biggest. PSL and PVL players might be revered around the country, but teams are mostly based in Metro Manila. Therefore, no league comes close to the scope of the most comprehensive tournament in the Philippines.
Welcome to the Rebisco Volleyball League.
Geared towards the development of the sport in a volleyball-crazed nation, the games feature up-and-coming high school players that will soon become the marquee names in college and in the pros. But did we say biggest? Picture this: over 450 schools around the country competed in nine regions from Luzon to Mindanao.
The best of the best then clash in the National Finals for the right to become the top high school volleyball team in the land. Just imagine the collection of talent that will suit up in the week-long festivities. No wonder that the RVL has served as a springboard to launch the careers of some of the most recognizable volleyball players.
But to fully appreciate its contributions to the sport, we have to look at its roots.
From basketball to volleyball
The league became a reality due to the vision of one man: the late PBA Commissioner Emilio “Jun” Bernardino.
After retiring as the commissioner of Asia’s first play-for-pay basketball league, Bernardino pondered on his next project. It was during that time when Metropolitan Sports and Events Group Inc. Managing Director Freddie Infante made a study about forming a volleyball league. Thus, the old V-League was formed and the top collegiate teams in the land were invited to play.
However, the RVL took shape in 2003 when Infante was asked by then Philippine Volleyball Federation president Roger Banzuela to create a league that is geared towards grassroots development. The Girls Volleyball League was born and the best high school teams around the country converged in a National Finals. The competition gained rapid strides that it opened regional competitions in Cebu, Bacolod, Iloilo, Davao, and Northern Luzon by 2006.
Fifteen years since its inception, the league has become a semi-nationwide tournament that is gaining more prestige. But while things are looking up for volleyball, the league was in limbo due to one corporate move.
New sponsor, new hope
Infante’s heart fell when the local business of the former major sponsor was sold to another company that disregarded volleyball as part of their strategy. Therefore, they dropped their support without warning. The sudden change threatened the existence of the Girls Volleyball League that Infante was seriously considering to cancel last year’s National Finals.
But hope was restored when GVL Tournament Director Johanz Buenvenida informed Infante that a company heavily invested in the sport wanted in. They made a presentation to Rebisco and the rest is history. The corporation that sponsors the Philippine women’s volleyball team and the Creamline Cool Smashers of the Premier Volleyball League will now have a hand in developing grassroots volleyball.
With the tournament rebranded as the Rebisco Volleyball League, last year’s National Finals pushed through. Twelve schools converged at the Santa Rosa Multi-Purpose Sports Complex in Laguna and the Nazareth School of National University bested De La Salle Lipa to win the championship. The organizers can only dream big after this successful staging. Boy, big became an understatement with the turnout for this year’s edition.
A truly national volleyball tournament
Infante described the overwhelming participation for the 2018 Rebisco Volleyball League as a “good problem”. A problem because they had to turn down some schools and regions who would like to join due to logistical and manpower concern. However, it is a good challenge for it is an indication of how volleyball keeps on growing.
A total of 452 schools from nine regions across the Philippines participated in the pre-qualifying tournaments. That number was whittled down to 94 in the Regional Finals and nine for the National Finals. They are also accommodating three invitational overseas teams this year but Infante mentioned that teams from Japan and Australia signified their intention to join at the last minute.
Where future stars are born
The sheer number of participating teams mean that the Rebisco Volleyball League is the best place for colleges and universities to discover new talent. The grueling regional tournaments also indicate that the National Finals feature the best of the best. Rarely do you gather this much volleyball proteges under one roof and it won’t be a surprise if some scouts will be in attendance.
But even before Rebisco came in, the league has become a boot camp for the who’s who in Philippine volleyball today. Infante proudly stated that majority of the players in the Philippine Superliga and the Premier Volleyball League today once played in the tournament. Some of the more popular ones that can be considered RVL alumna are Alyssa Valdez, Jia Morado, Denden Lazaro, Aby Marano, Bernadeth Pons, Mika Reyes, Dzi Gervacio, Pau Soriano, Jhoana Maraguinot, Kim Fajardo, Dindin Santiago-Manabat, and Jaja Santiago to name a few.
More talent will be discovered as the RVL continue reach more schools and open more regions. That’s why Infante is grateful about Rebisco’s commitment to not only give these aspiring players a big stage to showcase their talent but also to the overall development of the sport in the country.
More pages of history will be written
A new chapter of the Rebisco Volleyball League will unfold from the 17th to the 23rd of November, 2018. Witness 12 teams battle it out at the Ynares Sports Arena in Pasig City. Admission to all games is free. Games from the 17th to the 22nd will start at 2 pm while the semifinals and the medal matches on the 23rd will start at 9 am. The contests will also be broadcast on Solar Sports on cable TV and via livestream at the official Rebisco Volleyball League Youtube channel here.