Ian Lariba: A legacy enshrined

Former DLSU Lady Paddler and Philippine Olympian Ian Lariba passed away last September 2, after losing her battle to acute myeloid leukemia.

As the Lasallian community witnessed Lariba’s journey as a student athlete, The LaSallian looks back at the brief but bright career of one of the greatest athletes to don the Green-and-White. Former teammates Emy Dael and Jamaica Sy shared their memories of Lariba in the hopes that she will be remembered as more than an exemplary student, a student athlete, and an Olympian.



Recalling triumphs

During her athletic journey with La Salle, she garnered some of the most prestigious awards in her stint in the University Athletic Association of the Philippines (UAAP). After debuting in the UAAP in an excellent freshman season, she was named Season 74 Rookie of the Year. In the following year, she had a taste of her first crown as she helped steer La Salle to its first  table tennis championship in seven years. The Finance graduate also claimed Season 75’s Most Valuable Player title.

Aside from bagging awards in the national collegiate level, it was during the close of Season 77 when the former Lady Paddler represented the Philippines at the ZEN-NOH 2014 World Table Tennis Team Championships held in Tokyo, Japan. Lariba, along with fellow Lady Paddlers Muse Balatbat and Jamaica Sy, won first place for Team Philippines in Division Four of the competition.

To Sy, the world championships in Japan will remain as one of the most memorable international competitions she was given the opportunity to participate in. She recalled how she was able to create great memories with her seniors, most notably Lariba, through facing the tough competition together. Sy shared that, “Ate Yan never failed to motivate and inspire me to do my best, and together [we] achieved success as we finished the competition spotless.”

Sy further explained how the competition was a great confidence booster for her in her athletic career. She affirmed that Lariba had been more than a teammate to her, “Other than great coaches and teammates—and more than anything else —the team captain role Ate Yan played was our true key to success. [She is] a true athlete who is worth emulating.”

With Lariba at the frontline for her team, two more table tennis championships came in for the Taft-based squad in Seasons 77 and 78. She was crowned MVP both years for having the best individual record among the competing players. In addition, she was named Athlete of the Year for both seasons alongside Hannah Dato of Ateneo de Manila University and Janelle Mae Frayna of Far Eastern University in 77, Alyssa Valdez and Jessie Lacuna of Ateneo de Manila University, and Queeny Sabobo of Adamson University in 78.

Lariba capped off her UAAP career with an unblemished record, winning all of her individual matches. Her five-year stint with the Green-and-White produced a total of three championships, three MVP awards, and two Athlete of the Year awards.

Throughout the years, Lariba served her team as a player, co-captain, and team captain. “When she was still our team captain and up until [her] last UAAP season, she would send each of us personal letters [of] encouragement and belief for oneself,” shared Sy. She stated that there were a lot of times when they’d feel sorry for losing a match or not performing their best. Their former team captain would then always reiterate that they should not apologize, instead, Lariba would say, “We have our own good and bad days and every day is actually a learning experience and a gift from God.”

Looking at the international spectrum, the Cagayan De Oro native didn’t stop representing the country after competing in Japan. After her final year in the UAAP, she was given a spot in the Philippine team to compete for the table tennis event of the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. With this, Lariba made history as the first Filipino table tennis athlete to qualify for the Olympics.


A true inspiration

In Season 78, Emily Dael was just starting her athletic career, but it was Lariba’s final playing year in the UAAP.

Dael shared that Lariba was actually one of the reasons why she chose to play collegiate table tennis for DLSU. The Season 78 Rookie of the Year explained that Lariba consistently motivated the team to strive for small goals every day, to give their absolute best in every game. “She said that it doesn’t matter if I win or lose as long as I gave my best shot. Si Ate Yan super love niya yung [sports] kahit hindi table tennis and hindi niya kinakalimutan mag-cheer sa amin and sa men’s team after ng game namin,” says Dael.

(She said that it doesn’t matter if I win or lose as long as I gave my best shot. Ate Yan loved sports, not only table tennis, and she never forgot to cheer for us and for the men’s team after our games.)

According to Sy, Lariba truly encouraged them to believe in themselves. Whenever the team would have troubles or would need comfort, the Olympian often imparted words of wisdom and stimulate resilience. Sy felt and knew that she was always there to encourage and support them all the way.

“I think the greatest lesson I’ve learned from her is humility and trust in one’s ability. Rarely do we see people with such great talents [and have] such humble behavior and good personality,” Sy affirmed. To her teammates, Lariba was a true example of a Lasallian for God and country. Sy explained that her former teammate never failed to put God first. According to Sy, despite the tough challenges and big obstacles that surrounded her, Lariba never forgot about “thanking God for the gift of life and the grace of having wonderful people around her.”

Ian Lariba has inspired the people around her, and she will continue to inspire and live on through the stories we tell the Lasallian community. She has touched the lives of others in her own ways inside and outside of the court. Lariba is an accomplished player, an outstanding Olympian—the epitome of a true Lasallian. This is her legacy.

Andrea Punzalan

By Andrea Punzalan

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