Green Gallery: Unleashing the Animo in Anima

Billie Anima overcomes hurdles in PH volleyball as he remains thankful for the support of the Lasallian fans, motivating him to a podium finish with the Green Spikers in Season 86.

Just as the highly anticipated Season 82 kicked off in early 2020, collegiate athletes had to surmount an unexpected setback in the face of the pandemic that put an indefinite halt on the booming careers of these young talents.

To make the wait all the more excruciating, the UAAP did not include Men’s Volleyball in its return during Season 84 after the league’s two-year hiatus. With uncertainties surrounding his future as an athlete, Billie Anima bared that he considered calling it quits. “I really considered stopping na and focusing na lang sa school. Kasi during that time, online class pa, so you can take the classes ta’s I’m done na sana,” he detailed during a sit-down interview.

(I really considered stopping and focusing instead on school. Since it was still online during that time, you can take the classes and then I could have already finished.)

Unable to resist his love for the sport and his team, the student-athlete stayed with the Green Spikers that looked to bring pride to the Lasallian community.

Middle blocker Billie Anima is ready to dominate the net as he aims to bring back the championship to Taft this UAAP Season 86.

Defying the odds

Anima credits his teammate Raprap Sumalinog who convinced him to extend his stay in the University in the hopes of getting the opportunity to showcase their talents again. “The thought of getting to play with them is what made me stay,” he shared. The UAAP Season 85 Second Best Middle Blocker also mentioned that there were recorded COVID-19 cases even during the bubble, which made their chances of stepping back into the taraflex even smaller. “There were news pa na [Commission on Higher Education] (CHED) would not allow, so wala talagang sure idea na meron or wala,” said Anima, pertaining to the struggles during Season 85.

(There was news that CHED would not allow it, so there was really no sure idea if there would be a tournament or not.)

Fortunately for them, they were called to return to action in August 2022 as the team started training in September of that same year. Looking back on his previous years as an athlete, he acknowledged the coaches who helped him become the player that he is today. “Going back to Palarong Pambansa, I was just tall. Who improved me the best is Coach Edgar Barroga. He really established my fundamentals,” noted Anima, referring to his high school coach in NU-Nazareth. He then went on to praise his college coaches who were vital in his conversion from an open spiker in rookie year to a solid force at the net during his third playing year, “All of the coaches here, sina Coach Aaron (Velez), Coach Arnold (Laniog), and especially Coach Jose (Roque)—kasi siya ‘yong coach ng middles—they really polished me.”

Indestructible wall above the net

Finally making his return to the UAAP court, Anima initially set aside building his personal goals and instead focused on achieving the goal of the entire team–to reach the Final Four of the tournament. However, the two-time UAAP Junior’s best blocker confessed that during the first few games, he even had his eyes set on reclaiming this award during his collegiate career. The six-foot-two middle blocker was keen on monitoring his performance, making sure that his contributions to the team—especially on blocking—could be felt during their games.

Much in part to the collegiate standout’s grit and determination, the team from Taft finally managed to break their 10-year Final Four drought for the Green Spikers which made this year even more monumental than ever to the roster. This achievement brought pride to Anima because despite the team’s short preparation entering the competitive Season 85, they closed out the tournament with much greater improvement than in the past seasons.

After losing to the FEU Tamaraws in a do-or-die Final Four match-up, Coach Laniog already alerted him that there is a possibility for him to bag an award but without a guarantee. “I wasn’t really expecting [an award]. Kung makuha, makuha. Kung hindi, hindi.” Despite the anticlimactic finish of the Green Spikers as they were inches away from the podium, Anima was awarded the highly-contested Second Best Middle Blocker award for the UAAP Season 85 Men’s Volleyball Tournament in what was his swan song for La Salle.

(I wasn’t really expecting [an award]. If I get it, so be it. If not, it’s also fine.)

He dedicates the said recognition not just solely to himself but also to the hard work of his teammates, coaches, and management as well. He noted that the sport itself is a team sport and he would not achieve such an accomplishment without them. “Definitely, 100 percent; it’s because of them kung bakit ko nakuha ‘tong award nato,” Anima praised the people behind his success.

(Definitely, 100 percent; it’s because of them that’s why I received this award.)

Reaching greater heights

After concluding his UAAP stint, it has been the talk of the town whether or not the middle blocker would make the jump to professional volleyball. Although he has been passionate about playing the sport, the Green Spiker regards the Philippines as less supportive of such a profession than other countries in terms of compensation. “Hindi supported ang Men’s Volleyball [in the Philippines]—it’s not enough for a living, unless you’re as good as Bryan Bagunas ta[po]s pupunta ka sa ibang bansa, then people [will] pay you [vast] amount[s] of money.” He furthered that his decision is rooted with practicality, “Parang ang hirap lang [na] you have to go out of the country to earn a living. It’s not just enough, being practical lang.”

(Men’s Volleyball is not supported here in the Philippines—it’s not enough for a living unless you’re as good as Bryan Bagunas; then you will play abroad, then people will pay you vast amounts of money… It’s challenging that you have to go out of the country to earn a living. Practically, it’s just not enough.)

Despite this discourse being settled, the Kidapawan native is still grateful for the overwhelming support of the Lasallian community. He noted that whenever there was a massive amount of fans in the opposition, the supporters of the Green-and-White didn’t waver “kasi there are times na parang ang daming supporters ng kalaban at andiyan rin sila to combat them, nakaka-hype, so I am grateful for them.”

(Even if the Lasallian supporters were outnumbered, they still fought with their cheers, which hyped us.)

Following Anima’s eventual return to the UAAP Season 86 Men’s Volleyball lineup with the DLSU Green Spikers, they aim to build on top of their long-awaited return to the Final Four. “Podium finish na ‘yan, for sure, I am manifesting it,” he added.

(A podium finish for La Salle next season is certain.)

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