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REVIEW: MMK Jersey wins in retelling inspiring story of man behind “Atin ‘To” battlecry


In basketball, winning a game is not actually everything.


Players and teams win or lose, but what matters is the sacrifice, the effort, and the fight they bring to the battle, and leave an unforgettable legacy.


This is what Paul Desiderio brought to the playing court, the training gyms, and even the dugouts and the Dilman tambayans or dorms he shared with his fellow UP Fighting Maroons.


But beyond the talent and skills, he brought something new to this lackluster team—grit and determination to give out its best in every game, no matter what. And the results of that effort is truly astounding.


Relentless, unassuming hero


Who is this relentless yet unassuming hero of the UP commune?


MMK’s “Jersey” shows how this simple kid from Liloan, Cebu who was satisfied by just helping his family earn a meager living. Yet Paul’s potential in playing basketball had been largely praiseworthy in camps and clinics.


It then depicted how he secretly joined tryouts for the University of Visayas, wherein he landed a slot in its Baby Lancers high school team. And in Metropolitan Cebu, Paul (Ronnie Alonte) would lead the Baby Lancers to a CESAFI title, an incredible feat that caught the attention of UP coach Ricky Dandan and offered him a stint on the UP men’s basketball team.


While at first Paul saw hopelessness in his nascent years as a Fighting Maroon, with UP lingering at the cellar for so many years, and the lack of support from the university. There was a time he even tried to jump ship to another school, but his father (Ariel Rivera) had guided and imparted wisdom in him to not give up the fight. 


Courage


This courage he instilled in the way he plays and leads the team as the team captain. And in UAAP Season 80, Paul would then utter those words of encouragement that became the team’s battlecry, “Atin ‘To. Papasok ‘To” after encouraging teammates on a final play with their opponents UST leading a few seconds to go in the game. Designed perfectly, the play had a superb, quick offensive rotation that had the ball landing on a free Desiderio beyond the arc and converts that unforgettable game winner. 


Paul’s name was now on everyone’s mouths and social media posts. And while the team missed the bus to the Final Four that year, he nevertheless pushed them to their best showing in decades. However, Paul was again discouraged and almost did not play his final year of eligibility. His father would again embolden him to make that final push to accomplish his mission, bring the Fighting Maroons not only to the Final Four, but also the Finals and most probably win the basketball crown UP last won 33 years ago.


Making history


And in Season 81, his graduating year, Paul vowed to make history. And he did, leading the team in monumental wins over league giants, and defeated a champion team, La Salle, to reach the first step of realizing their dreams, the Final Four. And then unexpectedly crushed a title favorite Adamson with Paul’s incredible shooting binges in two games to lift UP to its almost unbelievable entry to the UAAP Finals.


As Paul was so ecstatic with their monumental feat, he knew it was an uphill climb against the defending champions Ateneo. And in two games, UP lost to a formidable team, leaving Paul devastated but comforted by a reassuring father saying that he accomplished more than winning a title. That is, successfully plotting a course for UP to become a champion in the near future, and have a sea of maroon overcome the arenas they play in, making the UP community around the Philippines cheer as one.


MMK “Jersey” effectively brought Paul Desiderio’s inspiring tale out on-air. We are treated to a well-crafted retelling of his rise to UP campus immortality from Liloan roots with a supportive and loving family.


Thespic brilliance


Ronnie Alonte had definitely showcased his emerging thespic brilliance, apart from his own remarkable skills as a basketball player in portraying the role of Paul, emphasizing the believability of his performance. But we are so impressed by the way Ariel Rivera depicted Paul’s father, as we truly felt and knew where Paul’s fighting spirit emanated.


Netizens were likewise thrilled.