I didn’t know Eulan very well but I got to meet her once. It was the 27th of September. We happened to drop by and she and the rest of the Grade School team captains were there waiting for their regular meeting to start, so Coach Noli thought it was a good opportunity for us to meet some of the young leaders of the school. As I look back on that afternoon, I wish I had been more attentive. Honestly, I didn’t realize Eulan was there until Coach Noli sent me a photo of us talking with the group. There she was with a huge smile on her face. Who would have known she would be leaving a few months after that. Only when she left did I get to know her better, through the people whose lives she touched while she was still here, and through those who drew meaning from the memories these people shared with her.
The day before Eulan’s burial, I had the chance to meet her parents. I found out that she was nicknamed “Leila” after Leila Barros, the famous Brazilian volleyball player. Her father gave her that nickname way before she decided to play volleyball; little did they know she would end up playing Barros’ sport later in life. She started playing volleyball officially when she was in Grade 4 but didn’t make it to the first team. According to her mother, and one of her coaches, she wasn’t what people would call a natural-born volleyball player. But that didn’t discourage her from wanting to improve. Eulan was on a mission. It seemed that every time she set her eyes on something, almost nothing can stop her from achieving it. She wanted to make it to the Palarong Pambansa and she hoped to one day be on TV, playing in the UAAP or in one of the country’s top volleyball leagues. She did extra work outside of regular training; she did rounds on the oval, practiced her serving technique hundreds of times, and understood how to play each position on the court—eventually she could play every position. By the time she reached the 5th Grade, she was more than good enough to be part of the first team, good enough that her coach gave her the captaincy—a designation she didn’t think she deserved at first because it was usually given to the seniors in the team. But because of her vibrant personality and innate ability to lead, she eventually realized that she was given the captaincy for good reason.
I found out that other than being a talented volleyball player, she was also a talented pianist. And, before volleyball, she was part of the synchronized swimming team. Then there was a time she learned to dance ballet and jazz. Even with all those extracurricular activities, she still managed to stay in the honor roll consistently. Both in academics and extracurricular activities, Eulan gave at least her 100%. Her parents instilled in her that she should never settle for less in whatever she did, and given the memories of her that her family and friends have shared with me, it seemed that this young lady already had initiative at a very young age and was willing to put in the hours necessary to improve. She didn’t take shortcuts and was driven to become better at whatever she did. This, to me, sets her apart from many kids her age.
Her time with us here may have been cut short and her potential not fully explored, but even though her hopes and dreams may no longer be fulfilled by her, many other girls share the same hopes and dreams and maybe if more people heard her story and reflected on it, they would realize, just as I have, that living a full life doesn’t necessarily come with living a long life but it’s about making the most of what you have to achieve great things in the limited time we have. I believe that stories like Eulan’s need to be shared and I wish I could have given you a complete and better perspective of her life, because I have learned, through the eyes of those whose lives she touched, she showed those around her—in the time and effort she put into everything she did and the relationships she made, as a hardworking student-athlete, as a caring friend, and as a loving and respectful daughter—what it means to value life and to be truly alive.
The Ateneo de Davao University Athletics Office has decided to start an annual volleyball tournament, the Eulan Marie F. Ortiz Memorial Cup, to celebrate the life that Eulan lived. Thank you, Eulan. This is for you and for the many young girls you will continue to inspire with your life story.
Written by Simone Jaldon, Special Projects Coordinator, University Athletics Office