MVP #3: Ultimate Frisbee

We’ve been to the choir room and the basketball court, and for this third installment in our Meet our Varsity Players (MVP) series, we’re going out to the field!

Ultimate — sometimes known as Ultimate Frisbee, and more commonly (and mistakenly) called Frisbee — is a relatively young sport, only having been invented late in the 20th century. While not (yet!) an Olympic sport, Ultimate has certainly been gaining popularity in recent years. To learn more about this interesting “new” sport, we turned to Manila Disc, our college’s Ultimate team.

Manila Disc is led by co-captains related by blood (the only ones among our teams): the Tan brothers, Nick (Class 2020) and Karel (Class 2023)! We were fortunate enough that they were eager to answer our questions and help us clear some misconceptions about the sport. They even shared some of the rules of the game – including its unique self-officiating nature. We also learn that they’re able to balance the rigors of medical school with being active with their extracurriculars (not just Manila Disc), all while keeping their faith. Read on and feel the love, passion, and genuine enjoyment that these two have of the sport, and — who knows? — you might even find that Ultimate is the new interest you’ve been looking for!

Manila Disc taking a photo with the UPCM banner at Siklab (Palarong Medisina 2018). Photo courtesy of Markyn Jared Kho (Class 2020).


UP MEDICS: How would you describe your team’s performance in the latest Palarong Medisina?

Nick: Hi [UP MEDICS], thank you for your questions. First, I think this was the second-best performance of our team (with our Palarong Med 2016 being our best performance ever). We had a strong set of players, and a deep bench who could interchange well with our power line. It was remarkable how we had beat the champions in the round-robin phase with a comfortable margin, only to lose to them at the championship match. It was heartbreaking, but I saw the team give its 100% start to finish.

UP MEDICS: Has your team participated in other events or competitions outside Palarong Medisina? If yes, what? If no, do you plan to change that?

Nick: Karel and I formed a hybrid-team from Manila Disc and our orgmates from Christ’s Youth in Action (CYA) called “Habuya” (Ilonggo for “throw”). We usually don’t have enough players to form a team big enough to compete from either team, so we decided to mix them up. As Habuya, we competed in Orange Ultimate’s League D-way in January 2018, Aguilas Cup in February 2018, April Pulls in April 2018 and Whirl’D Cup last June 2018. We join mostly as a sort of “training” because the experiences in these tournaments best simulate Palarong Med. We don’t aim to win because we can’t compete on that level, so we’re very chill about the whole thing. I can’t demand the ideal 2-3 hour trainings thrice a week from med students. It’s really more a learning experience for us all.

Noteworthy also was our 2017 as UP Manila at the National Ultimate Collegiate Championship (basically like the UAAP for Ultimate), with 80% of the players from Manila Disc.

We hope to continue participating in these tournaments (and maybe even win one of them!)

UP MEDICS: What do you think are your team’s strengths?

Nick: The foundation of the team’s performance rests on key star players (like Karel Tan, Marion de Luna, Rey Joson, Kaiser Cruz, Rafa Abaya, Julian Buban, Ajina Carampel), but we have many emerging talents (myself HAHA, Noel Sarrosa, JM Santiago, Gian Aurelio, Joshua Aguasin, Shane Robles, Nico Vinasoy, and Marcela Rodolfo, to name a few) who have only recently picked up ultimate as a sport (like a year or two ago) but because of their dedication to the team, have improved their skills exponentially over the last year.

Our defensive “cup” strategy is also what gets us that far into Palarong Med (basically we win every game except the championship) yearly. It takes 1-2 sessions to teach everyone what to do (usually in the weeks leading up to the tournament), allowing everyone to take a meaningful role in the game.

UP MEDICS: What do you think are your team’s weaknesses or areas that need most improvement?

Nick: Definitely solid basics. Because we don’t train regularly enough, several members can’t practice the basic throws and catches. While most members have a 60-75% catch rate, we want to bring that up to 90%. If we drop a disc after every 3 throws, we can’t be confident to pass to one another in game, ergo the heavy reliance on our star players.  We also can’t proceed to the more advanced offensive maneuvers.

(I personally can’t hold my teammates responsible for this; they are, after all, medical students. Training the ideal 2-3 hours thrice a week isn’t particularly feasible with our workload, on top of all the other extracurriculars.)

UP MEDICS: Does your team have regular training sessions? If yes, how often, and what strategies do you use during training? If no, do you plan on changing that? How do you think this affects your team?

Nick: We try to train at least twice a week. The beauty of having two captains (myself and Karel, and maybe a few more in the coming weeks—hi Josh) is we can institute trainings alternately. We usually have the basic throws and catches exercises, then some basic drills that attempt to simulate the typical field conditions, and then pick-up games. We can’t do the more advanced drills mostly because a basketball court (SSPC/PGH Court) isn’t large enough or there aren’t enough people present to execute the drill (like 15 people).

Class 2023’s Karel Tan (wearing the red cap) against 3 players as he tries to pass the disc to his teammates. Photo taken at Palarong Medisina 2018, courtesy of Markyn Jared Kho (Class 2020).

UP MEDICS: How long have you been playing ultimate? What made you start playing ultimate?

Nick: I started in 2011, first year college, got more seriously involved in 2013, but had to tone things down because of these/med school/CYA so that’s like 5 years, but on a more casual basis. Karel and Jake (another brother) really pulled me into the whole business, but also friends from CYA.

Karel: I started playing in 1st Year Highschool, so that would make it 7 years, but as early as Grade 7, I was already interested in the sport. I was a fast runner, and I easily developed the ability to catch and “read” where the disc would land in the air. I always wanted to play football, but I got into the sport too late and everyone else was better than me, but Ultimate Frisbee was a new sport at that time, and I realized that I was better at it than most of my classmates. I joined the varsity team in high school, and I haven’t stopped playing since.

UP MEDICS: How long have you been part of the ultimate team? Why did you decide to join?

Nick: I joined Manila Disc in 2015 because it was fun, and ultimate is fun, and the people are cool. Haha

Karel: I joined Manila Disc in 2016 when I reached my first year of college. My brother, Nick, always told me how I would be a welcome addition to the team, so I thought I’d give it a shot.

UP MEDICS: How do you think being part of the ultimate team has affected your life?

Nick: Trainings became a highlight of the week. It’s a time where I could see friends and not-talk about med school or acads and focus on just thrown and catching and playing. Exercise, endorphins, and the occasional dinner out after, always a good “release” from medical school.

Karel: It’s a great destress-er. After days of exams and other org activities, doing something I feel like I’m actually good at gave me a lot of joy. Exercise is always a good motivation as well, and I can say my body size has barely changed (except my height) because of Ultimate!

UP MEDICS: Why did you decide to be Captain? How does being captain differ from the other members of the team? (Does it entail additional tasks/responsibilities or an entirely different role?)

Nick: No one else wanted to. HAHA. Also I had to start calling the shots, organizing trainings, figuring out which drills to do given the attendees (basic kung puro newbies, advanced kung mas maraming veterans), speaking individually to each member: “Hey! Do you wanna win Palarong Med or not!?” to get them to go to trainings, even designing the jersey. I also had to handle the finances when we would join tournaments (with a registration fee of ~Php500), then organizing transportation since the location would be in Cavite/Laguna.

The toughest part is choosing who makes it onto the roster for Palarong Med. 30 slots is a lot, but with over 40 active members (meaning people who go to trainings). We still have to tell some people “sorry bro, next time na lang, the others kasi were more dedicated” which breaks my heart, especially when it’s toward a batchmate.

Karel: As my brother Nick put it as well, no one else wanted to. But it’s also because I think the other players look up to me in the sport. The problem with it is that a lot of time and effort is required to train the team; I have to organize the trainings, convince people to go to places away from UPM (because there is no field in the school), and I have to put in a lot more of my time that I could spend on my academics and studies.

UP MEDICS: What position do you play? How do you think this influences your role as Captain?

Nick: Right now, I’m being forced to play the “handler”, which is basically the playmaker. Two or three field players have to do this. It’s a much harder role play than the “cutter” who basically just runs up and catches the disc. There’s more split-second decision making needed, and fractions of a second matter.

Karel: I usually play the role of a “cutter”, which is the guy who runs and gets the disc at the end of the field to score the point. But because of the skill level of the team, I am forced to play “handler”, which, as my brother put it, is the playmaker of the team. It’s difficult and frustrating sometimes because I am not good at this position, and I feel like I lack the confidence to play well.

Nick Tan (Class 2020, with the cloth around his neck) in a huddle with the team. Photo taken at Palarong Medisina 2018, courtesy of Markyn Jared Kho (Class 2020).

UP MEDICS: Aside from the ultimate team, are you part of any other team (sports team, choir, etc.) for the college or outside of it? What other sports/activities do you spend your time on?

Nick: I train with FC Medisina on occasion, and of course, there’s CYA which takes up a lot of time, being part of the music team.

Karel: I train with FC Medisina on occasion, and of course, there’s Christ’s Youth in Action (CYA) which takes up a lot of time, being one of the leaders of the organization.

UP MEDICS: How do you balance being Captain and being a medical student?

Nick: I usually organize ultimate things (trainings/tournament bids) as a “study break.” I dunno, I just enjoy organizing things and getting people together to accomplish this. I also think I’m contributing to my members’ overall health since our weighted social determinants of health give exercise a hefty 20% contribution.

Karel: I really have no idea. I feel like God multiplies my time and energy enough that I am able to do all these things and still pass. I pray that he’ll continue to do so in the coming years.

UP MEDICS: Ultimate seems to be a relatively new sport, and many people call it Frisbee. Is it still appropriate to call it Frisbee? Are there other common misconceptions about Ultimate that you think can be easily corrected? What do you think sets Ultimate apart as a sport?

Nick & Karel: “Frisbee” is trademarked by “Hasbro” but is actually the most popular way of calling the flying disc (like “Xerox” to photocopy, or “Biogesic” to paracetamol). So [we] can’t fault people for calling it so. The word “Ultimate” is the clever way of circumventing the copyright issue, especially for marketing purposes, be it merchandise or tournaments, so it’s more appropriate. But we usually say “Ultimate Frisbee” because newbies wouldn’t understand “Ultimate”.

Ultimate is technically a non-contact sport, which is why it can be mixed. Collisions are inevitable, but intentional nudging/elbowing/shouldering of another player are not permitted, and any contact can be considered a foul, which nobody wants because it interrupts the flow of the game. So people play safely. Also it’s self-governed, so no technical referee is needed to institute the sport; the “Spirit of the Game” presides over contentions and arguments, and that to [us] is beautiful—sportsmanship at its best.

Lastly, you can’t be a superstar Lebron or Messi or Ronaldo and win solo. Ultimate is a team sport, the whole team matters. Okay, in theory, 3 really really good players could carry the whole thing, but you need to connect with other people if you’re gonna get anywhere.

UP MEDICS: You two are brothers! How many children are you in the family? Do all of you play Ultimate?

Nick: Technically, only the 17-year old is still a child. Haha. We’re 5 boys. Three of them play competitively. I play on this Palarong Med level (which is kind of a notch down from the competitive level). One is more casual, being more of a dancer.

UP MEDICS: Free space!!! Anything else you want to say, shoutout/s, quotes of your choosing, etc.

Nick & Karel: We’ve been 2nd place for the last four years in a row. We just need that little nudge to get us to the top. I hope readers of this article (especially the incoming LU 1’s, 3’s and 5’s) consider joining us. Ultimate has an incredibly shallow learning curve. It takes 2 weeks to get good, and 2 months to be great (true story, my own). If you want a fun sport with relatively chill intensity (pero medj intense pa rin), with cool people (who understand if you’re a n00b), and all around awesome pictures, Ultimate Frisbee is for you. See you on the field.

Our regular training is Wednesday 8-10PM at Don Bosco Technical College, Mandaluyong, Saturday 2-6PM at the UP Diliman Sunken Garden, and Tuesdays/Thursday at the SWCC UP Manila 7-9PM (depending on court availability). Contact Nick 09177993255 or Karel 09174987660 if interested!


Manila Disc and the team from UST sit down for the Spirit Cirlce, where players talk about the game they just had. Photo taken at Palarong Medisina 2018, courtesy of Markyn Jared Kho (Class 2020).

That was certainly an informative and interesting interview. Manila Disc may be young, but it’s definitely not lacking in talent, passion, and commitment. Let’s #ShowOurSupport (#SOS) for them as they represent the college and compete in the upcoming Palarong Medisina 2019!

Photos courtesy of the legendary Markyn Jared Kho (Class 2020). Many many thanks to Nick Tan (Class 2020) and Karel Tan (Class 2023) for taking the time to answer our questions!

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