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Homecoming Hero: Acaylar Finally Recognized and ‘Grateful’ for Hometown Honor

CAGAYAN DE ORO — The Gerflor Defenders may have remained winless in eight games after getting swept by the Akari Chargers but coach Sammy Acaylar finally got recognition from his hometown.

Calling shots for a volleyball team in the City of Golden Friendship is no longer new for Acaylar as it is the place where he grew up before becoming one of the brightest minds in Philippine volleyball. But only a few recognize him as a homegrown coach.

On Saturday, Acaylar earned his long overdue acknowledgment from CDO despite their 18-25, 15-25, 19-25 loss to Akari in the 2023 Premier Volleyball League (PVL) second All-Filipino Conference at Aquilino Q. Pimentel International Convention Center 

“Hindi ko rin akalain na bigyan nila ako ng acknowledgement. For how many years, yan ang inaantay ko eh. Kasi sa Manila binibigyan ako, sa Cagayan de Oro City hindi nila ako nabigyan. Pero thank you ako dun kay Mayor kasi ibinigay niya ang dapat ibigay sa akin,” Acaylar told reporters after receiving his plaque from Mayor Rolando Uy along with homegrown player Erika Raagas.

Gerlofr coach Sammy Acaylar, left, and Akari player Erika Raagas.–PVL PHOTO

Acaylar, a 13-time NCAA men’s volleyball champion coach of the University of Perpetual Help, really wanted to give back to his hometown through his coaching skills and he was proud to play in front of his fellow Cagayanons, who welcomed PVL with an electric atmosphere.

“It’s a long story. Matagal ko nang inambisyon na makapag-contribute at makatulong dito sa Cagayan de Oro City kasi dito ako galing eh. Sobrang saya kasi nakabalik ako at PVL pa ang naglaro rito. I am so proud,” he added.

The Defenders coach, who was witnessed by his siblings among the ecstatic 9,862 fans, marveled at how the province showed their love for Philippine volleyball, hoping to come back again next season.

“I’m happy because this is one of the cities, which really patronizes volleyball. I hope next time I will come back here with a very strong team so they can see how I really coach,” he said in Filipino.

Acaylar will have to wait until Christmas before staying in his hometown as he and his wards are flying back to Manila on Sunday evening to continue their campaign amid their ongoing internal financial problems with the team management, which has only given them a partial payment of their salaries.

Despite the team’s current situation, the veteran coach said his team will continue to fight in their last three games, hoping to get a win.