From all indications, the late Alyana “Yana” Bautista had a bright career ahead of her. She was set to represent Ateneo in the UAAP next season after a very productive high school stint at Miriam College. Yana, who was supposed to turn 18 in September, was on her way to following the footsteps of older sister, Martie, who had carried the country’s colors as a member of the Philippine women’s national team.

She would have been collecting newspaper cutouts of her feats. And there would have been tons of them.

“She’s one of the most all-around players I know,” said KC Zalamea, a midfielder for the women’s juniors team and Bautista’s teammate at Miriam.

Yana passed away last July 23 due to a preexisting acute disseminated encephalomyelitis (Adem) that was further complicated by COVID-19.

Regular fixture

She was a star in the making, and though Yana Bautista’s shine lasted briefly, family and friends will keep fond memories of her. —PHOTOS BY MIA MONTAYRE/CONTRIBUTED

Aside from playing for Miriam, Yana was a regular fixture in women’s youth competitions and even the fledgling Philippine Football Federation Women’s League, where she played for Nomads FC.

“She [could] play almost every position—even goalkeeper—and she would excel,” Zalamea said during the #Growhergame webinar last Thursday.

“She loved the sport and pushed herself to be better. She was also a natural-born leader. She would talk to you and give advice on drills. She was just an inspiration and it hurts we won’t see her play anymore.”

Bautista’s death was the second to rock the women’s football community in the last few months after former youth player Beatrice Luna passed away last May after a battle against arteriovenous malformation.

Even Federation Internationale Football Association (Fifa) president Gianni Infantino took notice, extending his condolences to Bautista’s family.

“Words seem inadequate to express the sadness we feel for this loss affecting Philippine football,” Infantino said in a letter sent to Philippine Football Federation president and Fifa council member Mariano Araneta.

“Her legacy and achievements, and in particular her personality and her human qualities will not be forgotten, and she will be truly missed,” Infantino added. “We hope that these memories and our words of support may help bring some peace and solace at this difficult time.”

A twitch

Yana could play any position on the field, her teammate attests.

Martie, a forward for the national squad, hopes her sister’s death would raise awareness on Adem considering there’s not a lot of information on the disease. Yana was diagnosed with Adem in March after she felt what Martie described as a twitch on her left foot.

“We didn’t know much about the disease,” Martie said. “There was little research to it and a known cure. It’s just one of those things that happen. They don’t know what the cause is or if it’s genetic. Of course, knowing COVID, it was around that time when the lockdown was happening so we didn’t really think about it too much.”

A few days before Yana passed away, Martie said her family thought her conditions was improving.

“As a family, we were always optimistic and we were actually expecting her to get better and get back to schooling this August,” she said.

Martie said she’d rather have her sister’s life celebrated as it runs true to Yana’s personality.

“My sister was a very lively and happy person, even if her story is a little bit tragic,” Martie said. “If she sees us right now, she would be laughing at me for crying the past few days.”

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