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Brand & Business: Ateneo and La Salle mascots immortalized as Funko Pop! figures exclusively available at Filbar’s

MANILA, PHILIPPINES — Rivalry. It is what makes any contest more intense. It is what turns a simple game into something with much higher stakes. When one side dressed in their colors looks at an opponent in different colors and they give their best to outdo the other, a rivalry begets intensity but is also often underlined by mutual respect. In Philippine society, there is no greater rivalry than between the Ateneo de Manila University and De La Salle University. Spanning decades and generations, alumni of both institutions have competed from the basketball court to the heads of corporations. 

But even as each school has tried to grab bragging rights against their rival, they now have one thing in common: they are the first Filipino schools to find their mascots immortalized as Funko Pop figures. This past July 12, Filbar’s released the Ateneo Blue Eagle and De La Salle Green Archer in Funko form for alumni, fans, and collectors. Since the figures are also available for order on the Filbar’s Online website, people won’t need to leave the comfort of their homes to get them.


This tie-up between Ateneo, La Salle, and Funko actually began back in 2019. Filbar’s co-owner Eric Cabochan and Funko Funatic Philippines founder Nikko Lim were reaping the benefits of previous Filipino figures being turned into the popular collectibles when the idea of featuring their respective school avatars popped into their heads.

“I have been involved in several local Funko projects like Jollibee, Darna, among others, and we are always exploring possible Philippine exclusives for Funko,” shares La Salle alumnus Lim. “We thought about this La Salle-Ateneo project mid-2019. Filbar’s first idea was a generic La Salle and Ateneo basketball player, but later on we decided to do their respective mascots instead.”

“With the success of the Jollibee Pop, we explored other possible characters,” echoes Ateneo alumnus Cabochan. “We approached Funko in 2019 for this project. They already started a college line and we hoped that they would be keen on producing Philippine college mascots.”

That line of college mascots from the U.S. include Rameses of the University of North Carolina, Brutus the Buckeye representing Ohio State University, the University of Notre Dame Leprechaun, and Tommy Trojan from the University of Southern California. 

“I presented this idea to Brian Mariotti, CEO of Funko, in late 2019,” Lim adds. “I highlighted the importance of these two schools in the Philippines, the rivalry, and also the relevance to local pop culture. It was approved right away.

“Being alumni was a big factor,” Cabochan states on the choice of which schools to tap. “But, the popularity of the school’s rivalry, especially in basketball was what convinced us that it will be successful.” 

Lim also adds that the timing would have been perfect if the Funko Pop College Mascots had been released last year because it would have coincided with La Salle serving as host of the 83rd season of the University Athletics Association of the Philippines (UAAP). Unfortunately, the COVID-19 pandemic forced the postponement of that season but the process of creating the figures had begun.

“One of the unique challenges in designing both Pop! figures was getting the official school pantone colors just right in vinyl form,” interjects Filbar’s Chief Creative Officer and toy designer Ivan Guerrero. “We took great care in making sure the brand identities of both institutions were accurately represented.”

“The process of capturing the Green Archer’s likeness was quite straightforward,” Guerrero says of La Salle’s mascot. “We stuck pretty close to the officially recognized rendition of La Salle’s mascot and gave him the Funko Pop! treatment.” 

“For the Blue Eagle, the character evolved quite a bit during the design process,” he pointed out. “Since there have been several interpretations of the mascot, we tried to base it on the most definitive version of him, as seen on the facade of the Blue Eagle gym at the Ateneo campus. The mascot’s pose is based on the tradition of raising a fist during the singing of “A Song for Mary,” the Ateneo de Manila alma mater song. We also actually designed different versions of the figure wearing various iconic jerseys from past UAAP games. We went through several drafts with the Ateneo management before they approved the final, official look of the character.”

“We also wanted the figures to not only appeal to students and alumni but also a wider audience,” says Cabochan. “This is where the POP! line of Funko is great at.  Their designs can attract the widest audience.”

Since this is the first time that Philippine college mascots were going the Funko Pop! route, only Ateneo and La Salle were considered first. As Cabochan shares, “College basketball is really big here. However, we had to think of the costs and risks, so we settled on these two first.” 

Upon seeing the final products, Guerrero could not help but wax poetic about them: “When you look at the photos going around of the two Pop! figures standing next to these iconic Ateneo and La Salle landmarks, it really feels like we captured something very special with these exclusives. They’re not just simple plastic toys. There is a lot more meaning, identity, and pride packed into these and what they represent. 

“If you are an alumnus, they are a reminder of your own heritage and community,” he continues. “If you are a Pop! collector, they are symbols that are uniquely Filipino. Funko Pops have been described as a cultural phenomenon and I think it is important that icons of our own culture and pop culture are recognized and celebrated like this.”

Lim notes that the feedback has been very positive and even non-Funko collectors have been excited and happy with the release. For his part, Cabochan relays that Filbar’s has been getting a constant stream of inquiries on how to get the figures with other customers already demanding that figures be made for other schools. 

“I think these figures have further intensified our longing for the delayed college games,” Cabochan bares. “We haven’t been cheering for our schools for a while, so hopefully these collectible figures can make the wait more bearable.”

With UAAP basketball, volleyball, and other sports still not yet back to normal due to the lockdowns imposed, fans of Ateneo and La Salle have been chomping at the bit to once again troop to arenas,

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