Who runs the world? There has always been a stereotype that women don't belong in the realms of athletics and contact sports until this day and age. One of the countless beautiful qualities of Pinays is that even when disparaged, they continue to be in their element. From Hidilyn Diaz ending the Philippines' 97-year Olympic gold drought to Bianca Bustamante being the first female driver ever signed to McLaren's Driver Development program, and to Jaja Santiago being ranked as world number one in the volleyball scene, Filipino women continue to not just belong but to be the best out there. However, women shouldn't have to shatter records for them to be recognized. In this article, we feature five #ProudViscan women athletes who continue to make the court, the ring, and the field a place of their own. 


Faith Bandalan — Basketball


Before falling in love with the game, also loved by a lot of Filipinos, Faith played a different sport back then. As a kid, she would always watch her dad play basketball in different places other than home, however, she was into table tennis and lawn tennis during her elementary years. Only in high school, with the influence of her dad, did she actively pursue basketball. As Faith discovered her skills through self-training, her dad has been nothing but supportive, "He even put up our basketball court at home.” After realizing how her dad fully supports her active pursuit of the sport, she became more motivated. 


Faith's love for basketball wouldn't go unrewarded, her high school journey as an athlete was one only a few can dream of. Aside from having represented not only the school but the city in various basketball tournaments, she was the intramural MVP of VSU-IHS, formerly VSU-LHS, for four consecutive years, making a league of her own.


It is undoubtedly challenging to take up a degree like Geodetic Engineering, it is not an easy program, as Faith would say. Having her pockets full of academics and athletics, the 21-year-old did not stop there. Aside from being a student-athlete, Faith took on the challenge to enter politics, being the SK Chairman of their barangay. Balancing time became especially hard for her, oftentimes, after an exhausting day from classes, she would go straight to training and miss the chance to answer her homework and study for exams. "All of these are natural for student-athletes, you would learn time management anyway as long as you love what you're doing." 


When asked about her advice for female athletes who are looking to pursue a career in sports, she shared "All I can say is to believe in yourself. People would say a lot of negative things to you but keep going. There has always been a stereotype of boys being more athletic than girls. The problem that these stereotypes fall into is a problem called gender logic which is where people are separated into different categories. Everything starts with yourself so if you think you can be the best, then you can be the best."


Looking ahead, the VSU Pythons Women's Basketball Team starting point guard says that one of her goals is to be recognized as one of the athletes who represented the school in basketball competitions, but for now, she will try to lie low and focus on her studies. However, in the future, she hopes to share her experiences and things that she's learned throughout her career to individuals who would love to pursue basketball as a sport. 


Kylie Maraon — Volleyball 


Kylie, a BS in Statistics student, has always seen how responsible others become when they engage in sports, and that inspired her to try out and discover various sports until she landed into her one true love - volleyball. Being able to represent not only the name behind her jersey but also the name of her school is probably, in her words, one of the greatest achievements that she has ever experienced. She played in the Regionals for PRISAA and IAD Meet in Southern Leyte, representing her hometown of Maasin City, where she and her team bagged the championship title. 


Juggling academics and sports is not easy, as being a student-athlete requires proper time management. For Kylie, one needs to be responsible with what they need to prioritize first. Being responsible with your body is probably one — if not, the most important thing to be considered as an athlete. She emphasized the need to be physically and mentally ready to train and go into competitions to avoid unforeseen situations that would put one in an unfortunate position, such as injuries. 


Having been mentored by who she considers one of the greatest coaches in the region, Kylie takes pride in saying that "coaches are the backbone of every athlete because they are the ones who saw potential and shaped you to become the athlete that you are today. They are significant when it comes to your growth as a player." Additionally, Kylie looks up to the likes of volleyball superstar Alyssa Valdez, who from the first moment she saw her, gave her motivation to strive to be better at what she does. "Because you always reap what you sow," she shared. 


"In a progressing sports community, we should always do our best and always believe that what men can do, we can also. There are no advantages when it comes to gender in sports. We all can excel in sports. My main goal is to represent VSU in the next season of SCUAA. I am the sole transwoman in the VSU Varsity. And I hope I can inspire my fellow transwomen that we too can do it if we work hard for it.”


Martinez Twins: Mariel and Marinel — Futsal


Experience. That's what the twins Mariel and Marinel have to say about their biggest achievement as futsal players. Despite having an impressive number of accolades throughout their athletic career, their biggest takeaway goes beyond trophies and recognitions, but rather the invaluable experience being part of the varsity team brings to their table. Being allowed to be a part of an environment that allows them to come across a diverse number of talents from different corners of the region is a huge thing for Mariel and Marinel, that is why they always seize every opportunity to learn from their fellow players, "each encounter helps us grow as not only athletes but as individuals," as they put it. Even in the face of losses, the twins proudly acknowledged that their victory had already been achieved with the experience of playing in itself. 


"I actually started playing futsal because of my friends, that was in my first year of high school," Mariel fondly recalled how she got started in her sport. As a result, the road to futsal was a similar one for her twin sister Marinel, whom she tagged along with. Fast forward to college, the two have easily transitioned from being casual enjoyers of the sport to embracing their roles as pivotal members of the VSU Futsal Team. 


"Others would think that engaging in sports as a college student is hard, but for me, the more I engage in sports, the more I improve on my academics," says the 4th year BPEd student Mariel. "It definitely boosted my confidence. I was challenged to be better at balancing time with academics and futsal, and that significantly contributed to my growth as an individual. The twins also shared how their coach would always emphasize and remind them that having a sport isn't an excuse to slack off on academic responsibilities, and they're told to always prioritize their academics. "If it's study time then it's study time, if it's training time, it's training time" Marinel adds. 


Since futsal is a team sport, the twins emphasized the need to develop a sense of trust among teammates. Even if a certain player receives credit for a goal on the stat sheet, to them, each score is thanks to the collective effort of the team.


The twins' advice for aspiring futsal athletes is to have a sense of commitment. "In any sport, not just futsal, you can't just be good at the start. You have to have endurance, consistency, and discipline within yourself. Some people would participate in the sport because initially, they think it's fun, but when things get hard, they quit. In sports, one needs to be committed in order for them to excel.”


Risa Igbalic — Karatedo


Ever since her high school days, Risa Igbalic, an AB in Philosophy student, has been captivated by the world of martial arts. The thought of testing her own physical and mental limits intrigued her, prompting the question, "What if I try?".  It was during the previous year that an opportunity presented itself when her current team posted a recruitment announcement on Facebook. Although she lacked the courage to join initially, a friend's encouragement led her to leap.


Last year, at the much-anticipated SCUAA Region 8 (State Colleges and Universities Athletic Association) competition, Risa's talent and determination shone through as she earned herself a bronze medal. This achievement was particularly unexpected for her, considering it was her first venture into competitive sports.


Throughout her athletic journey, Risa has faced a formidable opponent: self-doubt. As a naturally shy person, she often found herself lacking the confidence to fully embrace the game. The combination of self-doubt and a stroke of bad luck would occasionally hold her back. Nonetheless, Risa resolved to do her part, committing herself to consistent training and harnessing her potential to fulfill her dreams.


Training sessions proved to be physically and mentally demanding, requiring great endurance and unwavering determination. There were moments when Risa's body seemed to beg for respite, but she always reminded herself of the place she once only dreamed of. That reminder became the fuel that propelled her through the grueling workouts.


Acknowledging the role of mentorship in her journey, Risa humbly recognizes herself as a crucial force in her progress. She refused to give up, even when the odds seemed stacked against her. Additionally, she credits Coach Tony, who tirelessly guided and trained the team despite their small numbers.


Injuries are an inherent part of an athlete's life, but Risa has been fortunate enough to have avoided them so far. Karatedo, the sport she passionately pursues, does not involve full-contact sparring, making it relatively safe. However, accidents can happen, and sometimes players do get injured. Risa understands that setbacks are inevitable, but she firmly believes that the lessons learned from such experiences are invaluable.


Risa finds solace and encouragement in the camaraderie of her teammates. They create a positive and friendly environment during training, particularly during sparring sessions. Their support and dedication serve as a constant reminder of why she continues to participate in this sport.


Being away from her family, Risa acknowledges that they may not have as much time for her, but she prioritizes her academic responsibilities, recognizing that education is the primary reason she is at the university. Thankfully, she has taken a lighter course load this semester, allowing her to balance her responsibilities as a student and an athlete.


Risa's advice to aspiring athletes is simple yet profound: pursue the sport that genuinely sparks your interest. Even during the most exhausting moments in life, the love for the sport will keep you going. She emphasizes the importance of being true to oneself and not denying what one truly enjoys. Whether winning or losing, there is nothing more fulfilling than participating in a sport one loves.


While still at VSU (Visayas State University), Risa wholeheartedly intends to continue her Karatedo journey. Looking beyond her university years, she eagerly awaits any future athletic opportunities that may come her way. With determination gleaming in her eyes, Risa affirms that she will not let such opportunities slip through her fingers. The path to her dreams lies right before her, and she is ready to seize it with unwavering passion and dedication.


Tricia Fulache — Arnis 


Tricia Fulache's passion for competition and the thrill of pushing her limits led her to the world of Arnis. It all began last year when she joined a training session organized by a classmate who happened to be an Arnis player. Little did she know that this experience would ignite a deep love for the sport within her.


Throughout her athletic career, Tricia has had the privilege of achieving significant milestones that are a testament to her dedication and perseverance in pursuing excellence. One such milestone was winning a silver medal during the SCUAA Region 8 (State Colleges and Universities Athletic Association) competition. Overcoming personal challenges, she continues to prove herself as a formidable force in her sport.


Tricia's biggest sporting challenge came during the R8 SCUAA in 2023. She was faced with the task of giving her utmost performance as she was selected by her coaches due to the unavailability of other players. Despite feeling inadequate and lacking in depth of knowledge, Tricia trusted herself and prayed for the strength to contribute to her team. Her prayers were answered, and she proudly clinched the Silver Medal. This unexpected triumph served as a reminder that even as a pick-up player, she was capable of achieving greatness.


To maintain peak physical and mental performance during training and competition, Tricia prioritizes proper nutrition, sufficient rest, and mental preparation techniques such as visualization and mindfulness. Listening to her body and adjusting training intensity when needed, she seeks support from her coaches and family to stay focused and motivated.


Mentorship has played a crucial role in Tricia's career, providing guidance, support, and invaluable insights. She expresses her gratitude towards mentors such as Ms. Sheena Eunice Tabudlong, Ms. Emilie Casing, Dr. Charis Limbo-Rivera, and Mr. Joselle Cayetano, who have influenced and shaped her development as both an athlete and an individual.


When faced with setbacks or injuries, Tricia approaches them with resilience and patience. She focuses on rehabilitation, listens to her body, and collaborates closely with her coaches and medical team to develop a recovery plan. Rather than being disheartened, she uses setbacks as opportunities for learning and growth. Through mental visualization and unwavering motivation, she bounces back stronger than ever before.


One particularly memorable moment in Tricia's journey as an athlete was overcoming a major setback to achieve a personal best in a crucial competition. This experience taught her the power of resilience, determination, and the importance of believing in oneself, even in the face of adversity.


As an Education student majoring in Science, Tricia balances the demands of competition with other aspects of life such as education and family through effective time management, communication, and prioritization. Tricia ensures that she has a structured schedule that allows her to dedicate time to training, studying or working, and spending quality time with her loved ones. Clear communication with her support network helps manage expectations and maintain harmony between her athletic pursuits and other responsibilities.


Tricia's advice to aspiring female athletes is to believe in themselves, work hard, and never underestimate their potential. Surrounding oneself with a supportive network, staying focused on goals, and embracing challenges as growth opportunities are key. Most importantly, she emphasizes the importance of enjoying the journey and being proud of accomplishments, regardless of their size.


Looking ahead, Tricia's goals for her athletic career include continuous improvement, striving for excellence, and embracing new challenges. She aspires to compete at the highest level possible, inspire others through her journey, and leave a lasting impact on the sport of Arnis. With determination burning in her heart, Tricia is ready to face whatever lies ahead and make her mark on the world of martial arts.



As we celebrate International Women's Month, let us honor the achievements of Faith Bandalan, Kylie Maraon, Mariel Martinez, Marinel Martinez, Risa Igbalic, Tricia Fulache, and countless other women who have defied expectations on their respective athletic journeys. Let their triumphs inspire us to support and uplift women in sports, fostering an environment where they can thrive and excel.


May their stories serve as a reminder that women in sports deserve recognition, support, and equal opportunities. Let us continue to celebrate and empower women in sports not only during this month but every day, as we strive for a world where gender is never a barrier to success.

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