Building spaces where Filipina athletes can continue winning: Highlights from Evident’s Equal Play Media Mixer

This blog post was written by Renz Celeridad, our Content Specialist for Advocacy Communications.

What is the next step for Filipina athletes to build on their recent successes on and off the court? 

Several action points emerged during Equal Play, a panel discussion organized by Evident to celebrate International Women’s Day 2024 with the theme, “Invest in women: Accelerate progress.”

The panel including athletes, sports leaders, advocates, and media practitioners, explored ways to leverage the growing support and interest from media, brands, and fanbases of women’s sports.

Their discussion emphasized boosting media coverage and brand support, expanding grassroots programs like “Girls Got Game,” and enhancing sports infrastructure and safety. 

The panelists also advocated for investing in the potential of young and aspiring athletes, emphasizing the importance of supporting them from an early stage rather than waiting for them to achieve success. 

Evident, a women-led communications firm with a dedicated business unit for sports, gaming, and entertainment, hosted this discussion to gather sports stakeholders and identify strategies for advancing women’s sports in the Philippines. 

“You can't be what you can't see”

Award-winning sports journalist Ceej Tantengco’s investigative work revealed that, unlike their male counterparts, Filipina athletes are often covered more for their looks than their athletic prowess.

This is why it is important to show aspiring athletes that they can play sports regardless of their physical appearance or their sexual orientation and expression. 

This was Director Samantha Lee’s motivation for producing Baka Bukas in 2016, Billie & Emma in 2018, and the 2023 independent queer coming-of-age sports film, Rookie

“If the work that I do helps a young kid somewhere feel better about who they are, then good na ‘yon for me.”

Sportswriter Lui Morales echoed these sentiments as they pointed out the need to amplify the success stories of Filipina athletes to inspire further participation and recognition in sports often associated with men. 

In particular, they cited a story they developed about a school-based football program in Quezon City that was launched after the Philippine Women’s National Team won the ASEAN Football Federation Women’s Championship in 2022. 

Caitlin Clark’s recent success in the US as a standout female basketball player also sets a powerful example for aspiring athletes worldwide that success is achievable in arenas traditionally dominated by men.

These stories show young girls and women the possibilities that await them through sports. They can shape their bodies based on the requirements of their sports and not due to stereotypes that dictate how a female athlete should look.

Investing in potential

Erica Samonte, a three-time bronze medallist in the Southeast Asian Games, said that the Philippines should invest in Filipino athletes because of their potential, not just for their achievements. 

Samonte recounted her experience from the Southeast Asian Games in 2011: “When I was covered in the media, it wasn’t amazing because I won a bronze. It was amazing…because I’m a woman.” 

She argued that this perspective underscored a broader societal view that still struggles to accept women’s sports as equally deserving of attention and investment.

Now, she’s using sports to teach her children the value of grit and discipline, the importance of giving one’s best effort, and the confidence that sports lends to the person. 

Samonte believes that by investing in young athletes–particularly girls–from an early age, sports can become an avenue for the Philippines to unlock the potential of its youth. This investment should be focused not only on training and development but also on creating supportive environments that celebrate potential and effort as much as victories and medals.

Safe and comfortable spaces

For women’s sports to continue to grow in the Philippines, current and aspiring athletes should feel safe and comfortable when they play. 

And separate restrooms are a good starting point. 

Tin Ferrera, Vice President and Secretary-General of the Philippine Trailrunning Association, pointed this out based on her experience as a trail runner, “‘May CR ba? Saan ako maliligo? Saan ako magpapalit’? For women, that’s what [we’re] thinking.

Mariana Lopa, Managing Director of the nonprofit organization Girls Got Game Philippines, Inc., said that this is a “super basic” requirement that is often missing in discussions about women’s sports. 

She added that investing in the equipment, sportswear, and playing courts of the athletes is important too. The goal is to address all the barriers that keep young girls and women alike from playing sports in the first place. 

This goal, Atty. Lopa stressed, isn’t even ambitious at all. 

“We should start changing our mindset…[Investing in Filipina athletes] is not revolutionary. This is the norm, and this is how it should be moving forward.”

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