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Breaking Stereotypes: Filipinas in Sports

Filipinas have been rocking it in sports. From Hidilyn Diaz’s historic gold in the 2020 Summer Olympics to Margielyn Didal being the darling of the skateboarding world, to Alex Eala making waves in the US Open to the Philippine Women's National Football Team becoming the best in Southeast Asia, these Pinay athletes continue to break barriers and inspire more girls to make their sporting dreams come true. However, there is still a lot that needs to be done to address the gender gap in the sports industry.

She Talks Asia spoke to Wushu athlete Agatha Wong, Crossfit athlete Kristen Te Lim, and Taekwondo athlete Althea Tolentino to share their stories and thoughts about what it's like to be a woman in their chosen sport.

Agatha Wong

STA: How did you get into Wushu? Who inspired you?

Agatha: I come from a family of athletes so I partook in a lot of sports, wushu being one of them. My grandmother happened to drive by the Philippine Sports Commission on Taft avenue & she saw the summer sports clinic for wushu; so she enrolled me & my younger brother when we were 7 and 8 yrs old!

STA: Are there many female role models in the field of Wushu?

Agatha: Yes, I still get quite surprised by how so many wushu professional athletes there are. Especially women (: you don’t see many here in the Philippines because the training is really hard; most young kids stop after some months for the reason that wushu really demands so much of your time, patience & sacrifice.

STA: Do you believe that there’s a gender gap in Wushu?

Agatha: I believe there’s a gender gap in my sport in the Philippines, not really in general. As I’ve previously mentioned, training is very hard so it’s the younger boys who usually last. I honestly don’t know how I lasted 🤣

STA: How can ordinary citizens help support or advocate for our female athletes?

Agatha: This actually comes down to the stereotypes people associate with a particular sport. it’s more difficult for women because we REALLY have to achieve something record-breaking for the public to notice us; SEA Games gold isn't enough. Sometimes even the world champion isn’t either. But that’s how it is, all we can do as athletes is keep training because that’s all we know & have come to love but when you ask the average national athlete if he/she would rather do something else than do sports, it’s more than likely we wouldn’t choose anything else over this; to represent your country is a privilege, but to bring home a medal is something that’s written in history books. and no one can take that away from you.

Kristen Te Lim

STA: How did you get into CrossFit? Who inspired you?

Kristen: I started out in 2014 a few months after I graduated. I was looking for a fitness regime that could help me maintain my weight after I successfully finished a recent diet program. A local affiliate opened in my neighborhood and so I decided to sign up even without knowing anything about what CrossFit is. The rest was history.

STA: Are there many female role models in the field of CrossFit?

Kristen: Yes, there are a lot of female role models in the field. Most famous being Tia Clair Toomey the reigning Fittest on Earth for 6 consecutive years now. Her dedication and hard work inspire a lot of Crossfitters around the world and not just female crossfitters

STA: Do you believe that there’s a gender gap in CrossFit?

Kristen: I believe that there is no gender gap in sports. It has always been welcoming to all genders and has given everyone the same opportunity to grow and become better that is why I love it enough to be part of the local community and help promote the sport whenever I can.

STA: How can ordinary citizens help support or advocate for our female athletes?

Kristen: For me, the best way is to Stop telling us what we can and cannot do! Stop with stereotyping and body shaming. Instead, celebrate our abilities and help us believe in ourselves so we can grow and become the best that we can be.

Althea Tolentino

STA: How did you get into Taekwondo? Who inspired you?

Thea: I first got into Taekwondo around the age of 7 because one of my closest friends just invited me to their TKD gym. I was first scared of all the kicking, shouting, and especially the sparring part where they really go head to head with each other and literally kick you on your body and even your head. But then I got the hang of it, now I continue to play the sport I love because it really does empower me especially as a woman.

STA: Are there many female role models in the field of Taekwondo?

Thea: I would say there is a big population of girls and women who play Taekwondo, of course not bigger than the male population. But It even amazes more people when they know that a young girl is strong and brave enough to be a black belter. However, there are few “successful” women with titles in international competitions that carry our country’s name. But I believe that we can go to greater lengths, more if we really invest in young women trying to achieve their goals and dreams even in sports.

STA: Do you believe that there’s a gender gap in Taekwondo? Please explain your answer

Thea: I wouldn’t say there is a big one, be there is always one. There are some days when I’d just hear people’s opinions on how the tournament of boys is more “exciting” because ours is “masyadong malambot”. Even as a 2nd dan Black belter, I’m still told that I can’t do things because I’m a girl. But I’m more blessed to be with people around me who really support my aspirations in my sports: my family, my team, and Alfonso (my boyfriend). Not only as a DLSU Varsity Athlete but also as an Assistant Coach that teaches novice class (white belt).

STA: How can ordinary citizens help support or advocate for our female athletes?

Thea: No. 1, we should avoid the mentality of limiting the dreams and capabilities of someone based on their gender/s. Enough with the stereotype where we’re told “Babae ka lang.”

No. 2, I believe our country really has smaller budgets and leeway for us athletes. I remember having teammates getting cut from the National Team because there was not enough budget. We should start looking at sports that aren’t just Basketball or Volleyball. Filipino athletes from different sports really do excel even at international levels. We only have to support and believe in them more.

No. 3, listen and tell stories. As Filipino citizens, we should listen to the needs of our Filipino athletes and listen to their inspiring journeys. For us athletes, we should be braver in telling our stories. Let’s train harder, dig deeper, and strive more so we can have more role models that inspire children and women to be more.

There are still many stories of female athletes we haven’t heard yet- their stories are worth hearing and they too deserve their stories to be heard. Their stories inspire us to chase our dreams and believe we can achieve them. Women have earned the right to play, to be heard, and to be celebrated since they too put in a lot of hard work and effort into their craft.

Article written by Sonya Go


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