The world we live in today definitely presents women with more opportunities than ever. However, when it comes to forging your own path, there’s no distinct formula. You can choose to go with the flow and excel there, or challenge the norms and shake things up a bit more. For inspiration on the latter, meet two kick-ass women who are pushing the boundaries in Philippine sports, no matter how difficult the road is. For them, it’s not just being the best at what they do. It’s also about being a better person, whether it’s for themselves, their craft, or other women just like them.
“[Growing up], I loved seeing people dance because I felt a contagious sense of joy and happiness,” AC Lalata says of her love affair with dance. She also knew that it was through dance that she could express herself freely—her body just flowed with the music. Naturally, she wanted to take the sport more seriously.
But when she decided to pursue dance as a career, AC remembers that not everyone was supportive. “[They said] I wouldn’t go places doing that, but I didn’t let that stop me. That, and having my family as a strong support system, [helped me] follow my heart, believe in myself, and fight the battle since day one.”
The multifaceted dancer is a member of the acclaimed Philippine All-Stars dance crew. She not only teaches, but also choreographs routines for commercials, performs onstage, and does hair and makeup professionally. She even declares, “I manage a business too! With all that going on, I also take care of my mama, my lola, and my brother.”
AC makes it all sound easy, but it wasn't the case. She reveals that when she was working as an account manager for three years at a multinational company, she would wake up early every day for her corporate life, then after work, travel for almost two hours to get to her dance training. Her days would end late, and the grind just exhausted her physically and emotionally. She was on "zombie mode" at work and only her true self when dancing.
In spite of the rough patches she had to overcome in the beginning, owing to her hard work and grit, AC now serves as a mentor to many aspiring dancers—and she’s not about to stop. “I want to help and inspire the new generation that anything is possible as long as you put your whole heart and effort into it. I teach kids to enjoy and love dance while simply understanding it in its rawest form.”
When faced with adversity, AC is not someone who easily backs down, “I stay strong, tough, and confident no matter the circumstances. I stand as an influence to other women who believe they can do anything on their own, without a doubt.”
Trina Guytingco’s journey started with her dad buying a basketball hoop for her to play with on their driveway; she was a 10-year-old Cali girl then. “I played almost every day and instantly fell in love with it,” she remembers. “I guess it was how special the game made me feel. [Especially] whenever I’d dribble the ball, I felt like I could literally do anything.”
Trina’s love for basketball came with its share of challenges. She reveals, “When I first started playing, I was dubbed as the ‘street girl’ because [people] told me I was out of control.” Her wild and spontaneous movements weren’t the only issues: She wasn’t as tall as the girls she was playing with—an obvious disadvantage in basketball. But she was determined to improve and work on her technique. “Honestly, I just kept pushing myself,” she says, “because [I know] hard work won’t fail you in the end.” She adds that her family always backed her up and continues to do so.
Today, Trina represents Ateneo basketball as one of the university’s Lady Eagles. Apart from juggling school, training, and working out, she also makes time to do other responsibilities outside of class and the court. “I cook, clean, do the laundry, pay the bills, and other household things,” she shares. “I don’t have a helper at home as I don’t like making others do the things that I could do myself. I’m independent that way.”
Trina recognizes that even today, there’s still some inequality with women and men when in comes to basketball. “The culture here is different from the States,” she says. “People [here] don’t recognize female ballers even if they put in as much work as the men do.”
But in spite of that, she stays strong and empowers others with the life she leads. “I try to show other women that they don’t need to rely on anyone but themselves. While a little help is good, [constantly] depending on others just keeps people from fully realizing their capabilities.”
The Lady Eagle also stresses that a woman playing basketball shouldn’t be stereotyped and that girls shouldn’t be too concerned about being judged. “Girls can play this sport and it doesn’t make them a tomboy. No one should be afraid to do something they love.”
She’s quick to admit that being in the game has opened a lot of doors for her, and she takes these opportunities as a venue to encourage those who feel that they don’t really fit in to “embrace your art and be proud of it because being different is dope!”
AC’s and Trina’s paths converged in Nike’s Battle Force Manila, a month-long event that celebrates basketball, dance, rap, and art through mentorship, healthy competition, and exhibits. It culminated in a thrilling grand battle on November 24, 2018.
Having guided fellow dancers and athletes across the metro, AC and Trina are proud to be part of a platform that brings a thousand people from different walks of life together to showcase their talents and live out their passions. For them, avenues such as this further prove that they are on the right track (Trina quips, "I made it fam!"), and that as long as there is the desire to create and inspire action today, the future is on the right track as well. Helping a community grow in terms of skill and number even gives more meaning into what AC and Trina do and compels them to continue defying the odds.
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