Fight Like a Girl: Pushing the Abante Babae Movement in Sports
Article by: Therese Anne Cruz and Alexandra Isabelle G. Delavin
Graphics by: Cristelle Corpuz
Throughout history, men’s association with sports has always prevailed. Meanwhile, up to this day, women still strive to make a name for themselves. Fortunately, even in the face of patriarchy, the Abante Babae Movement – an upholding of women’s rights and rejecting standardized misogyny – has led women to shy away from the norms, step out of their comfort zones, and create their own identity in the male-dominated field of sports.
Raising the Philippine flag on international podiums, several Filipina athletes have changed the course of herstory, making way for women to dominate in the field.
Hidilyn Francisco Diaz recently rose to fame when she became the first Filipino to win an Olympic gold medal for the Philippines. However, this was not the first time she brought pride and honor to the country.
Before starting her weightlifting career, the Olympian made use of homemade barbells made from plastic pipes and tin cans. At the age of 17, she entered the 2008 Beijing Games as a wildcard entry, becoming the first Filipina weightlifter to compete. Four years later, she qualified in the London Olympics but was unable to finish in the 58-kilogram division. However, she made her comeback in the 2016 Rio Olympics and secured a silver medal – the first non-boxing medal for the country since 1936.
Her skills in weightlifting had also paved the way to bagging more medals moving forward. From this, she had won gold in both the first 2018 Asian Games in Indonesia and the 2019 Southeast Asian Games; silver in the 2017 Asian Indoor and Martial Arts Games and the 2019 Asian Championships.
Becoming the face of Philippine volleyball, Alyssa Valdez inspired a new generation of young athletes. Initially, she began playing for the University of Santo Tomas Tigress Cubs in high school but rose to fame when she led the Ateneo De Manila University Lady Eagles as silvers and golds in the University Athletic Association of the Philippines (UAAP) Volleyball tournament during her five playing years. In Season 76 of the UAAP, she bagged four awards: Finals Most Valuable Player (MVP), Season's MVP, Best Scorer, and Best Server. She also won MVP in Season 77. And in her final year, she also went on to win Athlete of the Year and Season's MVP in Season 78.
Tagged as “The Phenom” or “The Phenomenal”, she displayed exemplary athleticism and phenomenal skills in volleyball. The alumna Lady Eagle has also won in major volleyball leagues after she graduated college. The three-time MVP joined Creamline Cool Smashers in 2017. She was also hailed as MVP in 2019 at the Premier Volleyball League (PVL) Reinforced Conference and again in 2021 in its Open Conference as First Best Outside Spiker.
Valdez was recruited to play as an import for the 3BB Nakornnont in the 2016 Thailand Volleyball League and in the 2017 Attack Line in Chinese Taipei.
Pauline Louise Lopez
At the age of nine, Pauline Louise Lopez began to practice the sport of Taekwondo. Coming from the United States to the Philippines, she kicked off her career when she knabbed a gold for the country in the 2013 Asian Youth Games in the 53-kilogram division. Her wins continued in the 2015 Southeast Asian Games and a year later, in the 2016 Asian Taekwondo Championship in the 57-kilogram division.
Despite Taekwondo being a male-dominated sport, Lopez was determined to be her own identity in the field. In fact, when she first made the Philippine National Team, the athlete was in awe of how many female seniors were in the team.
Lopez also actively advocates for women in sports as she believes that sports will always be a way for a woman to reach her full potential. Despite falling short in the recent 2021 Asian Taekwondo Olympic Qualification Tournament to represent the country in the 2021 Tokyo Summer Olympics, the multi-champion jin is determined to bounce back.
Janelle Mae Frayna
Even in the battle of the minds, women proved that they are just as capable of winning as they are in everything else. Graduated from the Far Eastern University-Diliman, Janelle Mae Frayna was initially rejected during her first audition for the school’s chess club. But through a sudden twist of events, she was reconsidered. From this, she began her chess journey.
Frayna’s rough start consisted of other people’s doubts and comments about her capability and talent. Little did they know, the chess player they had once doubted is now changing the history of Philippine chess. Despite the lack of support, the lady wood pusher did not waver as she continues to reach for her dreams and train every day.
As a result of this, her hard work led to a back-to-back champion in the UAAP Juniors and Women’s Chess Division; UAAP Season 77 Athlete of the Year and UAAP Season 77 and Season 78 MVP.
Even amid uncertainty, Frayna conquered and left a legacy as the country’s first and only woman Grandmaster.
Breaking through the patriarchy, Filipina athletes have redefined what it means to ‘fight like a girl’. With determination, courage, and hard work, they continue to pave the way for younger generations of women to achieve and thrive in sports.