It wasn’t your typical weekday afternoon pickup game at the heart of Bonifacio Global City. Last June 7, men from different facets of the Philippine basketball scene came together at the Nike Hypercourt to try the latest shoe in LeBron’s arsenal, the Soldier 12 ‘Agimat’.
In the sea of men, there stood the only female baller invited at the 3X3 media trial runs: former Lady Maroon Bea Daez.
Fans may know Bea as UAAP’s first female analyst, but it was not long ago when she was the perfect emodiment of a Fighting Maroon during her collegiate career. Determined to shake off UP’s reputation as bottom dwellers of UAAP basketball, she was motivated to lead UP through several wins in Season 78. “0-14 kami on my fourth year and ako yung captain noon. When I played my last year, I was privileged enough to be the captain, so hindi talaga ako papayag na umalis ng UP na walang panalo,” she said.
Bea wanted to lead UP to a winning season so much that she played through a broken nose for most of the second round games. “Kahit bali pa yung ilong ko, basta may go signal from the doctors, maglalaro pa rin ako,” she said. She was instrumental to the Lady Maroons’ four wins that season, a welcome improvement from their winless campaign the previous year.
Playing ball against men was nothing new to her. “I grew up playing all boys and with my brothers. Di naman ako natakot or anything,” she said.
But the trial runs was her first game in front of the media in three years. “At first, kinakabahan pa nga ako kasi I’m not in playing shape,” said Bea, citing that there are no established women’s pro leagues after college. At the back of her mind, she knew that she had to play in front of the likes of Jayson Castro, LA Tenorio and Chris Newsome. In a way, she was there to prove a point: women can play ball, too.
Bea was true warrior on the court, so it was only fitting for her to be back at the spotlight wearing the ‘Agimat’. It was the follow-up to LeBron 14’s shoe colorway inspired by the the Filipinos’ history of magic and sorcery.
“It was actually my first time to wear LeBron shoes,” Bea said. As a guard, she values the feeling of reedom to dribble and run around the court. That’s why she was always looking for light shoes with less restriction at the ankles. And with the LeBron Soldier 12, she found everything that she wanted with her shoes. “I was surprised that it wasn’t heavy at all,” she added.
She was even more impressed with the seatbelt system, Soldier 12’s laceless technology which was uncommon in basketball shoes today. “At first I was wary if it will be tight enough, but it fits perfectly. With the seatbelt system, the shoes snug perfectly to your feet. I think it’s a really good innovation,” she said.
But the Agimat was more than just a pair of shoes. It’s the story of the Filipinos as ‘mandirigma’ that was brought to life. It’s the representation of the relentless pursuit for excellence despite all the odds and challenges in basketball and in life—much like how LeBron lived on and off the court.
The shoes were full of details that paid homage to the similar narratives of LeBron and the country. The shoes were embellished with symbols that represent the Philippine terrain, as well as LeBron’s passion and drive to be the best to ever play the game.
Phrases such as “Mula Mandirigma sa Mandirigma” (From Warrior to Warrior) and “Para sa Kadakilaan” (For Greatness) were written in the shoes to exemplify the true Filipino warrior spirit. “For an international brand to make a shoe that’s patterned to the Filipino values, I think it’s one of a kind and it’s something to be proud of,” Bea added.
Being a female baller, Bea considered the phrase “Mula Mandirigma sa Mandirigma” as a battlecry for the Filipina ballers to continue their fight towards equality in the sport. “For us, it’s showing that girls can play ball, too, no matter the circumstances. Even if in the Philippines, basketball is predominantly a man’s sport. Us female ballers, we also have talent and we’re capable of being known internationally,” she exclaimed.
Bea walked the talk.
She led her team, coached by LA Tenorio to the championship of the media trial run tourney. Bea held her own defensively against the guys in the opposing team. She locked down whoever she switched to, proving she wasn’t weak link on D. On the offensive end, she came up big in the clutch, hitting big baskets to deliver the W.
Bea is a warrior—she has always been and will always be. And on that afternoon, she found the perfect basketball weapon for a ‘mandirigma’ like her.