Camille Nolasco looked nervous. On the court, you won’t see this side of the teenager. It’s all about the fiery 3s, the crisp passes, and the poised dribbling when she has the ball in her hands.
But off it, Camille can be a bit shy. On this particular Saturday, her shyness level was through the roof. That’s what usually happens when you’re around your basketball heroes.
Camille walked over to Christiana Dimaunahan of the NU Lady Bulldogs and asked for a photograph with her. This wasn’t some random, chance meeting at a mall. Camille and Christiana, two of the future of Philippine women’s basketball, were in the same room because of something special happening that day—an ultra rare occurence where women’s basketball is the main thing. It’s TITAN’s first-ever women’s basketball invitational tournament.
“It’s not everyday women in sports are paid attention to, so having a whole-day league dedicated to female ballers and female ballers only feels surreal,” Christiana told SLAM Philippines. “After years of being on standby and honestly feeling hopeless from time to time, I am very thankful for TITAN. They have given us the chance to be on the hardcourt again.”
She made her debut as a Lady Bulldog in 2019, a whole lifetime of championing women’s hoops in the country ahead of her. Before her, a lot of names have been doing their part. They’re all in this same room, on the same court. It made Christiana nervous too.
“Seeing my idols Allana Lim, Mar Prado, Jhenn Angeles, Bettina Peñaflor, and Danica Jose gave me both nerves and joy. I had no idea legitimate women’s basketball stars and legends were to be part of the event before I got there. Playing against them and alongside ate Afril Bernardino felt like a dream come true,” Christiana said.
Allana and Afril are hoop legends, both UAAP champions who’ve had the honor of playing ball with “Pilipinas” on the front of their jerseys. Here they were, with the new generation of female hoopers, all coming together to make it official: we’re back. Or better yet, from the eyes of a vet like Afril: we’re still here.
“We’ve always struggled with a lack of support, but this event was definitely a step in the right direction. A lot of the female athletes in our country have been sidelined for over two years because of the pandemic, so we hope people continue to host events like these in the near future. And as a veteran, it was inspiring to play with the younger generation and see their passion for the sport,” said Afril.
Allana knows a thing or two about making history for women’s basketball in the Philippines. She was the first Filipina baller who played as an import in Southeast Asia. She’s the first MVP of the country’s first women’s pro league. Now, she’s one of the first hoopers to join TITAN’s inaugural tournament.
“Ito ‘yung support na hinahanap namin at sana magtuloy-tuloy. Another milestone achieved for women’s basketball,” said Allana. “The future is bright and in good hands, especially ‘yung bata na ‘yan na si Camille. At a very young age, ang ganda ng mga naging experience niya. Skills-wise, iba na ngayon mag-laro ang mga young cagers.”
From Camille to Christiana to Afril to Allana. Back to Camille. Different generations of women hoopers that want to be seen and heard, changing the conversation one tournament at a time. It happened on Saturday, the first of many. It was having nothing to having one whole day of basketball for Camille and the others. For Christiana, it’s the feeling of being hopeless to the feeling of being a champion again.
“It didn’t even have to be UAAP, WNCAA, or any other big collegiate league—all it had to be was a basketball court filled with heart and grit in the shape of strong women.”