Being a student-athlete is no easy feat. Juggling school requirements, training rigorously, making time for friends and family, and striking the perfect balance can prove to be difficult. Keeping their lives private has also become a herculean task as their lives have become more accessible through social media and they are further catapulted into superstar status due to their televised games and various endorsements. Not many are given the opportunity to inspire others the way these four student-athletes have and now we finally get to take a peek into their showbiz lives as we talked to them about their expectations and experiences of fame.
Rex Intal, Ateneo de Manila Men’s Volleyball Team
Being put under the limelight was something Rex Intal never expected. Intal believes the support grew due to the rise of volleyball and attributes it to the women’s collegiate division of the UAAP. “[During] first year, after our game[s], we’d just leave the arena and just go home. But right now, after a UAAP game, lalo na kapag final four game, mahihirapan ka talaga lumabas sa arena (especially if it’s a final four game, you’ll really have a hard time exiting the arena),” he shares. He treats his endorsements and the support he’s been receiving from fans as a blessing.
Intal never thought that social media would become a tool for him to use as a brand ambassador for several products. While he says he’s had his fair share of good times with social media, being careful with his words and actions in public and online is something the volleyball player has learned through the years. He believes that it’s important to filter what he shares and that some aspects of his life must be kept private. With that said, he’s learned to manage criticism on social media, saying, “[Y]ou have to accept [judgment] and sometimes you have to take in what’s important.”
Intal understands that his life won’t be the same after he graduates, but he is ready for it. “[I]’m prepared naman to do things aside from volleyball or endorsements, or not being known,” he shares. He expresses that for now, he just wants to make the most out of his last year of playing volleyball and college. “Right now, I don’t have a definite plan but I’m just preparing myself for what’s gonna happen next and I just pray to God to guide me always,” he says.
Bea de Leon, Ateneo de Manila Women’s Volleyball Team
It’s become normal for Bea de Leon to receive tons of notifications on her social media accounts. Sometimes, her supporters even know exactly where she is or who she’s with. While she admits that being a public figure can be overwhelming, in the greater scheme of things, de Leon is grateful. “When you’re playing and they’re there screaming for you naman, it gives you so much energy and passion that it really drives you to play better,” she shares.
When asked if she has been offered endorsement deals, she tells us about her experience shooting her first TV commercial for Del Monte Fit N’ Right. Attempting to act and not being trained to do so proved to be a challenge for her. She’s found that the work that comes with these commitments are no joke. “[I]t’s a new thing for me, a new perspective into things,” she explains. While de Leon has no concrete plans on pursuing a career in the entertainment industry, it expresses that she is keeping her options open.
De Leon says that her success and that of her team still feels surreal, she thanks the Ateneo community for all the support they’ve given them. “[T]hey make us feel like kahit ano kaya rin naming lagpasan (we can get through anything) with them there,” she says.
Aaron Black, Ateneo de Manila Men’s Basketball Team
Aaron Black’s growing fame has given rise to a lot of unexpected attention from fans and benefits from various enterprises. When it comes to admirers who comment on his posts or tweet him, he laughs while saying, “At first it was weird but it’s just nice to know that we have a good fanbase.” Furthermore, Black shares how companies have also approached him to promote their products. He had a three or four-hour photoshoot for Gatorade and also walked down a runway for Nike’s recently released Olympic line. “I know that there’s a lot of things to live up to, to keep those endorsements, but I guess just seeing the hard work pay off is the highlight,” he says.
Thankfully, these endorsements don’t interfere as much during the season as the companies who approach him are aware of his busy schedule. When asked if he has any plans of trying his luck at showbiz after college, the rising basketball star claims that he is still distant from celebrity status and would rather enter the Philippine Basketball Association instead. “I don’t think I’m at that point yet to be able to do [showbiz]. I think I have a lot of work ahead of me, [when it comes to] basketball, to be able [reach my goal],” he says.
Black says he still tries to keep a part of his life private as he keeps what he shares on social media, specifically on Snapchat, only visible to his group of friends. “I guess I just try to be nice and to have a relationship with the fans but not to the point that you know, I’d expose my private life, my privacy,” he shares.
Thirdy Ravena, Ateneo de Manila Men’s Basketball Team
Although he has dabbled with endorsements from Nike and Milo, Thirdy Ravena perceives himself as someone ordinary. “I don’t think of myself as famous and I think I’m just normal. I’m just playing basketball and I’m doing what I love,” he explains. He goes on to say how he believes that these opportunities, born from his passion for basketball, generate a sense of accomplishment. Ravena is adamant that with his profession you “just have to be yourself, you just have to play your game, you just have to keep working hard.”
“To be honest, I kinda don’t have a social life naman like that’s like the tradeoff for me ‘cause basketball takes up so much time already,” he shares. He goes on to say that his six hours of training adds to his academics and other extracurricular activities, so he sometimes overlooks fan mail especially since he is not used to responding to any.
Ravena shares that while it’s possible for him to enter the entertainment industry, he is still making a comeback from a yearlong absence and is currently devoting all efforts to his return to basketball and his academics.
Riding the wave
As seen from Intal, de Leon, Black, and Ravena, whose sentiments represent only a fraction of those from the pantheon of Atenean student-athletes, playing sports is not only a matter of physical strength and mental capability. It also entails finding one’s center of gravity as they are thrust into a sea of often unwarranted attention. Fortunately, the long and arduous road ahead of them is paved with bright lights and adoration from many fans who cheer them on every step of the way.