How UE’s Judith Abil uses her ‘Girl Awra’ persona to win in life

How UE’s Judith Abil uses her ‘Awra’ persona to win in life
"Tinawag rin akong Petra nung high school ako. Kasi nung first year ako, ginagaya ko yung Petrang Kabayo na palabas ni Vice Ganda kaya Petra yung nasanay na tawag sa’kin!"

If you love local showbiz and you’ve caught a recent episode of primetime series Ang Probinsyano or the comedy film The Super Parental Guardians, you might have found yourself slightly fixating on one of the child actors stealing the show. His name is McNeal Briguela or Awra, a 13-year-old who rose to popularity after showcasing his stupendous acting chops in a viral video, eventually launching him to where he is now. It’s also the same actor the UE Lady Warriors are calling their, yes, outside hitter Judith Abil.

It all started one night when an “insomniac” Abil and some of her teammates went live on Facebook for the fans for the first time. Abil became her usual funny girl self, answering to her teammates’ request to copy Awra’s signature facial expression. Obliging, she then raised her left brow, wrinkled her nose, and pouted her lips, so mabenta it inevitably incited laughter among her teammates-turned-friends and the rest of the world watching.

“Ginagaya ko si Awra, ayun nasanay! Kapag may nagko-comment nag-ha-“Hi” kami tapos yun nag-a-Awra-Awra,” she narrates with a titter.

The funny girl
Abil is the usual suspect when you ask UE team captain Shaya Adorador who the class joker is on the squad. Her, and setter Roselle Baliton, actually. It’s a truth Abil herself is almost reluctant but too charming to admit when we corner her.

“’Pag kasama ko talaga mga teammates ko, nag-e-enjoy lang talaga ako kaya ako nagpapatawa,” she explains. Although, “Mahiyaan po talaga ako pag ako lang, kapag kasama ko ka-teammate ko, hindi po.”

Abil at home is a contrast to her alter ego on Facebook Live. Says the Iligan native who is the bunso in the family, she is just emulating her father’s comedic ways.

“Pag sa family ko, matahimik lang ako pero kapag kasama ko mga pinsan ko’t Ate ko makulit ako. Ngayon lumabas na lang talaga yung kakulitan ko. Elementary pa lang sobrang kulit ko na, hindi ko alam bakit!”

Her kakulitan as an advantage
It’s still the same case when it comes to Abil being the resident prankster in the group. Believe her when she says, “Kahit ganito ako, ako pa minsan yung nang-bu-bully sa mga classmates ko!” She follows it with a laugh saying it’s her way of making the people around her crack up, “Sasabihin nila maldita daw ako. Minsan kasi, ‘pag trip ko talaga magmaldita, minamalditahan ko talaga sila. Tapos tatawanan ko nalang sila. Tapos sasabihin nila, ‘Seryoso ka ba, Ate o hindi?’ ‘Joke ko lang yun!’ sasabihin ko.”

Abil’s athleticism has been there since her youth. It can also be her kakulitan that led her to volleyball; being a “maliksi” kid, she easily got into her high school’s varsity volleyball team (Iligan City National High School Spartans). She caught the eye of Coach Francis Vicente at the Palarong Pambansa during her senior year. What pushed her to go on a solo adventure in the city? Economics. Abil’s older sister also played varsity for a school in Cebu, and got through tertiary school as a scholar.

Abil’s story counts as the usual UAAP-star-from-the-province narrative—until you hear the rest of it.

“Nung second year ako, may time na mag-i-stop na ‘ko ng volleyball kasi may nangyari sa family ko. (Naapektuhan) kasi kami ng typhoon (Pablo) nung 2012,” recounts Abil whose father and mother work as a driver and sales clerk, respectively.

“So lahat ng gamit namin nawala. Lahat ng pang-training ko kasama pati sapatos. Sabi ko sa Ate ko, ‘Ayoko nang mag-volleyball kasi nahiya na rin ako tapos yung Ate ko nung taga-push. Gusto nya makatulong kami sa parents namin para iwas na rin sakit sa ulo kasi nga mahal yung tuition ngayon.”

The same typhoon forced Abil’s family to evacuate their first residence in Santiago, Bayug Island facing the bay, to Sta. Elena, located a little farther from the coastline.

Life as a student-athlete
Now on her third year in the UAAP, Abil has been making her presence more felt on the court. She’s got those powerful spikes coming to help keep the Warriors afloat in this Round 1 struggle. (The squad is still at 0-4.) Despite this, the spry student-athlete remains to be Recto’s pillar especially having only won one UAAP game throughout her career so far.

For Abil, however, the losses haven’t at all diminished the glamor of playing in the UAAP that attracted her to sign up in the first place.

“Sa province po kasi, sobrang laki talaga ng pangalan na UAAP. Nung una payag yung Papa ko na hindi ako sa Iligan mag-college pero kailangan sa Cebu lang kasi andun yung Ate ko. Pero ‘yun nadala nang pakiusap ng Ate ko yung Papa ko kaya napapayag din ako na mag-aral at maglaro sa Maynila.”

Hence, Abil had to make unavoidable sacrifices. She admits being extra close to her family back in Iligan, which then caused her to feel down cast in her first months at UE.

“Sobrang hirap. Homesick ako nung first week hanggang san aka-adjust. Lagi rin kaming wala sa bahay nung high school varsty ako kasi lagi kaming may out of town na laro. Napupunta kaming Cebu o Davao, kaya nasasanay na din. Pero nung napunta dito sobrang iba.  Nung first week, sobrang hirap. iyak-iyak kami nun kasi yung paggising ko dito, ‘Oh, ano,  na yung kakain natin?’ Kami sa team pa nag-iisip kung ano kakainin namin.”

Abil has pretty much adjusted ever since special thanks to WattPad, frequent three-way calls with her Ate in Cebu and her pops in Iligan, and her then-seniors at UE who, having shared the same plight as promdi athletes, would advise her to become stronger in her situation. She says a special mention to the Abilnatics tweeting her with praises and love. Every since, Abil gets a chance to return home to her family at least twice a year. The latter, meanwhile, are yet to watch her live.

“For me, lahat naman to be successful kailangan talaga mag-sacrifice kahit yung makasama yung family mo. Yung pag naiisip ko na kapag binalik yung araw na papipiliin ako na mag-Maynila or doon lang sa’min still pipiliin ko pa ring mag-Maynila. Kailangan talaga mag-sacrifice sa lahat ng oras.”

No drama for Abil, who her goals pretty much in check—that is, to graduate with her Business Management degree, and then, if ever, pursue Culinary Arts. And in case volleyball becomes a more reliable career for her after college, the aspiring baker will try to simultaneously focus on both culinary school and the semipros.

The girl behind the laughs
As some class clowns go, Abil has these heart-tugging stories behind all the glee. And if you get to hang out with her more, you’d discover this more sensitive of her hiding.

“Kapag sa sarili ko talaga, emosyonal talaga ‘ko. Sa physical tingnan, matigas. Pero sa loob-loob ko talaga, naiiyak din ako. Saka lang ako umiiyak talaga kapag mag-isa lang ako talaga. Takot akong makita yung kahinaan ko, parang ganun,” she says bashfully.

“’Di ako sanay na mag-share nang nakaka-emosyonal na stories, laging happy lang.”

That’s why you’ll never get to see Abil ever with a frown on the court, but more of her wide beam. Or, her silly dances. (She idolizes Vice Ganda in comedy, and looks up to Vhong Navarro in terms of dancing.) Still, she’s best at keeping her chucklesome persona inside once she slips into her jersey and take on a game. She carries this same level of concentration and dedication as she helps the Warriors rise from the ashes and on to that much-coveted final four spot. (They last won a title in Season 35.)

“Outside the court, makulit ako. Pero kapag laro yan, laro. Seryoso. Oo, enjoy, with smile pero yung utak naka-focus pa rin,” she declares. “Enjoy the game, ganun!”

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