Why looking at his throwback photos always gives Ateneo’s Rex Intal the giggles

Barry Viloria on Jan 26, 2017 04:14 PM
Throwback photos always give Ateneo's Rex Intal the giggles
Back in his youth, the heartthrob called volleyball “a feminine sport.” He recalls here—complete with before-and-after photos—how he changed his mind. (Photos courtesy of Intal)

Nowadays, you don’t just refer to Rex Intal as the younger brother of Phoenix Fuel Masters player JC Intal. Rex has long left his older bro’s shadow, with both being varsity athletes at Ateneo as the only point of comparison. (JC, of course, was an Ateneo Blue Eagle and one-time UAAP champ way back.)

The name “Rex Intal” now speaks as an entirely different identity—a two-time UAAP men’s volleyball champion, national team member, media personality, endorser, and online influencer with hundreds of thousands of followers on Instagram and Twitter combined. We catch up with him a few days before Season 79 (his last) kicks off, teasing him about his new rep as a certified hard court heartthrob.

“I don’t know how to react whenever people call me one,“ Intal, who stands at 6'4", laughs. “Kasi I perceive myself as a very stressed-out-looking college student but still I am very thankful to my fans!”

Intal’s journey as a volleyball player has been going on for a while now. Having played basketball in his youth, he initially dismissed volleyball as “a very feminine sport.” Joining the CAT as a requirement back in high school would force him into applying for the volleyball varsity, as the program conveniently exempted student-athletes.

“Aaminin ko. I grew up very distant from volleyball.. I don’t know, maybe because the environment I was around in, puro basketball lang nilalaro,” he explains.

“Maybe if Rex now met Rex in grade school or early high school, at first, tatawanan niya ako because naging volleyball player ako. But maybe because of the awareness of the sport or the exposure din, past Rex would understand na volleyball is not a feminine sport at all. Men's volleyball is more explosive and fast-paced, and it's mostly about strength and core power. And then ill brag to him na I became a UAAP champion and a Philippine team member!” he adds with a laugh.

Feeling reminiscent, Intal proceeds to show us his #throwback photos. He has gathered them from his Twitter fans online who have previously tagged him on their posts. He admits, recalling his younger and, yes, scrawnier days as a high school athlete always gets him cracking up.

“On the left, I was around 17 at my pre-puberty stage,” he abruptly breaks with a “Wow!” and then laughter.

“On the right, I was around 21. The pictures give me a little giggle because of my physical appearance before and also because—well, I guess it is safe to say—of the vast improvement not only aesthetically, but also skills-wise in volleyball.”

Intal’s view on the sport has since changed. Very much, if you ask him.

“Volleyball is really, really, really cool, fun, and exciting. It's also my stress-reliever!” he says, and then jokes. “For example, I get annoyed with someone, I’ll just think na sya yung volleyball then I’ll spike it hard. Kidding!”

If at all, it also reminds him of his basketball dreams.

“Spiking gives me the feeling of dunking a basketball. All the excitement, adrenaline, and hype are there when I do my favorite thing to do—dunk a ball in-game! And i feel the exact same way when I spike a volleyball!”

Right now, Intal keeps busy as he takes on his last playing year. He and the team just finished their “productive” training in Thailand where they went up against the country’s “best club teams.” It’s his last semester of having to train for seven to eight hours everyday. It’s also going to be his last time to don the number 11 in blue-and-white, calling Ateneo his “home” for the past 17 years. And like how graduating student-athletes promise themselves before the Pomp and Circumstance goes blaring, he wants his last hoorah to be a three-peat.

“ I want to live as a UAAP champion for the rest of my life!” Intal says.
 
“So, now I only feel two things. Either I can’t wait to leave the team or I don’t want to leave the team yet. I can’t wait to leave because I’ll have more time for my family, friends, and my special someone, and to do the things I want to do with my life outside of volleyball! But I don’t want to leave the team yet because I’ll miss Coach Oliver Almadro, my friends sa team, and wearing an Ateneo jersey!”

As to where things will take him after college volleyball? The BFA Information Design senior has some commendable artistic skills up his sleeve and a friendly personality to boot, and so, yes, we’re not that worried.

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