MICHELE GUMABAO: It’s not just swag, it’s a statement

Mark Escarlote on Jun 10, 2020 05:33 PM
MICHELE GUMABAO: It’s not just swag, it’s a statement
(Photo: Arvin Lim)

Before her queenly poise and grace, Michele Gumabao was known for one particular characteristic – her swag.

Back in her days with De La Salle University, she would always get under the skin of her rivals with her on-court antics.

Gumabao had a deep arsenal to tick off her opponents: staredowns, shrugs, head shakes and her maddening grin.  

It was what the Lady Spikers' fans loved about her. For the supporters of other teams, it was what they loved to hate about Gumabao.

But what she did inside the court during her four-year stay with the Ramil De Jesus-mentored squad was not just about playing psywar, for Gumabao she needed every ounce of that swag to build her confidence.

She wanted to prove her doubters and non-believers wrong and give them something extra.

A statement.          

“I wasn’t recruited. I wasn’t scouted by anybody,” said Gumabao during her Kamustahan session on Creamline’s Facebook page.

“I tried out in La Salle because I wanted to go to La Salle. I wanted to study in La Salle but I never dreamt of becoming a volleyball player,” added the School of the Holy Spirit-QC product.

Gumabao, whose sister Kat also played for the Lady Spikers in the mid-2000s, debuted in the UAAP in Season 72.

The then defending champion Lady Spikers were stacked with veteran stars in Jacq Alarca, Paneng Mercado, Cha Cruz and Mel Gohing along with prized rookies Aby Marano and Joanne Siy.

Gumabao’s rookie season wasn’t as impressive as her batchmates. She didn’t get much playing time while Siy and Marano joined the starting line-up.

Gumabao knew she wasn’t as good as them that time skills-wise.

“I knew back then ‘yung skills ko (di mataas ang level). 'Yung skills ko back then noong nag-uumpisa ako it isn’t how it is now,” said the Cool Smashers stalwart. “Kumbaga lahat ng natutunan ko sa La Salle, lahat ng itinuro sa akin nina coach, nang mga seniors ko at that time, mga teammates ko, that made who I am as a volleyball player.”

“’Yun talaga ang nagbigay sa akin ng lakas ng loob para maglaro.”

Season 73 was Gumabao’s breakout year.

Consistently included in the starting rotation, Gumabao would rack up points to back Alarca, Mercado, Cruz and Marano.

Aside from contributing points and wreaking havoc with her solid net defense, Gumabao provided energy and swag to DLSU.

With her improved game, Gumabao helped the Lady Spikers reclaim the title they lost the season before and also bagged the Best Blocker award.

She would win it again the following season while powering DLSU to a back-to-back reign.

In Season 75, Gumabao won the Finals Most Valuable Player award as the Lady Spikers completed a three-peat. She decided to forego her last playing year.   

Looking back, she knew she went through a lot.

“Naaalala ko nung first time akong maglaro, my debut game in the UAAP. Sobrang dami kong bashers and to think wala pa masyado o hindi pa sikat ng social media nun pero ang dami ko nang bashers,” recalled Gumabao. “Kesyo saan daw ako nanggaling o di raw ako magaling. I look weird playing volleyball or bakit ako starter. So many questions, so many doubters, so many haters.”

“Kaya siguro I had so much to prove when I started playing volleyball noong college kaya siguro ako ganoon maglaro. Very passionate, very mayabang, maangaas. Kasi ang dami mong paghuhugutan,” she continued.

Gumabao admitted that she has mellowed down since then.

“Natuto akong mag-slowdown ng kaunti sa mga celebration but of course same effort, same level of play. It’s not all physical, it’s now more on mental ngayon as you get older,” she said.

But most of the time people would still tell her that they want to see the college Michele Gumabao brand of play.

“Ang daming nagsasabi sa akin nito na they miss the swag, they miss the angas sa loob ng court. I do admit I was different nu’ng college days ko. Medyo may pinapatunayan si ate nu’ng college eh,” said Gumabao.

 

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Follow this writer on Twitter, @fromtheriles

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