Aside from graduating from a double degree in BS Management Engineering and AB Communications, as well as a minor in Development Management from Ateneo de Manila University, Gretchen Ho was one of the most valuable players of the Ateneo Lady Eagles during her time at the university. Today, she continues to power through her career by being an anchor, segment host, and field reporter for numerous ABS-CBN News and Current Affairs programs.
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As someone working in the media industry and made a name for yourself in volleyball, what have you noticed about being a woman in both these fields?
Gretchen: As a volleyball player, one thing we constantly faced was boys watching volleyball for our bodies, while we’re wearing tight jerseys and short shorts. Parang kailangan namin yung mindset na, "Okay, hanggang tingin ka lang naman, eh," kasi we can't do anything about our jerseys. We just had to tune out the guys hitting on us or staring at us. And I took those habits with me when crossing over to media. I don't like it victim shaming or when people blame us for what we wear. I wear my clothes because it fits my personality and my preferences, not because I want to attract people. And I counter the negativity and shaming by being wholesome, showing respect for myself, and not tolerating any kind of sexual harassment.
On the other hand, I think sports empower women all over. Just showing that women have the strength it takes to pursue these types of sports and be given a platform on TV to showcase their talent, it's a big thing for us to know that you we are valued for what we can do. Also, the spotlight given to us is important and influential to a lot of kids nowadays. When you see a volleyball player and when you see a basketball player, mas madalas sabihin ng parents, "Oh, anak , gusto kita maging ganyan ah, i-follow mo yung mga babaeng volleyball player.” We’re regarded as role models, and that responsibility goes hand in hand with the opportunity to reach out to young women who want to discover who they are and build their character through sports. And for me, being a woman who got into the sporting field broadcasting is also a big statement. I'm very proud of myself for being able to transition in an industry men usually dominate.
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Besides the influence that you have with your career, are there ways that you feel that you like to do to influence or empower women?
G: I call myself a “Woman in Action” because I’m doing so many things. Aside from sports and entertainment, I also have advocacies where I encourage people to pursue what they want. The phrase “Woman in Action” encompasses everything I am. It’s not just because I love playing sports, but also because I love traveling and being constantly in motion.
Social media helps me motivate myself. For example, I don’t post a workout video without actually doing it first. I bridge the gap between my “image” and what I do in real life by being a woman in action. I tell myself, ‘Get to work, stop talking, and make it happen.’ And through that mantra, I unknowingly inspire so many women; I only become aware of it when they send me messages like, “Ate I’m so inspired by you being a woman in action,” “You do so many things with your time,” and “You have so much will power to do this and that.” That’s one of my proudest moments. By living out what I am saying, I talk less now and let my actions be an example.
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Did any particular women inspire you to do what you do, career-wise?
G: When I was young, probably my ates in volleyball. I was inspired by them when I first saw them training. When I tried out, I saw them and I was like, "Wow, I want to be like these girls, they're so cool.” They were rolling around the court, playing with so much spunk. When I got older, my mom became my role model. She's my idol because she is so principled as a woman. She always adheres to her values, and that's very important for her, for us to have integrity, for us to always be considerate of other people. She is so particular and keen on raising us with the right character and the right values. And now as an adult, I would probably say that I idolize superhero women that I watch on screen like Angelina Jolie. Apart from being a great actress and supporting her advocacies, she's also strong and independent. She's a total package. I also love Gal Gadot in “Wonder Woman.” Gadot as an actress and as her iconic superhero character are ideals to aspire for. And she's so beautiful and articulate. Locally, I love Angel Aquino because she’s super down to earth. I worked with her once for an ABS-CBN event. She was so graceful, elegant, and simple. And Jodi Sta. Maria also, she's like fine wine that gets even more beautiful as time passes. And her character is honed by her experiences and she shares her wisdom with so many people online. I love how these women handle themselves in public like they're just very simple but they also have depth. They treat everyone with respect and they're very humble.
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Growing up, were there specific moments in your life that really shaped the way you saw women and yourself?
G: I’m an only girl with three brothers, so growing up, I used to play basketball, pellet guns, and military base with them. I hated Barbie dolls and wearing dresses. I was boyish, but I felt that if my brothers can do it, then why can't I? There's nothing in me that's different from them. Everything they did, I would do and I would show them that hindi ako magpapatalo. I didn’t let them bully me and make me feel inferior–ganun ako, eh, palaban talaga. And I carry that strength with me everywhere I go, from volleyball to the media world. Just because I can be one of the boys doesn't mean I'm not a girl. Gusto ko yung walang arte, yung simple lang, without drama. I always keep in touch with my feminine side, but it is okay if people perceive me as boyish. This is how I was brought up and I'm proud of it.
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If you have a message to give to your female fans, what would you tell them?
G: Cross your boundaries because you'll never know what you'll find on the other side. I've transitioned from one job to another; from being a volleyball player to being a host, to being a newscaster and a model. I've done so many things and each step has made me discover more about myself. I feel like experience has made me stronger, and I didn't start out this way. I was very shy, a little bit close-minded, and I felt like I was set for the corporate world. I never thought that I could be a host, so I'm shocking myself right now, doing things I never thought that I would be doing every single day. It's okay to look stupid or funny, because the experiences and learning you get every step of the way are worth it. In the end, everything will just lead you closer to who you want to be, so don’t be afraid to go beyond yourself.
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Banner image by Erika Ocampo | Photographs by Vyn Radovan | Shot on location at Casa Marcos S 08, Il Terrazzo, Sct. Madrinan Cor, Tomas Morato, Quezon City | Special thanks to Marcie Linao of Switch Collab