Perhaps one of the volleyball players with the most formidable run in the collegiate courts of the University Athletic Association of the Philippines (UAAP) is former De La Salle University (DLSU) Lady Spiker Michele Gumabao, who, throughout her playing years, won three championships, was twice awarded as the Best Blocker, and bagged the MVP title in her senior year. Her athletic career has always been promising, and even after graduating in 2013, the Opposite Hitter joined various leagues and teams to pursue her “first love.”
But getting herself into sports was actually a twist of fate. “I never dreamed of playing volleyball. I never saw it as a career [when I was growing up,]” the 26-year-old beauty recalls. “I was very set on what kind of future I wanted to have—I wanted to be an accountant and be in the corporate world. So I passed the exams, and I got into the school I wanted.” That was until volleyball happened, which she describes as “destiny taking its course.”
While Michele found her passion for the game, one of the biggest hurdles that she had to overcome is the disapproval of her family. Michele narrates, “Volleyball took so much of my time; it took me away from from studying and from what I originally wanted. I didn’t graduate from accountancy because I had to shift courses. And, of course, my family thought that there’s no future in volleyball, so they were the ones who were telling me to quit.” But her dedication didn’t waver even without their support. “I put myself through college with scholarships, and I never relied on my parents for school, allowance, or decision-making.”
And because of that determination, Michele reaped the benefits of loving her sport and sticking by her choices. She became a disciplined athlete and an independent woman who keeps on quenching her thirst for everything that life has to offer. Luckily, Michele’s athletic career allowed her to expand her horizons in ways she never imagined before. “Volleyball became my ticket, and it opened so many doors for me to venture into other opportunities,” she says.
Those opportunities included her stint in the 2014 edition of Pinoy Big Brother and other hosting gigs. But Michele’s remarkable leap from being an athlete is joining Binibining Pilipinas in 2018. “Just like sports, I never considered myself to be qualified to join a beauty pageant,” she recalls with a laugh. But her decision to dip her toes into the world of pageantry was so much more than a whim, as what her critics would assume. “I’ve always been tomboy-ish as an athlete. And the stereotype of a pageant contestant is all makeup, high heels, and dresses. And nobody has ever bridged the gap between athletics and beauty pageants,” she says.
And as much negativity she got from the outside, Michele admits that she also experienced doubt internally. “It was a challenge, not just because other people didn’t see the beauty queen in me, but because I actually didn’t see it myself at first,” she confides. There’s even added pressure from the fact that she had to take a leave from playing volleyball. “As a career move, yes, I was diversifying, but I also knew that I had to be smart about where I put my chips because if it’s a bad investment, then I could go bankrupt.”
But it’s apparent that all of Michele’s risks have been worth it. She was crowned as Binibining Pilipinas-Globe, and was a Top 15 finalist in the Miss Globe pageant held in Albania back in October. She may not have brought home the crown (which was last won by Ann Colis in 2015,) but everything has been wisely charged to experience.
Having a conversation with Michele is just like talking to your own ate. And what we admire most about this multi-hyphenated wonder is her courage to spread her wings and soar to uncharted territories. Whether you’re a student who can’t seem to figure out what to take up in college or a young professional who’s feeling lost in your career, Michele’s journey can surely guide you through. And that’s exactly what she aims for. “It’s empowering to go through these struggles, and use everything that I’ve been through, everything that God has blessed me with to impact young people’s lives,” she finishes.
Photographed by Andrea Beldua
Creative Direction by Madel Asuncion
Art Direction by Mikka Caronan
Styled by Samantha Tidalgo
Makeup by Janell Capuchino
Hair by Darwin Sinel
Video By Spotlight Creatives
Michele wears: Silk top and pants by Dona Lim, Top and skirt by Plains & Prints
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