PLDT Inc. (PLDT) and its wireless unit Smart Communications Inc. (Smart) believe that sports contribute to nation-building and the values built by playing sports—sportsmanship, discipline and competitiveness—help Filipinos become better citizens.
The telco group—through the MVP Sports Foundation (MVPSF)—also invested millions of pesos in developing women’s teams and athletes among them Olympic gold medalist Hidilyn Diaz, World Cup-bound Filipinas football team, esports champion Smart Omega Empress, ace golfer Rianne Malixi, women badminton players under Smash Pilipinas and professional volleyball team PLDT High Speed Hitters.
“We are very proud of the women athletes in our roster. They have demonstrated their strength, resilience, and determination to win despite the many challenges that they face,” said Jude Turcuato, PLDT and Smart Head of Sports and MVPSF Executive Director.
“We want to enable and develop them to reach their fullest potential and represent not only the Group, but the Philippines, in the sports that they compete in,” Turcuato added.
For Smart Omega Empress roamer and team captain Mary “Meraaay” Vivero, the struggle was real when she first entered the male-dominated esports industry.
“The pressure was immense. While people praised us for being able to go head-to-head against male professional players, people expected a lot from us, especially since we were female players,” Vivero said. “That was why we really pursued to be the best, not only in the female leagues, but also in regular tournaments.”
The 19-year-old esports athlete said that at first, she had a hard time looking for gamers who would take her seriously.
“It was hard to look for someone who would play with me outside of my squad. The game styles are different between males and females,” she said. “They also don’t trust me and what I can bring to the game. I was also shy to approach them before. Now, that has changed. We can now play with anybody.”
She also observed that the industry is slowly accepting women players.
“It takes female players to empower and encourage each other,” she said. “We need to inspire each other, and ensure that we can create a safe and equal space for all, especially to those who want to show their potential as a woman esports athlete.”
PLDT High Speed Hitters open hitter Jules Samonte said that being able to play the sport gives her a great feeling.
“I am very grateful because not everyone gets to be in my position,” Samonte said. “Now that volleyball is so big in this country, there are many fans and supporters, it feels good to play for them.”
Samonte said that she looks up to tennis superstar Serena Williams.
“She’s very hardworking, very competitive, and possesses all the traits of a great athlete,” said the 24-year-old Samonte. “Whatever men athletes can do, we can also showcase the same talents with our own strength.”
Supporting women athletes is part of PLDT and Smart’s commitment to help the country attain the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal # 5: Achieve gender equality and empower women and girls.