From winning multiple championships in the UAAP, all the way up to the Spikers’ Turf, Cignal HD Spiker Rex Intal is one of the most decorated spikers in the country.
But unknown to many, Intal was actually a late bloomer in the sport. And that is because of one thing — stereotyping.
In the Philippines, there’s this norm that volleyball is a feminine sport. And that pretty much affected Intal’s involvement with volleyball in his early years.
All the teasing that he had to endure at such a young age made it hard for him to embrace the sport fully.
“Ako, nag-start ako late na. Iba kasi ‘yung pagka-introduce sa akin nung sport. I grew up thinking na volleyball was feminine, pang girls lang talaga ‘yung sport. And meron kasi sa school namin growing up talaga… May stereotype talaga na lahat ng naglalaro ng volleyball, they were gay,” shared the 25-year-old Intal in vodcast Volleyball DNA.
“Siyempre mga bata nangaasar, maraming ganun. For me, mali ‘yun. Growing up nga, ganun ‘yung pag-iisip ko na pambabae ‘yung sport. Kaya ako naging hesitant at first joining the volleyball team, kasi akala ko ‘yun nga pambabae ‘yung sport.”
It was only when he got to the UAAP that he finally got the chance to look at things from a different perspective.
Through that, the brother of basketball player JC Intal finally took the sport with open arms.
“Nung sumali na ako sa UAAP, doon ko nakita ‘yung mga high school players — sila Kim Relcopan, Edward Camposano. Grabe nung nakita ko ‘yung UE team, talaga sila ‘yung nagsabi na hindi, hindi pambabae ‘tong sport na ‘to,” Intal said.
“Doon ko nakita ‘yung masculinity, ‘yung power. Doon ko nakita ‘yung pinagkaiba ng men’s volleyball.”
With the Philippine Men’s National Volleyball Team’s recent success in the Southeast Asian Games, the Ateneo product hopes that more and more kids can finally pursue the sport without hesitation.
Stereotyping in the sport is rampant up to this day and it has hindered so many athletes from pursuing what they love.
With that, Intal aspires that one day, the next generation can eventually look at the sport as equal to others.
“Slowly nawala na ‘yung parang thinking ko na pambabae ‘yung sport. Nawala na rin ‘yung parang thinking na ‘Ay, baka tawagin kang bakla’. Actually, wala na akong pakialam doon kahit tawagin niyong bakla dahil naglalaro ako nung sport,” bared the 6-foot-3 middle blocker.
“Wala akong pakialam kasi wala naman akong problema doon, kasi some of my closest friends now are gay and proud ako na kaibigan ko sila kasi wala namang pinagkaiba ‘yun e. It doesn’t matter kung bakla or not, volleyball talaga, pinagkaiba lang niyan is preparation mo sa laro.”