When a person thinks about their identity, they usually think about their personality, friends, family, hobbies, etc. Growing up, my identity was associated with many of these but only loosely with my culture. I was born in New York, and many of my values were in line with and influenced by American traditions. Both of my parents are from the Philippines, making me 100% Filipino, but this was never central to my identity. This was true up until I joined the Philippine national softball team in 2017. I was granted dual-citizenship; I was now a citizen in both the United States and the Philippines. But not only did my citizenship status change, my whole identity did, including my values, perspectives and love for the game of softball.
When the news broke that softball was put back into the 2020 Olympics, my dad suggested a crazy idea: Try out for the Philippine national team. I didn’t think he was serious and to be frank, I didn’t think it was possible for me to even make it. Fast-forward to today, and I have played in eight tournaments with the team including the World Championships, the Asian Games, the Asian Championships (in which we earned a silver medal) and the Asia-Oceania Olympic Qualifier.
I have traveled across the world to numerous countries such as the Philippines, Japan, Taiwan, China and Indonesia. My pride for the team and the country grew immensely within such a short amount of time. I fell in love with softball all over again. Being able to compete for my home country at the highest level of softball is simply a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. I am grateful for my dad influencing me to pursue this crazy dream, and I am more than grateful for the Philippines and the national team for giving me endless opportunities.
So yes, my main purpose for playing on the Philippine national softball team was to qualify for the 2020 Olympics. Unfortunately, we fell short of that goal this past September in the Asia-Oceania Olympic Qualifier in Shanghai, China. But even though we didn’t qualify, in my mind, I am still winning.
I am winning because I was able to compete on a stage against future Olympians and learn from the very best in the game. I am winning because we were able to grow and impact the game of softball in the Philippines for future generations. I am winning because our team put the Philippines on the map as one of the best teams in the world within just a few years. Lastly, I am winning because I have overwhelming gratitude, love, passion and pride from where I come from.
Being on the national team has showed me what true heart looks like, what real work ethic is and what real love for the game looks like. My teammates exemplified this heart, work ethic and love every day we stepped on the field. They impacted me in ways they don’t even know about. They made me realize how much I love the game again and how much I can work towards.
Being Filipino is now central to my identity. My values, perspectives and love for softball are shaped the way they are now because of my opportunities that the Philippine national team gave me. I will forever represent the Philippines no matter where I am, whether it is on or off the field.
Reese Guevarra is a Student Athlete on the UConn Softball team.