When living in the Philippines they’d never played volleyball. For them, the game didn’t exist outside the walls of college and university institutions.
St. Augustine School has six Filipino players between the girls’ senior and JV teams, Henny Derepite, Win-Anne Nepomuceno, Christene Nibungco, Chrischelle Nibungco, Camille Casipit and Jamelle Acosta who are helping to change the atmosphere on the court and within the school.
In the Philippines, gym classes for high school and lower grades were reserved for fitness and exercise and students’ game of choice was basketball.
“I didn’t play volleyball in the Philippines, I didn’t know it was existing,” said Derepite.
Senior girls’ coach Darren Josephison says the game is something the girls picked up after leaving the Philippines, and that it took a while to convince the seemingly shy students to join in.
The Filipino boys were quicker to adjust but traditional roles seemed to keep the girls closer to home, he mused.
“It doesn’t seem to be the norm to see them on other teams,” said Josephison, referring to St. Augustine’s visits to other towns for games. There are many Filipino students but not as many partaking in sports activities.
The girls agree when they first started attending St. Augustine, they mostly kept to themselves or other Filipino students. “I didn’t talk to people. I didn’t talk to white people because I thought they would judge me,” said Derepite.
However, it wasn’t the boys’ participation that convinced them to step onto the court. The girls joked their involvement is all about girl power “I don’t think the boys influenced me,” said Derepite.
Josephison believes the shyness of the girls came from culture shock and language barriers rather than their personalities. “They can be very boisterous . . . They just bring such a community spirit.”
As the girls become more active and involved, they shed their isolated exterior. “We became more out there, we’re not that shy girl anymore,” said Acosta.
“But we still are, we’re still the same,” Christene Nibungco added.
Joining the volleyball teams also helped the girls with their English skills because it forces them to socialize with other students who couldn’t speak Tagalog.
Derepite also had the idea to teach the other players Tagalog words to use on the court. “Because we played a French school. Mr. J said to confuse them (any opposing team) we should talk in Tagalog to confuse them so they don’t know what we’re doing.”
Along with adding strategy to games it also served as a team building exercise.
“It was funny,” joked Nepomuceno, referring to the St. Augustine’s student’s English accent that came attached with the words.
Because they became so used to hearing the language with that accent on the court, the Filipino girls realized they started dropping their accent during the games too.
St. Augustine runs a highly competitive volleyball program and the girls agree playing for the Queens has vastly improved their skills on the court. “When we first started playing, we could just pass,” said Derepite.
“We didn’t know about setting,” Nepomuceno added with a laugh. “I just improved on everything.”
Volleyball brought out the girls’ spirit and competitiveness.
“I like to play hard and put heart into the game,” said Chrischelle Nibungco.
“It’s just fun,” Casipit added.
For some girls volleyball is the only sport they play at the school. “I love volleyball. I think the thing I love about it is the sport itself. It makes me happy,” said Derepite.