Clare Castro’s hard work and perseverance paying off
Published on December 18, 2021

In sports, many believe height is might. Most people say that you can teach skills and intelligence, but you can’t teach height. Some would argue that someone tall already has an innate advantage in many disciplines.

A young Clare Castro would have said otherwise.

At an early age, Castro knew there was something distinct about her. Whether it was her glasses or noticeable growth spurt, her peers would ridicule her for being different.

“May nangbu-bully sa ‘kin kasi naka-salamin din ako nun. Di ko alam kung dahil sa height ko o nakasalamin ako kaya sila nangbu-bully,” said Castro.

It took her a while to get comfortable in her own skin. She decided to try sports to help her stay active as a child. She initially tried volleyball but ended up falling in love with a different sport: basketball.

Once she realized that she wanted to make the sport more than just a hobby, she joined her school’s women’s varsity team. It was in college where she flourished and turned into a player that didn’t just rely on height, but also had the right skills and basketball IQ.

Like many female athletes, she thought about her future in basketball. At the time, women’s basketball was just in the early stages of development and she had second doubts on what lies beyond her collegiate career.

She thought of quitting basketball at one point because she believed that there was no way she could play in a professional league here in the Philippines.

“Parang gusto ko nalang mag-aral lang, kasi yun yung may mapupuntahan ako eh,” she said.

However, she knew that leaving the sport entirely would be too difficult for her to handle. She had a mission, which was to maximize what her coaches had helped her develop. She knew she had to take her career as far as she can, even with all the uncertainties that come with being a female baller.

”Kung talagang nag-commit ka, wala ka nang kawala doon. Kailangan mo panindigan yun,” said Castro.

She decided to keep playing the sport that she loved, with a mentality that she was going to make the most of the opportunity no matter where it landed her.

It was through sports that she realized she could be her true self. She didn’t need to be uncertain about the future when she was on the floor. She could be the goofy Clare that is well-liked and adored. She could also get rid of the insecurities that have haunted her since her childhood.

“Tanggap ko na matangkad talaga ako. Kapag sinasabi nila na ‘ay ang tangkad mo,’ parang hindi na ako nahihiya,” said Castro. “Mas naging confident na ako nung tumagal.”

As she continued to develop her game, she got invited into the Gilas Women program and eventually became one of the national team’s centers with fellow mainstay Jack Animam. 

“I am very happy and honored, kasi ‘yun ‘yung pinakamataas na liga ng women’s. Sobrang overwhelming, di ko ma-explain,” said Castro. “Minsan siyempre maiisip mo na, deserve ko ba? Pero sabi nga nila coach na kaya ka nandito kasi mayroon kang pinakita na talent.”

In 2019, Castro helped the Philippines win its first gold in women’s 5-on-5 basketball at the Southeast Asian Games. She also captured a gold medal in the women’s 3×3 tournament with Afril Bernardino, Janine Pontejos, and Animam, making the country’s celebration a lot sweeter.

“Parang gusto ko sabihin sa buong mundo na, ‘nakita niyo yon? Nanalo kami, nag-gold kami. Kaya namin!’”

She also played a huge part in the recently concluded 2021 FIBA Asia Cup. Without Animam, Gilas Women relied on Castro as the team’s only legitimate center.

Today, Castro is grateful for all that she’s accomplished. She’s thankful for the opportunity to be part of the Philippine national team and continues to be humbled by the entire experience.

“Sobrang saya ko kasi nag-eenjoy ako, nakakapag-represent ako ng country ko. Siyempre nakaka-proud rin sa sarili na andito na ako ngayon.”