Behind the camera with Green Archers correspondent Martina Lao

While being a UAAP correspondent comes with a heavy list of responsibilities, they unearth a unique perspective for fans.

The 84th season of the UAAP saw momentous events unfold. Apart from the resumption of the sporting association’s tournaments were long-awaited rookie debuts, veteran returns, and team bubbles. And as plans for Season 84 began taking shape, the need for a representative to report on the tournaments and the athletes—courtside correspondents—had to be facilitated. Of these correspondents was Martina Lao (III, AB-OCM), One Sports’ appointed correspondent for the DLSU Green Archers.

Taking a chance

Lao discloses that in high school, to be a UAAP correspondent was a dream. “When I entered DLSU as a freshman, I still had hope and when there [were going to be] auditions, I’ll go for it,” Lao expresses. However, this was put on hold due to the COVID-19 pandemic, which put an abrupt stop to the world’s undertakings. Especially in the Philippines, activities such as sports were on hiatus for two years.

But as soon as a door opened up to her, Lao grabbed the opportunity. “Coming into it, I was really really nervous but then I’d always remind myself that it is something that I wanted for the longest time,” she shares, remembering where she started.

Having been into sports from an early age, she tried her hand at some by joining the national team for figure skating and being a member of the volleyball and hardcourt teams back in high school. Despite having meaningful experiences in various sports, she wanted to learn more. And while being a correspondent in the UAAP is not a sport per se, her athletic background developed her interest and knowledge in what she would and could be reporting about.

Getting the ball rolling

As a student of DLSU, Lao was aware of the responsibility that comes with representing a prestigious university. Being on camera during a live broadcast could rattle even the best personalities on TV. It was a tough task at first, but Lao recognizes that she was a part of a unique environment geared toward learning.

Part of the process of becoming a UAAP correspondent included attending pre-season workshops, learning the in’s-and-out’s of reporting, getting to know the team one is assigned to, and analyzing the dynamics of live coverage. Tough and overwhelming as it may seem, in a display of the animo, Lao did not back down from the challenge.

“I just went head-on with everything and learned as I went by,” she shares. The correspondent also mentions how being genuinely eager to learn and to be inquisitive have helped her navigate her new career. After all, this development plays a large part in anyone’s improvement—whether it be learning about a sport, its athletes, and the teams.

But lapses are also part of the journey. Lao was especially worried about the outcome of her errors when reporting live, but she says that her mentors reassured her. “They always tell me, ‘Don’t criticize yourself too much,’ because sometimes you make a mistake and you think it’s so bad. But when you watch the replay, it’s not even as bad as you thought it was,” she stresses.

For her, her mentors play a crucial part in her career, as they make sure to guide her, to give her the best advice, and even to help shape her for the job ahead. “I always cross-check information and they correct me when I’m wrong,” she mentions.

With this support system, Lao was able to create a healthier mindset, one that does not allow her errors to prevent her from thriving. And after a season with the Green Archers, Lao has come out as a role model correspondent.

Dealing with the crowd

During Season 84’s opening, the UAAP opted for games to be played behind closed doors, prioritizing the health and safety of all participating teams. According to Lao, this setup sort of became more at ease. “When the season started, diba wala pang mga spectators…I was able to read my reports and it was very peaceful. I had no distractions at all,” she shares.

(When the season started, there were barely any spectators…)

But when the league finally welcomed fans to watch games on April 5, a jam-packed arena was seen in DLSU’s second round match against archrivals ADMU Blue Eagles—requiring Lao to massively and instantly readjust to the new environment.

As expected of her, Lao modified her preparation routine, adapting different tips and tricks to ensure that the quality of her reportage is unaffected. “When there’s a big crowd I’ll wear my headphones and blast it. I’m going to try to report even if I can’t hear myself anymore, [but at least] I still know what I’m saying,” she explains. She mentions that veteran sports broadcaster Boom Gonzales taught her this nifty technique, which helped her improve.

Reporting while being surrounded by an audience brings unique learning experiences for correspondents, and Lao is grateful to have experienced the differences between loud and quiet games.“The thrill of everything is so much more fun with a crowd, even if there are challenges, I’d take it any day,” she expresses.

Moving forward

Although she had her own doubts about landing this job, Lao persevered and reminded herself that she was living her dream. For the Green Archers’ Season 84 correspondent, her undertakings changed her life for the better, saying, “It’s the best learning experience, one of the best learning experiences I’ve had in my life.” As Lao had the chance to talk to the players and coaching staff firsthand, she had a glimpse of the UAAP’s unique environment behind the scenes. After the DLSU Green Archers ended the season in third place, Lao seems to be unfinished with involving herself in the sports media industry. “It’s nice to be surrounded with people who are working in the same industry doing similar things that I want to do in the future,” the rookie correspondent shares.

Despite the Green Archers not making it to the finals, Lao expresses that it has been a bittersweet experience for her. “It was exhausting, but very fun. Although I’m happy that I get to finally rest, it’s not as satisfying as it would have been had we won,” she expresses. Lao admits that she misses the grind—the routine of writing reports, interviewing, and conversing with the team—but she has high hopes for the Green Archers to bounce back next season.

With this experience turning out to be a stepping stone for greater opportunities and endless possibilities in her career, it is proven that all it takes for aspiring correspondents is the courage to apply and to eventually handle different hurdles in the one-of-a-kind journey.

By Jaime de los Reyes

By Tana Melgar

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