COVER STORY

Northern Living - - CONTENTS -

Athelets and sis­ters Erika and Amanda Fer­nan­dez muse about their child­hood and how they came to be the women they are

When Amanda and Erika Fer­nan­dez were younger, their pres­ence on the foot­ball field quickly in­stilled an ado­les­cent fear in the hearts of be­gin­ners at­tempt­ing their first tour­na­ment. The sis­ters were fierce but ef­fec­tive—so com­mit­ted to the sport that their prac­tice was akin to a dis­ci­pline. While other kids kicked foot­ball for fun, they did so with se­ri­ous fer­vor that had brought them to where they are now. “Peo­ple would de­scribe us as hot-tem­pered. Maybe we took it a lot more se­ri­ously than [those] who just wanted to play the sport,” says Erika.

The two are ex­am­ples of the quin­tes­sen­tial strong woman, per­haps the clos­est we have to the re­al­life ver­sions of comic book he­roes. Amanda is the pow­er­house be­hind the multi-sports com­plex Sparta while Erika jug­gles a mul­ti­tude of jobs (some sea­sonal) in the cor­po­rate sec­tor, and both still find the time to take up com­bat­ive train­ing. The sis­ters may be the epit­ome of the well-made mil­len­nial, but they weren’t born with sil­ver spoons in their mouths; they were raised in the same straight-laced man­ner as their par­ents were. “We’re the third gen­er­a­tion of a cor­po­rate fam­ily, ba­si­cally. [Our par­ents’] fa­thers had taught them to be­have a cer­tain way, [much like] cor­po­rate cul­ture in the fam­ily…They’re try­ing to teach that to us too, but we take the good parts and leave out the bad ones,” Erika muses. “We weren’t cod­dled as kids,” Amanda adds.

Step­ping into self-re­liance

While liv­ing in ex­clu­sive vil­lages and study­ing in in­ter­na­tional schools had a lot of perks, the girls ad­mit that they weren’t spoiled as chil­dren. There were no presents on their birthdays or on Christ­mas, and their fa­ther taught them never to be re­liant on any­one else; in fact, the sis­ters were fi­nan­cially cut off by their par­ents right af­ter col­lege. While Erika flew to Ari­zona to pur­sue her stud­ies in strate­gic com­mu­ni­ca­tions, Amanda chose to take up eco­nomics and English in the Uni­ver­sity of San Diego while go­ing through a num­ber of jobs, then grad­u­at­ing as cum laude. But the re­cent eco­nomic re­ces­sion burst her Amer­i­can dream: Amanda found it dif­fi­cult to com­pete for work and was sent home to work for her fa­ther’s com­pany.

Here, she vi­su­al­ized Sparta, the state-of-the-art sports com­plex that had its roots in her deep-seated frus­tra­tion over the lack of qual­ity foot­ball fields in the metro. She trans­formed what was once a drab ware­house owned by her fa­ther’s com­pany—and was set to be­come an­other high-rise con­do­minium— into a space that em­bod­ies her dream of pro­vid­ing an af­ford­able venue to foot­ball en­thu­si­asts. The in­door turf is FIFA-ac­cred­ited, and Sparta has al­ready branched out to leas­ing spa­ces to fitness cen­ters, spe­cific sports shops, and health-con­scious cafés. Amanda stresses, though, that she still rents the space from her fa­ther even as she out­sources for other ten­ants that can do the same.

Mean­while, Erika had al­ready been back a few years prior to Amanda’s re­turn. Her rea­son: “There’s a lot of work to be done here.” De­spite the com­fort­able life she had set for her­self in Ari­zona, she de­cided to come back home in hopes of mak­ing an im­pact in the coun­try and be­com­ing a ves­sel of change. She ad­vises those who have stud­ied abroad to do the same. “This is where it re­ally mat­ters.” Now work­ing un­der her fa­ther with a va­ri­ety of re­spon­si­bil­i­ties, she re­veals that de­spite be­ing the daugh­ter of the CEO, she re­ceives no spe­cial treat­ment, as per her fa­ther’s or­ders.

Since they have been ex­posed to a global mind­set for most of their lives, both women ex­press their re­sent­ment of the lo­cal at­ti­tude to­wards cor­po­rate cul­ture. Where there is pro­fes­sion­al­ism in be­ing on time, cre­at­ing sys­tems, and em­brac­ing new ideas and tech­nolo­gies to ex­pand pro­duc­tiv­ity, the cul­ture here still seems back­wards to them, as many peo­ple are still stuck on old rou­tines—“[The em­ploy­ees in our fa­ther's com­pa­nies] still have their noon-time si­es­tas and cof­fee breaks at three o’ clock sharp”—and take their time with out­put.

Atyp­i­cal child­hoods

The two say they’ve al­ways had to take care of each other and of their younger brother. Be­cause of the cor­po­rate man­ner they were raised, the sib­lings were forced to grow up faster; they con­fess that they did not grow up be­ing overtly emo­tional. “It’s hard for us to ex­press our feel­ings be­cause we’re so used to bot­tling them up, and some­times it’s not healthy,” says Amanda.

They let emo­tional steam off through sports. Erika says, “Play­ing sports was our way of es­cap­ing the sit­u­a­tion at home. [ While play­ing sports,] we didn’t take shit. Our tem­pers were short.” Be­cause they were alone with each other most of the time, the sib­lings be­came ex­tremely pro­tec­tive of each other. Erika re­calls a foot­ball game where Amanda was against uni­ver­sity play­ers who were play­ing dirty. As the other girls ganged up on her sis­ter, Erika found her­self on the field ready to at­tack. “I blacked out.”

Fac­ing ad­ver­sity head­first at a young age thick­ened their hides, for bet­ter or worse. Both ad­mit to be­ing in­de­pen­dent and out­spo­ken. “I’ve been called dense,” Amanda con­fesses. “It’s be­ing the mi­nor­ity in a boys’ team, where you’ll be eaten alive if you’re not fierce. We’ve seen the reper­cus­sions of sub­mit­ting, and we wanted to avoid them.” “That’s why we got into sports: [so we’d have] an out­let,” Erika quips.

The two credit their strong per­sonas to play­ing team

It’s be­ing the mi­nor­ity in a boys’ team, where you’ll be eaten alive if you’re not fierce. We’ve seen the reper­cus­sions of sub­mit­ting, and we wanted to avoid them.”

sports. “It helped us not just with so­cial­iza­tion but also with con­fi­dence, team build­ing, skills, re­spect…” says Erika. “And con­flict res­o­lu­tion, ”Amanda quickly adds. Both are con­scious that their re­la­tion­ship isn’t the typ­i­cal Lit­tle Women- type of sis­ter­hood, and the ex­pe­ri­ences they’ve been through to­gether have in­ad­ver­tently hard­ened as well as bonded them. “I see [Erika] as some­one I re­ally need to take care of,” Amanda says of her older sis­ter. Erika, on the other hand, is de­fen­sive of Amanda. “She is some­one I need to pro­tect. If you haven’t no­ticed, we like to con­trol things we can’t con­trol. [For ex­am­ple], who can con­trol luck?”

Hon­ing the per­sona

Out­side the field and be­yond be­ing an en­tre­pre­neur, Amanda mod­els and does host­ing on the side. Erika, mean­while, holds down a num­ber of jobs, in­clud­ing run­ning her own ad­ver­tis­ing agency. She is also skilled in var­i­ous mar­tial arts such as Krav Maga and Si­lat. In fact, she has cre­ated a net­work for women who are se­ri­ous about com­bat­ive train­ing to help them de­fend them­selves.

Aside from Erika’s ad­vo­cacy to teach self-de­fense to women, both sis­ters feel the re­spon­si­bil­ity of in­creas­ing fe­male pres­ence in foot­ball. They had formed Pi­nay Fut­bol in the ear­lier years of foot­ball’s boom in the coun­try, and the move­ment was meant to bring more at­ten­tion to women play­ing the sport; Amanda be­lieves Filip­inas have a bet­ter chance of mak­ing it to the World Cup. Pi­nay Fut­bol has also helped a num­ber of girls who are skilled in the sport to get schol­ar­ships and spon­sor­ships.

Amanda feels that her ad­vo­cacy is man­i­fested in Sparta it­self. “It’s a place that I built be­cause I felt that not a lot of peo­ple had ac­cess to good, qual­ity fields and good sports fa­cil­i­ties. Foot­ball has helped me make bet­ter de­ci­sions in my life, so I want to give back to the sport as well.”

TEXT BEA CELDRAN PHO­TOG­RA­PHY JOSEPH PAS­CUAL

Cover photo by Joseph Pas­cual

On Amanda and Erika (above): Sports bra, P550, For­ever 21, SM Mega­mall On Amanda and Erika (be­low): One-piece zip swim­suit, P3,750, Deben­hams, Rus­tan’s, Shangri-La Plaza Mall Pleated skirt, P805, For­ever 21, SM Mega­mall

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