Alexa Micek and a journey across the sands
by rick olivares
“Sal, we gotta go and never stop going ‘till we get there.”
“Where we going, man?”
“I don’t know but we gotta go.”
With that exchange in the book “On the Road” by the late Beat Generation writer Jack Kerouac, he helped define a journey of discovery that many identified with back in the 1950s and still do today. And in some ways, it defines Alexa Micek’s journey.
When Alexa's younger brother, Cole, was recruited by Ateneo de Manila to play for their basketball team, he leapt at the chance. It was something new and it was a chance to discover his Philippine roots. Although their mother is Filipina, she was born in the United States and wasn’t too familiar with her own roots. And such, no Filipino was spoken in the Micek’s household.
“My first reaction when my brother was recruited was, ‘Oh, they play competitive basketball there? This is crazy! Do you even know what you’re doing?,’ recalls Alexa. "I thought he’d follow the same path I took — college in the States and let’s go from there. But his mindset changed the moment he was recruited. He wanted to be here to play for the Ateneo and try his luck in the PBA.”
While lettering at NC State, she was one of the best in digging and serving, earning a slot in the rotation of former Wolfpack head coach Bryan Bunn. “That was an amazing experience,” Alexa recalls with a smile. “And when I got my degree (she majored in civil engineering), it was a proud moment for my family and myself."
In December of 2014, Alexa and the rest of her family visited Cole in Manila. That was also the first time for all of them to be in the Philippines.
While on vacation here, Alexa heard about the volleyball scene and she was able to get in touch with someone from the Petron team in the Philippine Super Liga. "I tried out for Petron and they invited me to come back,” she says with her eyebrows raised. "It was surreal. After playing for North Carolina State University — that was an amazing experience — I was kind of retired from volleyball. After school, if you want to keep on playing then you went to Europe. If not, you got a job in the States. I was working in a civil engineering firm in North Carolina and I was just on vacation. When I got the offer to play for Petron. I told myself, ‘Why not? I only have a limited time to play anyway.' And since then, I have not been back to work. So here I am!”
A year and a half later… playing the Beach Volleyball Republic circuit, the 24-year old Micek is still in the Philippines.
Although the road isn’t exactly clear for her yet.
“Before I took the plunge to play the beach volleyball circuit here, I spoke with my dad and asked his advice,” Micek shares of the conundrum that has occupied her thoughts. “He told me to do what I had to do. While I can and while I am young. But you know, there are always the young adult concerns — being in a long distance relationship. The need to be financially secure since it has been a while since I had a day job. Finding my place in the world. For all my concerns, make no mistake, I am happy where I am right now. That is why I am still here. These girls have such an amazing vision.”
After Micek’s stint with Petron, she has committed now to Beach Volleyball Republic. "It just made sense become part of the BVR family,” she shares. “My first sport is beach volleyball. Growing up in California, our house was one block away from the beach. In fact, my mom continues to play beach volleyball to this day. The only way for me to get a collegiate scholarship was to play indoor volleyball. So in college, I focused on indoor. So it’s like going full circle — at a young age though."
"All the BVR founders are local girls and who played for Ateneo. But I got along with them so well and I was one of the first members; one of the first people to join them. It is exciting to see that people are falling in love with the sport of beach volleyball. The journey is just starting."
Alexa states that the reason why she’s here is because of her brother Cole who stressed about discovering his roots. Yet is is Alexa who has been around the country and soaking in the culture. "My life has changed a lot since coming here. The more I see this country the more I fall in love with it. I want to discover more of my heritage. Every place I got to makes me happy. I love seeing the different communities. Meet new people. Hear new stories. Try different food. I love the old Spanish feel of Ilocos Sur. The cobblestone streets, kalesas. It’s like a time machine feel. It’s unique."
When she gets homesick, it helps that in her BVR travels, she oft stays close to the beach. “It reminds me of home,” she says wistfully. “The beach and the ocean has a calming effect on me.”
“As much as it is playing beach volleyball, I think that being here in the Philippines is about finding myself,” she sums up. "I followed the American Dream — get your degree, work. Now, I yook a massive chance. I’ll admit that it isn’t easy or it has been smooth sailing but I also find a lot of inspiration in Bea and Charo who juggle so many things with their businesses and volleyball."
With BVR in the meantime, after playing for the National Championship this weekend (May 26-27 at the Sands, SM by the Bay), Alexa will be working with the sandroots program; teaching the youth to get in the game. “It an opportunity for the youth and a character builder,” she says clearly excited for the opportunity. But I think that also works the same for me.”
"We are travelers on a cosmic journey,stardust,swirling and dancing in the eddies and whirlpools of infinity. Life is eternal. We have stopped for a moment to encounter each other, to meet, to love, to share.This is a precious moment. It is a little parenthesis in eternity.”
- Paulo Coelho in “The Alchemist"