This appears on philstar.com
The PBA’s first woman referee Janine Nicandro: From the volleyball court to the basketball hardcourt.
by rick olivares
When the opening match of the Governors’ Cup — between the Meralco Bolts and the Phoenix Petroleum Masters — tipped off last Friday at the Smart Araneta Coliseum, aside from the new imports seeing action in the league, there was a noticeable difference.
A pony-tailed lady in the black and white stripes of a basketball referee strode onto the floor with her male counterparts. Janine Nicandro made Philippine Basketball Association history by becoming the first female to officiate a match in the league’s 41-year history.
For a neophyte official, she was decisive with her calls. Maybe she was nervous but she didn’t show it. In fact, she was cool. Calm even when she slapped the first technical foul of the game and the conference on Phoenix’s Mark Borboran after he uttered profane language following a call he disagreed with.
While there were some spotty moments, Nicandro conducted herself in a very professional manner and had more or less a successful debut as a PBA referee as she received a lot of positive comments from the league and the public.
It’s kind of funny because being on a basketball court was the farthest from Janine’s mind or even ambitions.
Growing up in Pagsanjan, Laguna, Nicandro had dreams of glory on the volleyball court and eventually, a successful business. She didn’t even watch basketball. “Shakey’s V-League yung pinapanood ko,” she admits. Inspired by the likes of Ateneo’s Fille Cainglet and Dzi Gervacio, Janine played for her elementary and high school volleyball teams in Laguna. When she was in college, she tried out for both the women’s volleyball and basketball teams of the Laguna State Polytechnic University.
However, she received the shock of her life when she was accepted in basketball team… where she was to play center for the LSPU Lakers! “Parang hindi ako makapaniwala. Siguro na-impress ko yung coaches kahit paano. And, yes, Lakers kami,” she laughs at her school team’s nickname. And true enough, her LSPU Lakers won a championship in the State Colleges and Universities Athletic Association.
Nicandro graduated in 2014 with a Bachelor’s Degree in Entrepreneurship. “Plano ko sana kumuha ng konting corporate experience tapos magtayo ng negosyo,” she related. That bit of experience came when she found herself working in a LPG company. Bored, she found her way to a most unlikely destination in the PBA upon the prodding of a friend from Laguna.
She entered the referee’s program under former Commissioner Chito Salud who would oft try to discourage the female referee. “Parang reverse psychology yun,” explained Nicandro. “Sabi niya sa amin, ‘Kaya niyo ba to? Marami nagmumura dito. Baka isang mura lang umiyak na kayo.’ Pero lalo akong naging desidido.”
She first learned the ropes in the PBA Developmental League before getting the call-up to the PBA by current Commissioner Chito Narvasa. "Nung nalaman ko napili ako sa PBA nagulat ako,” she recalls of her promotion. "Umaasa tayo pero ayaw natin mag-assume. Tingin ko kulang pa. Tuwang-tuwa yung magulang ko lalo na same day yun sa birthday ng nanay ko. So magandang birthday gift yun para sa kanya.”
Being a newbie to the game, she constantly watches, reads, and studies the game. “Iba yung laro kapag tinitignan mo sa officials’ view kesyo sa fan. Kailangan muna palitan mo yung mindset mo. Kapag nag-adjust ka na sa pag-iisip mo mas kalmado ka."
When she was drawn for the Meralco-Phoenix match, Nicandro was surprised to hear her name called out. "Ayaw pumasok sa utak ko nabunot ako. Unexpected talaga. Parang ang bilis ng pangyayari. Nung nasa dugout kami, maluha luha ako. Bago kami lumabas papunta sa court, sabi ng mga kasama ko, ‘Huwag ka masyadong kakabahan. Yung kaba part na ng game yunpero huwag ka magpapadala kasi maaapekto yung pagtawag mo.’"
With her first officiated match out of the way, Janine looks forward to her next assignment. “Gusto ko pa matuto at mag-improve pa. Mahirap kasi kung yung pito mali. Hindi tayo perfect pero hindi excuse yun. Dapat talaga mag-improve at hindi ma-satisfy sa anong tama na nagawa. Kailangan walang mali."