Last May, the Philippines' top women’s basketball players took center stage in Caloocan City for the first leg of WMovement’s Premier 3x3 women’s basketball tournaments.
La Filipina Blue Fire, composed of De La Salle University's Camille Claro, Snow Penaranda, Ameng Torres, and Joe Arciga, took home the championship. High school standouts like Camille Nolasco competed alongside decorated alumni, who proved they’ve still got what it takes. It was a win for women’s basketball, made possible by an organizing team made up of athletes themselves.
A long time coming
It wasn’t an easy path to get here. WMovement CEO Alyssa “Lang” Dogong once played for Ateneo, but like many women ballers in the Philippines, didn’t see any opportunities after college. She entered into their family business and got into a variety of ventures—from cars, to real estate and, eventually, an e-learning startup.
All the while, Dogong dreamed of making a change for female athletes like herself.
“The dream to create something for women's basketball started during early college with my former high school teammates. Over the years, I made several attempts to create something similar, but they all failed,” she says.
Despite failing several times, she never gave up on that vision, and she found herself especially fired up in 2022.
An organization had invited her to form a 3x3 team, but she balked when she realized how they treated female athletes.
“We decided not to proceed due to the poor treatment of the stakeholders by the organization, especially how they treated athletes poorly. I didn’t want to risk the health of my players and decided to quit that league. Right after I quit, I immediately drafted documents for a platform and discussed it with my close friends,” she shares.
But as someone who had never organized a tournament, she had to slow down. “You don’t want to start something with the ‘bahala na’ attitude. What we want is something sustainable and scalable because the [women’s] community is already fed up with something that is ‘come-and-go,’" she explains.
A year later, Uratex Dream team owner Peachy Medina advised Dogong to collaborate with her Ateneo teammates, Sami Bo-ot and Mariana Lopa. Dogong reached out, and soon, they formed a team with Micaela Bautista, Ther Aseron, and Mau Belen.
“Since we all shared the same vision for women's sports, it was kind of easy to move forward to the next steps on creating WMovement,” she shares.
“We all bring something unique to the table,” says Lopa, who serves as WMovement’s corporate secretary. “For me, it's my experience with Girls Got Game [working as managing director] and women’s sports in general.”
“For Lang, it's her business savvy and appetite for risk-taking. For Ther, it’s her no-nonsense, put-your-head-down kind of work ethic. For Sami, it’s her project management skills and deep immersion in the women’s game. For Mix, it’s her experience in organizing 3x3 tournaments, as well as her background in training and community engagement. And, of course, for Coach Mau, it’s her technical know-how as a professional 3x3 coach,” adds Lopa.
“With our powers combined,” Lopa says with a laugh, “I think we can really organize the country’s best women’s basketball tournaments.”
Putting athletes first
This is personal for the WMovement team. As athletes, they’ve not just seen but also experienced mistakes that have been made in the past when putting up women’s tournaments.
“If your intention is just to create a league and you don’t care about your stakeholders, I don’t think it will work out as well,” Dogong shares.
One such mistake would be not knowing the market when creating pricing structure. Another mistake? Forcing female athletes to conform to a certain “look” in the name of marketing—a symptom of gender bias that can still be seen in some women’s tournaments today, says Dogong.
“Their insistence on controlling superficial aspects like players' appearances is simply absurd,” she shares. “They’ve shown that creating a safe space for athletes to just showcase their talent alone was not a priority.”
For WMovement, the women athletes are part of their stakeholders. And so safe spaces and freedom to be who you are is key—as is building a sustainable business.
“My experience with GGG showed me that there are certain aspects of organizing events that should cater specifically to females,” says Lopa. “For example, when we look for venues, we make sure there are male and female toilets—something not all gyms have and not all organizers will think of at the start. It’s basic but intentional things like that that make what we do different from other sports leagues or organizations.”
“Another thing that we’re doing differently is getting 80% female referees and table officials. Aside from empowering officials, too, this is important to us because then there is no power dynamics between the players and the officials, who are usually men,” says Lopa, who observes that both staff and players respond well to these choices.
Work bearing fruit
That day in Caloocan, Dogong felt the years of dreaming—not to mention the sweat and stress along the way—pay off.
“I was telling [our team], ‘Ito pala yung feeling.’ It didn’t sink in immediately because we were busy focusing on the tournament since we didn’t have any staff yet, so we were all doing the dirty work. But it was a combination of happiness, satisfaction, and relief that gradually settled in as we received positive feedback from various stakeholders: players, coaches, team owners, referees, the production team, sponsors, and even the audience,” she says.
What’s next for WMovement? The plan is to complete all 4 legs of the Premier Tournament, with the next leg taking place this June. Then, WMovement will launch the 3x3 Elite Tournament, which will feature the country’s top 3x3 players in a 6-leg, 10-team tournament.
One thing’s certain: Their heart is in the right place.
To learn more about the tournaments and how to sign up, visit https://www.facebook.com/wmovementph.