JANINE Nicandro made history on Friday by becoming the first lady referee to officiate an official PBA game.
Nicandro was one of four officials who worked the opener of the season-ending Governors Cup between Meralco and Phoenix, along with veterans Nol Quilinguen, Jimmy Mariano, and Sherwin Pineda.
She and Edith Boticario were the two lady referees who had been tapped by the league to officiate games this conference.
Nicandro admitted getting a bit tense when she finally made her initial foray in the pro league.
"Medyo na tense din po," she said after facing mediamen following the game, which the Bolts won, 108-103.
But Nicandro, who played varsity while in college at the Laguna State Polytechnic University, said she’s long been advised about hearing a lot of bashing from players, team officials, and basketball fans alike.
She did hear a few while officiating the Meralco-Phoenix match, but ignored it just the same.
"May narinig po akong kaunti, pero mas madami po akong narinig na positive,” said the soft-spoken official who has taken refereeing as her professional job.
The 23-year-old Nicandro, born in Sta. Cruz but raised in Pagsanjan, Laguna, previously served as lady referee in the PBA D-League prior to being called to officiate in the pros.
Nicandro and Boticario underwent extensive training in the D-League, the women 3x3 tournament, and the league’s campus tour under the watchful eyes of the league’s technical committee.
The two were picked from among the 15 trainees of the PBA referees academy that included five women.
“We believe in the ability of women and we want them to play a more active role in the league. I think having women referees in our games will be good for the league long term. Gone are the days when the game of basketball was confined to just the men,” said league commissioner Chito Narvasa of the innovation the league adopted.