“CAN we have coffee?” a man—a complete stranger—asks Michele Gumabao as she’s waiting for her money to come out of the ATM.
“Huh?” she replies, shocked, confused, and irritated at the same time.
“No, no, I’m a big fan! Can we please go out and have coffee?” the guy persists.
“No, no, no. I’m good, I’m good,” says Gumabao, walking away as fast as she can.
Gentlemen, take note: The creepy kind of persistence may work on some women, but not on Gumabao. “Even as I was walking away, he kept following me. So I ran!” she recounts with a laugh. “I’m a fast runner.”
The 21-year-old former DLSU volleybelle has achieved greatness on the court, having helped lead her team to three consecutive UAAP championships. In her final season, she was awarded the Finals MVP trophy.
She has since graduated from college, but while she’s currently not playing volleyball, she’s still around the world of sports as a segment host for the weekly TV show Sports Pilipinas. It has only further propelled her popularity. And being one of the country’s better-known female athletes has its advantages—she’s a role model and an inspiration to other women, for one—but also some minor drawbacks.
For example, even though she has never intentionally ruffled anyone’s feathers, Gumabao says that most people assume she’s “super mayabang, super maangas, mahirap pakisamahan.” But it’s a false impression, she insists. “Because when I play inside the court, I really am those things. When I play volleyball, I would shout, I play at the highest intensity that I can,” she explains. “But off the court, people would tell me, ‘Oh, you’re so quiet pala.’”
She’s also far from being unapproachable. While Gumabao doesn’t appreciate it when strangers ask her out when she’s busy doing personal errands, she doesn’t want people to be afraid of her, either. “The biggest misconception is that strong women are hard to approach and that we’re not open to having fun,” she says. “If you’re an athlete, people think na wala ka nangibang ginagawa kung hindi maggym or mag-work out. I like going out with my friends, partying, shopping. Just because you’re a strong or athletic woman, it doesn’t mean that you’re hard to approach.”
Don’t be like other men who make these kinds of assumptions. Instead, heed Gumabao’s advice on how you can impress someone as competitive and tough as she is.
Woo Her with Sincerity
“A good personality attracts me to a guy. I used to love dating bad boys, but I never settled in a relationship with any of them,” Gumabao points out. “But when I met my boyfriend [DLSU basketball player Gian Cruz], he was very, very nice, and that’s what convinced me to settle down.”
During their courtship stage, Gumabao was convinced she didn’t want to be in a relationship. But perseverance in the right place and at the right time has its merits. “He was very persistent,” she shares. “He courted me for a year. Kahit hindi ko siya pinapansin masyado, he was very persistent. And then I got tired also of all the partying, kalokohan. So sabi ko, maybe I’ll try to have a boyfriend.” Women will test your patience, but sometimes, being patient yourself can be to your favor.
Remember the Small Things
It’s been said that most men have poor attention to detail, but don’t allow yourself to fall into this stereotype. According to Gumabao, one thing that women greatly appreciate in men is when they put a premium on a woman’s interests. So, pay attention when she talks. “The most romantic thing he’s done for me was when he showed up at my house with a dog,” says Gumabao. “I just came from Baguio; I had a game. And when I went home, my whole family was there and he was there with the dog. He remembers the smallest things. I never told him kasi, [or] maybe na-kwento ko lang one time, that golden retrievers are my favorite, but he remembered.”
Having a relationship with a popular girl can breed insecurities, which is why staying in constant and open communication with her is a must. “For me, communication is the most important thing in a relationship,” Gumabao stresses. “It’s very important lalo na now that I’m going to start in the entertainment industry. Marami ng projects. Kahit photo shoots, may partner ka na guy.”
If you happen to be in a similar situation, it always helps to keep the communication lines open rather than letting assumptions take over the relationship.
Overcome Your Nerves
To be with the girl of your dreams, you must get to know her first. And how do you do that? Simple. “Be confident,” Gumabao suggests. “If you’re always intimidated, you’ll never achieve anything or meet someone nice, special, and great. If guys are intimidated at the start pa lang, it would be really hard for them to get to the next level.”
Top female athletes like Gumabao can be quite intimidating, sure. But to overcome those initial nerves, “siguro alcohol will help as a confidence booster,” she jokes. “Having a wingman could help. But really, just talk to the girl casually. Don’t expect na may date or relationship kaagad. Establish a friendship with her first. Girls, I think, are very open to that.”
“Just don’t be creepy,” she adds with a laugh. Always be mindful of the context, and don’t ever ask her out for coffee while she’s transacting at the ATM.
Your pogi points are dictated by the positive characteristics you bring to the dating table. For Michele Gumabao, it always helps to have these qualities:
Stay in shape. As an athlete, Gumabao is very disciplined when it comes to fitness and health. A guy must be able to keep up with her in maintaining a healthy body. “The most empowering thing about my position right now is that I get to inspire people to strive to be healthier, to make healthier lifestyle choices,” she remarks. It’s a great way to strengthen your bond with your partner, too.
Be responsible. Being very independent and responsible herself, Gumabao prefers guys who can accomplish their tasks efficiently on their own. If you have a job and you still ask your parents for gas money, you better start changing your ways.
Crack her up. Even though her partying days are behind her, Gumabao still loves going out and trying different things. Like other girls, she believes a good sense of humor in a guy is also a plus.
Show respect. Gumabao may have already achieved success at such a young age, but she remains humble and respectful of others, and she expects the same attitude from guys.