Women's futsal duo looks to put Palawan on sports map
Melissa Sanico (R) and Jane Cascara

Women's futsal duo looks to put Palawan on sports map

Rick Olivares (Philstar.com) - January 15, 2021 - 3:48pm

MANILA, Philippines — At the mention of Palawan, what comes to mind are the pristine white sand beaches, dramatic rock formations, coves and underground mysteries. 

In terms of sports, the best known personality to have come from this province is former University of the Philippines Fighting Maroon and Rain or Shine Elasto Painter Jireh Ibanes. Ibanes won various awards and two titles as part of the Elasto Painters in the Philippine Basketball Association.

Now, two young girls are not only looking to make a name for themselves.

Melissa Sanico and Jane Cascara, both from Quezon National High School (out of Quezon, Palawan), led their MIMAROPA team to a Palarong Pambasa gold medal in futsal in 2019 by beating powerhouse Western Visayas.

What made the duo’s feat even more astounding is futsal was something they only recently played unlike many others who have taken to it at a young age.

“Mas gusto ko gumala,” admitted Sanico of her previous ways of spending her free time. “Kinkulit ako ng futsal coach dito sa amin na maglaro. Nung una, ayaw na ayaw ko kasi wala akong hilig sa sports. Pero nung nasimulan ko at nagustuhan ko na.”

As for Cascara, her dream sport was volleyball, but when she was left out of the school team when she was in seventh grade, she felt crushed. But that rejection turned into opportunity.

“Naglilista sila para sa futsal team sa school,” related Jane. “Bago pa lang yung sport at wala kaming experience sa sport. Hindi ko in-expect kahit baguhan makukuha ako.”

But catch the eye of coaches including that of Dutch futsal legend Vic Hermans the girls did.

Hermans, an international coaching legend in futsal who is now the Philippine Futsal’s technical lead, watched the girls play in the 2019 Palarong Pambansa and immediately spotted their talent and potential.  He informed the Philippine Football Federation’s Futsal program head Kevin Goco that both Sanico and Cascara and their team would go far in the Palaro despite MIMAROPA not being a traditional powerhouse in the sport.

True enough, the duo surprised the futsal community and proved Hermans was right and helped MIMAROPA on a Cinderella run to the Palarong Pambansa title and now they are a part of the national training pool under his supervision. Both girls are currently waiting for the green light from the Department of Education to train in a bubble at the Inspire Raya Senior High School for Sports in Calamba, Laguna.

“Noon rine-recruit ako para sa Manila schools tumanggi ang parents ko,” bared Sanico. “Sa Futsal program sa Inspire Academy, pumayag sila.”

It is a vote of confidence also for the family of Cascara.

“Opportunity ito para sa akin, sa pamilya ko, at sa Palawan,” she said.

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