In a GUIDON exclusive, Ateneo’s new courtside reporter, Jessica Mendoza, opens up about basketball, juggling responsibilities, and school spirit.
The sun’s up, and the July heat’s making everybody’s morning a little wearisome, save for one Jessica Mendoza. Dressed simply and comfortably, she sits on a corner bench in the heart of the Ateneo de Manila campus, cool as ice.
Her hair catches the swift morning breeze as she excitedly talks about her new job: UAAP Season 72 courtside reporter. Yeah, she’s that girl. She’s that girl from the Myx VJ Search. She’s that girl on Magic 89.9’s Top 5 @ 5. She’s that up-and-coming ‘it’ girl your friend was telling you about.
Jessica’s weekdays usually begin around six o’clock. She has to rush through the early morning traffic, attend her classes, spend breaks doing homework, skip to her radio show in the afternoon, work on her senior AB Communication thesis, and sometimes squeeze a visit to the Blue Eagles’ evening practices in preparation for games that usually fall on weekends. She’s a superwoman, trapped in a twenty-year-old’s body.
“There’s no secret. It’s just one thing at a time,” she says.
While juggling a load of responsibilities more than enough for the typical college girl, Jessica bested her contemporaries also chasing the dream of being on television, and in this case, of being a UAAP courtside reporter.
“I’m hoping that this will open up a lot of opportunities, especially on TV,” she says. “I want to be a host, maybe eventually get into news.”
There is no uncertainty in the tone of her voice. She wanted this job badly, and now she has it. She’s filling shoes once worn by the likes of Patty Laurel and Lia Cruz, who Jessica is often compared to. But she invites the pressure. She revels at the thought of twenty thousand screaming fans seeing her report on the big screen in arenas, and millions at home on their televisions.
She was six years old when she fell in love with the spotlight. She played Tinkerbell in an acting workshop and all she had to do was ring a bell. No lines, no singing, just ring the bell. Fourteen years later, past the bells and funny costumes and into a world of bright lights and rowdy spectators, all she wishes to do is not stutter.
As sure as Jessica is of herself, she’s not undermining the magnitude of what she’s gotten into. “It’s nerve-racking. The thing I’m looking forward to the most is the thing I’m dreading the most too, being part of this big event. It’s incredible, but it’s terrifying at the same time,” she says.
Still the nerd
As the season nears its opening, Jessica’s learning a lot about basketball with the help of the Blue Eagles coaching staff. While not very familiar with the sport, she’s catching up fast. She claims that her childhood doesn’t boast much of an athletic background. “I can swim,” she says with a laugh. “I liked to read and write. I was a nerd, very much. Still am.”
Her latent knowledge of the sport could possibly lead to criticism, as many UAAP reporters have experienced in the past, but that shouldn’t be a problem. Jessica has received some harsh feedback on her radio show and she’s learned how to deal with it.
“Some people out there really take time to tell you they don’t like you,” she says. “I want to hear from people who know what they’re talking about, and the people that matter to me.”
Headlining that list of people would be her parents. She describes them as her idols, the two people who have stood by her side since day one. “They’ve always supported me in what I want. Never forced me into anything,” she says. “And they keep reminding me studies first!”
Her part of the deal is no joke, even for an Ateneo College Entrance Test topnotcher. Her parents want her to graduate cum laude.
When she gets a chance for some leisure time, Jessica sits down with Haruki Murakami or checks out the tube for the series How I Met Your Mother. She also tries to spend as much time as possible with her friends and family, who keep her afloat in the midst of her routine. “My family’s crazy. We’re very different but very alike. We have a very good relationship with each other,” she says.
Now she has a second family. The Ateneo Blue Eagles organization consists of over 20 brothers, consisting of players, coaches, team managers, and a bunch of other relatives running around. “Everybody’s very accommodating, but it’s for them to determine if I’m now part of the team,” Jessica says. “I wanna give something back. If I’m representing my school, I wanna do it well, even if it’s just for 30 seconds.”
With her family on board and her studies in check, Jessica’s ready to get this show on the road, starting with tomorrow’s opening of UAAP’s 72nd season. Everyone’s got their eyes on her, watching her every move. And superwoman? She’ll be trying her best not to stutter.