Volleyball star Mika Reyes wears her toughness on her sleeve.
She's the kind of player who, when backed against the wall, will only respond with a contagious intensity that can lift a team's spirit and carry it to an exhilirating come-from-behind win.
We first saw her play her brand of intimidating volleyball during her college days. She was De La Salle University's star middle blocker. Standing 6 feet, she would jump high on those long, long legs of hers to block shots or quickly spike the ball down.
She was easily the most popular player in the team. We remember how the crowd roared every time the barker would calll, "Serving...Mikaaaa Reeeyeeees!" We have followed her from the UAAP to Philippine SuperLiga (PSL), the semi-pro league where she now plays for the Petron Blaze Spikers.
Her no-nonsense approach to defense and offense is what powers her game. She may not score the most points in a match, but her fierceness will always be key to winning a game. Her swagger is the special weapon that has helped her nab three UAAP Volleyball Championships with the vaunted DLSU Lady Spikers and one in the PSL with F2 Logistics.
Away from the court, though, Mika can both be meek and loud depending on who's around. She's confident, funny, and polite, a straight shooter who is not averse to making fun of herself. These endearing qualities, mixed with her on-court ferocity, make for such a charismatic star. This is why she has hundreds of thousands of followers on social media. And it also explains why our photography assistants, usually calm and composed during shoots, were giggling like schoolgirls while we were doing this interview.
FHM: Are you an introvert or extrovert?
Mika Reyes: Siguro halo, depends on the situation. Hindi naman pwede all the time loud ako. There are times when I have to be quiet. With my friends, I can be loud, but with people I am not close to, I tend to be quiet. In matters of business, I’m not that loud. (laughs).
FHM: But would you consider yourself shy?
Mika: Mahiyain ako kung hindi ko alam ang gagawin ko. But if I enter a room with strangers, I can handle myself.
FHM: You graduated from DLSU last year. What’s the big difference between now and when you were in college?
Mika: There’s pressure because I have to earn. I’m the breadwinner in the family. I provide the tuition fee for my two younger siblings. As for the volleyball competition, I miss the UAAP era. The crowd is different. Iba yung pressure, iba yung atmosphere pag naglalaro ka sa UAAP. Iba yung pag ang pinaglalaban mo school pride. Not that I don’t have pride playing for Petron, but the La Salle vs. Ateneo rivalry iba yung level. Yung pride mo as a Lasallian, hindi ka talaga magpapatalo. Yun ang dating sa akin. Automatic na motivation mo.
FHM: How do you motivate yourself now that you’re playing for Petron?
Mika: The pressure is still there. But I’m very thankful to my fans, my supporters. Yung ingay na naririnig ko nung sa college, naririnig ko pa rin hanggang ngayon. Naririnig ko pa rin yung pag-cheer nila sa akin. Hindi na cheer sa school pero alam ko nandun pa rin yung intensity nung pag-cheer nila sa akin.
FHM: Don't you miss getting booed?
Mika: Siguro, yun lang nawala (laughter all around). From when I started as a rookie, there would always be boos whenever I'd serve. Not many boos now.
FHM: What are your goals in volleyball?
Mika: I’ve never been the star player. Hindi katulad ng iba na naglalaro sa iba’t ibang leagues. Hindi ako yung hugot player. Hindi ako yung tipong Jaja (Santiago, 6’5” player of NU and Foton). Sila yung palaging kinukuha.
But turning professional has so far been good for me. It motivates me. Parang may mas gusto pa ako. Even if I was champion in college, I still have goals. I’ve never played for the National Team. Marami pang naka-line up na goals. I have a bucket list. I hope I'll be selected for the National Team. I’d like to be part of the Asian Club Team that will compete in Kazakhstan on May 22 to June 2. I don’t think about the future, but if there is a good opportunity, I will grab it.
As for my non-volleyball (goal), we are renovating our house in Pulilan, Bulacan (where Mika is from). Hopefully, we can finish it before summer. Ngayon nagbubunga na yung pagsisikap ko. Ngayon, nakikita ko na ang pinaghihirapan ko. The outside of the house looks good, but they’re still working on some finishing aspects of the job. I’m still saving up for that.
FHM: Would you like to play abroad?
Mika: Honestly, I know I don’t have much of a chance, but if I can get better as a player and I reach their standards, why not?
FHM: What's your life outside of volleyball like?
Mika: I’m just an ordinary girl. I come from a simple family. We don’t have a big business. I’m a homebody. I like to watch movies at home; tinatapos ko lahat ng X-Men. If I had a superpower, I would like to teleport. Parang ang saya! I also like going to the mall, food-trip; I always invite my friends. Mahilig akong kumain.
FHM: Looks like you have so many food photos on your Instagram account.
Mika: I’m not a fashionista so I don’t post those (fashion-stuff). Medyo obvious naman. I don’t dress up unless there’s an occasion. But usually, I wear simple clothes.
FHM: You don’t diet?
Mika: I don’t. Binabawi ko na lang sa work out. I don’t want to deprive myself of good food. I especially like carbonara, sinigang, seafoods, even if I’m allergic. And I really like chocolates.
FHM: We're sure your fans give you lots of chocolate. Speaking of fans, how are you handling the fame, the adulation.
Mika: It’s really part of the game. How you handle it is up to you. You should keep yourself grounded. Kasi hindi ko makita yung point kung bakit magyayabang ka. Bakit mo kailangan ipagyabang?
FHM: Your swagger is obviously what propels your game. Have you always been an intense player?
Mika: Hindi ko yan pwede i-deny. As a La Salle player, duon kami pinalaki. Sabi nga ni Coach Ramil (De Jesus of DLSU), huwag kayong titiklop sa kalaban. Yung shy kayo, tahimik kayo. After pumalo, kailangan may intimidation. Kailangan hindi kayo kakainin ng kalaban ninyo.
FHM: Isn’t intimidation forbidden in the games?
Mika: There are times, napagalitan ako ng referee. Pointing is forbidden. It was allowed before, but not after the batch of Gumabao (Michelle, DLSU 2010-2013). You’re not allowed to shout facing your opponent. That’s why we turn around when we shout (after a spike or a block). And you can’t do it too long. Palagi nga akong wina-warning ng referee (laughs).
FHM: How do you “taunt?”
Mika: It just comes out naturally. It’s just gestures. I hope you have a photo of that (taunt gesture).
FHM: How much social media do you do?
Mika: I have Twitter parties sometimes. It depends on my mood. I’ll reply to questions to those who use #AskMika. Natutuwa ang fans kapag ganun. They ask about the La Salle stars, if I miss playing for La Salle. But if they ask nonsense questions, sometimes I’ll get sarcastic. Nakiki-ride naman sila (laughs).
For Instagram, when I go out-of-town, I post a lot. Like recently, I went on vacation in Vigan, so I posted photos. I like food photography. If the food is memorable, I will take photos and post them.
FHM: Ikaw yung bago kumain, kahit gutom na yung mga kasama mo, tigil muna at kukuha ka ng litrato?
Mika: Oo! Exactly! They’ll ask, “Pwede na ba kami kumain?” but I’ll gather the food, position it in good lighting (for my Instagram photo).
Hair and Makeup: Mecca Portugal