SEVEN THOUSAND thirty-five miles.
Kristelle Batchelor walked into the La PanotiQ bakery cafe, welcomed by its gray walls, tiled floors and front glass windows. She put on her black apron and greeted each customer with a smile.
She was 7,035 miles away from her home and her true love. Her body longed for the adrenaline rush, the cheering crowds, and cameras that pointed towards her.
She worked espresso machines, cleaned tables, and swept leaves outside the cafe, but her heart was somewhere else.
“I’ve experienced it,” she says. “Nothing else fulfills me more than being a courtside reporter.”
The excitement and chatter of the sports section have always interested Batchelor even if she entered the Varsitarian as a special reports writer during her second year. However, she was a little disappointed when she discovered she still lacked the know-how in sportswriting.
Determined to find a way in, Batchelor found a spark in courtside reporting when Yahoo! College Hoops held auditions at UST. She did not make the cut, but quickly redeemed herself by getting the job many Thomasians dream to become—a UAAP courtside reporter. Her first report for the UAAP Season 76 with the roaring crowds of the Mall of Asia Arena might not have been perfect. She blinked too much, mispronounced a few words, and forgot a few lines, but she came back stronger after every report.
After over a hundred basketball games, the former journalism student found herself falling in love with her job.
“I realized that it was the perfect job for me because I like being a part of something bigger than myself,” Batchelor says.
Little did she know, she needed to say goodbye to her new-found calling a year after exiting the Arch of the Centuries of UST.
Putting on the Blue Collar
In the beginning of 2016, Batchelor found herself moving to Mountain View, California with her father.
“If you count [my biggest sacrifice] that I went home from the States to do it (courtside reporting) again, siguro [iyon] ‘yun,” Batchelor ponders. “I packed away my whole life.”
With little job opportunities for a journalism graduate, and without a driver’s license, she applied as a barista at La PanotiQ.
“Coming from something very noble like courtside reporting, and suddenly you’re in the blue collar section,” she explains as she recounted her short time at the cafe. “It’s a very humbling experience.”
The job started out as more of a need instead of a want, but the 21-year-old learned how to appreciate the things she took for granted back home.
“I learned the value of really just being mindful, perfecting or doing the best you can give to that job even if you don’t like the situation,” she says. “Just give your 100 percent and be kind to everyone around you because it will really affect you.”
But as she would go home and watch the current courtside reporters having the time of their lives, Batchelor realized that six months away from the arena and cheering crowds was too long.
Her heart longs for it. The words of her manager at the cafe, Mireya Rosales, rang in her ears. Rosales treated Batchelor like her own child, and she only had optimistic things to say to the aspiring reporter.
“‘That’s what you do when you’re young, you just go where your heart tells you,’” she recalls Rosales saying.
With approval from her father and big hopes to get back to the court, she packed everything once more and went home.
A passionate homecoming
“I realized na medyo mas abot-kamay ko ‘yung mga bagay na gusto kong gawin,” she says.
After returning to the noise and humidity of the Philippines, opportunity knocked once again to the former Varsitarian special reports and circle editor, when she received a brief courtside reporting stint for the National Athletic Association of Schools, Colleges, and Universities (NAASCU) games.
“‘Ano marunong ka pa ba mag-report? Baka naninibago ka?’” her co-worker jokingly asked. She too had the same fear of being rusty in the job after a long hiatus.
But as the cameras started rolling, she likened it to “riding a bike.” Her reporting skills came out effortlessly.
As the NAASCU season came to a close, Batchelor realized that pursuing her dream came with its consequences—there was no stability in courtside reporting. She then applied at Hinge, the magazine arm of the Philippine Daily Inquirer, as an editorial assistant for Northern and Southern Living.
As she writes articles on the lifestyles of different personalities in Metro Manila, she also goes on auditions for different sports leagues to keep her passion burning.
Batchelor now faces new challenges— the tiresome commute from Fairview to Makati, the monotony of an office job, and sacrificing nights out to wake up everyday to the same routine. Despite this, she remains thankful that she was able to come home.
She now wakes up everyday filled with optimism that she will go back to the court. She will grab every opportunity to get back to crowds, lights, and lenses of courtside reporting. F BERNICE ANN E. LABAD and KOBE ADAM JOSHUA S. LAURENA