This young banker is a winning bowler
Marie Alexis Sy is no stranger to life’s mishaps. Her journey to becoming one of the top female bowlers in the Philippines, while pursuing a banking career, is no walk in the park. Yet this 29-year-old Cebuana relishes every step that was punctuated with moments of highs and lows.
She recalls the moment when bowling started to pique her curiosity. There was no escaping the sport because she comes from a family of bowlers. Her grandfather, father and brother all loved to bowl.
Together with her brother, she would hang out at the bowling alley on Sundays. At first, Alexis would just watch her sibling train, until she decided to roll her first ball down the bowling lane. “There was satisfaction when you see all the pins get hit in one shot,” she says. Just like that, she was hooked.
Alexis started to level up her game by joining competitions. People started to notice her budding talent when she received Prima Pasta sponsorship for an international youth competition. In 2004, Alexis joined her first tournament in Hong Kong. She was just 12.
Six years later, she made it to the national team and joined the 2011 Southeast Asian Games (SEA Games). For the first time, she successfully advanced to the Masters round.
“I was very nervous because competing at the SEA Games is a different level. At that time, I was not mentally prepared because I felt so much pressure and didn’t know how to control my emotions yet. I said to myself, I won’t think about my score and just focus on execution until I reach the Masters round,” she recounts.
Her consistency, perseverance and go-getter attitude finally paid off when she clinched her first bronze medal during the 2015 SEA Games in Singapore. Alexis remembers this as her finest moment in athletics. “It felt surreal. It meant a lot because my father was there watching and cheering me on,” she says.
But there was more in store for Alexis. She bagged two more bronze medals—during the 2017 biennial meet held in Malaysia and in 2019 when the Philippines hosted the SEA Games.
And last May 16, Alexis captured the silver medal at the 2022 SEA games in Vietnam.
Alexis feels that bowling has helped navigate her life with more precision and passion to become a well-rounded individual. She remembers being hyped to train for the 2022 SEA Games, but when COVID-19 started to wreak havoc across the globe in 2020, she felt sidelined by the sudden pause in normal life.
“It was really hard for me, especially when the pandemic started, because bowling is also a muscle memory type of sport. It requires consistency and repetitive shots. If you don’t get to bowl for a week, it feels like you’re back to square one,” she explains.
The stress brought about by the lockdowns in Metro Manila took a toll on her mental health. She felt alone and exhausted, having to deal with the fear and uncertainty, while worrying about the safety of her family in Cebu. In August 2021, almost two months after deciding to move back to Cebu, Alexis lost her grandmother and father to COVID-19.
“I decided to be with my family because I had lost a lot of time with them. I wanted to make up for the lost time, so I went home. So somehow, at least I was able to spend time with them. We were complete for at least two months,” she reminisces.
Grief-stricken, Alexis felt that it was easier to just give up. But she soldiered on, knowing that her father—the very person who had inspired her to pursue her career in banking and bowling—would have wanted her to continue this promising journey.
“My mother said it was what my father wanted, so I gradually went back to banking and bowling,” she recounts.
Alexis has been busy these days, juggling her career as a corporate banker at Bank of the Philippine Islands (BPI) and her life as a national athlete. She has been handling big business accounts for BPI since 2014.
“[I’m] so glad that someone who works a full time banking job, helping businesses grow, can excel in a sport that requires discipline, strength and mental focus,” says Teodoro Limcaoco, BPI president, who is so proud of Alexis’ SEA games accomplishment.
She channels her mental toughness during intense competitions to balance her dual career.
“This sport taught me how to ignore the noises, which you cannot control—as long as you do your best, no matter what the outcome is,” she says.
“I can balance my professional life as a banker and as an athlete by finishing my work tasks on time, so I can also be in training on time. But there are days when I do overtime or work in advance, especially when it’s crucial for the bank.”
Alexis feels fulfilled whenever she accomplishes all her tasks despite all the challenges. “I’m happy with my BPI corporate banking family, on how they value and take good care of us—their people and our clients. It feels nice to talk to clients and to be able to provide solutions that help them grow their businesses,” she says.
She strives to remain in form even while based in Cebu. She keeps fit by training twice a week with her strength and conditioning routine. Weekends are for extra cardio exercises, such as treadmill and stationary bike workouts. She hits the bowling alley thrice a week to sharpen her skills as well as for mental training.
Although she admits that it’s a tough balancing act, Alexis believes it all boils down to self-discipline. According to her, one needs to master the skill of time management as well as develop a strong sense of determination to achieve one’s goals.
What’s next in her athletic pursuit? All eyes are on the 26th Asian Tenpin Bowling Championships to be held in Hong Kong in January 2023.
“Never be scared of taking risks especially when it’s out of your comfort zone. Grab every opportunity that is right in front of you,” she says. “Trust the process and trust yourself. The first person who believes in you will always be yourself.”
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