Langara basketball sisters power through adversity

First-year Falcons share their life stories leading up to 2020 PacWest Championship

Janna Jamorabon dribbling down the court surrounded by three Capilano defenders on Feb. 22. Photo by Steven Chang
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Reported by Jessica A. Froud

Julia and Janna Jamorabon faced gender stereotypes, culture shock, financial hardship and unstable living situations. They were even separated from each other for a full year.

Still, on or off the court, basketball continues to guide sisters Julia and Janna Jamorabon through life challenges — and there’s no stopping them.

“With everything that we’ve been through at home, I feel like we’ve grown together as each other’s support system,” Julia said.

The Falcons basketball players, who are completing their rookie season at Langara, will be heading to the PacWest championship Feb. 27-29.

Life challenges

In 2009, the sisters moved to Canada from the Philippines. It wasn’t long after their parents separated and they were nearly evicted by their landlord. Janna and her mother also had to leave Canada for a year for personal matter. The sisters were separated for an entire year and didn’t know when they might see each other again.

However, they eventually reunited a year later.

“Reuniting wasn’t as tough for me because I was only 10,” Julia said. “But my mom had to adjust to my changes so there was a lot of misunderstanding between my mom and I.”

Guidance and encouragement from playing ball

Then the sisters met Pat Lee, their high school basketball coach at John Oliver Secondary School around Grade 8.

“It was neat to see this kid Julia come in with this streetball confidence. Right away you could see there was some talent,” Lee said. “The following year Janna came up and was a slightly different player. She was more dynamic with the ball-handling and at the time Julia was a better shooter.”

The two mentioned that they had built their confidence from shooting hoops in the Philippines, where 10 years ago, few girls played basketball.

“I was really insecure about playing basketball or just being outside dribbling because I’d hear comments about how that’s not for girls,” Janna said.

But Julia said their mom “was always an advocate for not letting gender roles define what we do.”

Supporting from the bleachers and the sideline

Lee didn’t know what the sisters had gone through until checking their scholarship applications.

“It wasn’t until years later when they began opening up to me. Once I knew just how tough things were for them, it just blew me away,” Lee said. “They are so resilient.”

Lee showed up to the game against VIU on Feb. 14 — with his hair dyed like a basketball after losing a bet to his current high school team.

Younger sister Janna, who has a key role on the Falcons’ rotation said she is nervous but excited. Julia, just one year older, has more of a supporting role due to her limited minutes on the court.

“I’m super proud of her. She’s gotten a lot better over this past year,” Julia said.

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