These female referees continue to break barriers in the PBA

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, March 15) — In a world dominated by tall and athletic men, these two fearless women are making their mark as pioneers.

Janine Nicandro and Marilee Orioste are the only active female referees in the Philippine Basketball Association (PBA).

Nicandro was the first one to make it in the league in 2016. She says she had no prior knowledge on basketball when she joined.

"I don't have a background in officiating. I started with zero knowledge when I entered the PBA. I'm enjoying it now," she told CNN Philippines Sports Desk Thursday.

Nicandro, a 26-year-old Laguna native, explained it took her two years before she landed the big break in the pros.

"It took two years before we started blowing the whistle in an official game. The training is hard physically and the academy about the rules," she said.

Orioste, meanwhile, bared the obstacles they have to face whenever they officiate on the hard court.

"Every game is a challenge because you need to perform. You need to give your best. At the same time, it's rewarding and exciting because we are the only ones given the privilege to referee the best players in the Philippines," she said.

The two recalled the harshest words they heard for being a female referee and how they responded to them.

"Women are not allowed here. I just proved him that he's wrong," Nicandro said.

"You don't deserve to be here. I accepted it as a challenge to improve my craft and prove to him that I earned my spot," Orioste said.

Nicandro hopes that there will be more women who will be empowered and follow the road they traveled.

"We dream that there will be future female referees," she said.

On the other hand, Orioste is happy with how far they've come in a job that was unthinkable of in the past.

"I'm proud, not for me but for my family and friends as well, because we already broke the barrier. They think we can't do it because we're females. Now, they are convinced that we can do this," she said.