At this year’s FIFA Women’s World Cup, women from the Bay Area will be well represented – and one player on the Filipinas national team carries a familiar last name.
In October 2022, Reina Bonta made her international debut for the Philippines Women’s National Team.
In a post-game interview on team’s Facebook page, Reina, 24, said while she’s honored to play at the international level, she never forgets the name and crest at the front of the jersey.
“I was born and raised to be extremely proud of where my family comes from,” she said.
Reina Bonta is the daughter of California Attorney General Rob Bonta and East Bay Assemblywoman Mia Bonta.
“I think for her, and for our family, it speaks to what it means to the ‘first of,’ ” Mia Bonta said ahead of her daughter taking off for New Zealand. “Her father is the first AAPI attorney general. I’m the first Black-Latina Democratic legislator. I think she’s had the opportunity to think about what it means to be trailblazer.”
Today, Reina wears the number 23 jersey on the county’s FIFA Women’s World Cup Squad in Australia and New Zealand. It’s the first time a team from the Philippines, men’s or women’s, to ever qualify.
According to FIFA, Reina was also eligible to represent Puerto Rico or the United States, but she ultimately chose the heritage of her father. Rob Bonta was captain of his soccer team at Yale University and played semi-pro for the San Francisco Seals.
“There was a path for integration and participation for the Philippines team,” Mia Bonta said. “She worked really hard. She had to go to many combines to be considered. She traveled all across the world just to have two hours on the field.”
Reina grew up in the East Bay, playing for the Bay Oaks Soccer Club at a young age.
She went to become a star at Bishop O’Dowd High School in Oakland and spent four years playing college soccer at her father’s alma mater, Yale.
“I’m definitely going to be emotional watching that,” said Jon Nishimoto, Reina’s high school soccer coach. He is also traveling to New Zealand to watch his former star play at the highest level.
“It’s just a great experience and to know all the things that Reina did as a young person,” he said. “It’s difficult to make the right choice to make between your path and what you want to do. She really did that.”
He added: “She was an amazing leader for me, during the time I had to be with her.”
Reina is far beyond just a soccer player. She’s also an award-winning filmmaker, creating a picture called “Lahi,” which explores her Asian-American heritage. She says it is in part inspired by her “Lola,” the Filipino word for “grandmother.”
According to an article published by FIFA, Reina interned at HBO, worked on the set of Magnum P.I. in Hawaii, camera-operated on a documentary about endangered black rhinos in Kenya, and had her photography published by Forbes Magazine.
When it came to walking away from films and pursuing soccer, she told FIFA: “I can’t tell you that I didn’t have a little bit of hesitation. I knew what I would be giving up. I had so many amazing opportunities. But, for me, the opportunity to represent the Philippines at the World Cup made the decision easy for me.”
Her mother is more than proud.
“She’s had the ability to, in my opinion, be a little bit of a Renaissance woman,” Mia. Bonta said. “She’s an amazing athlete, a creative filmmaker, photographer. She’s a musician, she sings.”
Reina isn’t the only Bay Area-tied team member. She’s known defender Jessika Cowart since their childhood, who grew up playing in Palo Alto.
Back-up goalkeeper Kaiya Jota also verbally committed to play with Stanford University in 2024.
On the reserves list, a group of extra players available if anyone on the official roster is hurt or cannot participate in the tournament, Maya Alcantara is a recent graduate from St. Mary’s College.
Of the 23-person roster, 18 women were born in the United States; nine of those were born in California.
“I’m really excited that we get to see her live and in person,” Mia Bonta said.
“As a mom, I think I want her to be able to live in this moment and to really be able to take it all in and be, in her head and in her heart, make sure she doesn’t leave anything unquestioned,” she said. “Just leave it all on the pitch.”
Philippines will mark their first ever World Cup match Friday night, when they take on Switzerland.