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Esports in the Philippines

A new era: The wave of esports in the Philippines

There has been much debate in recent years over officially naming esports an actual sport. But at this point, whether you’re on team gets-it or not, esports is here to stay.

For those of you who don’t know, esports refers to competitive video gaming. The Philippines has its very own national esports team called SIBOL with a full roster of athletes that compete in some of the most popular games. CrossFire, FIFA, League of Legends, Mobile Legends: Bang Bang, and PUBG Mobile are a few to name. 

Esports as a whole is relatively very young. Most teams and leagues were established just within the last ten years. As part of this new era of sports, SIBOL was founded just five years ago. But even as a sport still coming of age, it has continued to level up, and so have our athletes.

Top levels
The Philippines' esports medals from 2012 to 2022.

While there are many esports tournaments all over the world, we’ll be focusing on the major tournaments the Philippines competes in. As you can see, already there are medals and titles to take pride in. 

Esports was first introduced to the Southeast Asian Games in 2019. On its maiden appearance in a major international sporting event, the Philippines debuted in a dominant fashion. Our country won three gold medals, one silver, and one bronze in the event. We finished with the most medals in the sport.

While we did finish with two golds and two silvers in the following edition of the Games, the competition proved to be tougher as the Philippines ended up only third overall in the esports tournament. But, our national team again won the gold for Mobile Legends: Bang Bang. 

This particular game, also known as MLBB, is one that we thrive in the most. In the 2021 MLBB Southeast Asia Cup, our representatives from the Blacklist International Philippine esports team made it to the finals. They may have finished as runners-up, but they redeemed themselves on an even bigger scale. 

In the M3 World Championships, which is considered the most prestigious MLBB competition, Blacklist International was crowned the champion. The runner-up was also a team from the Philippines, too: ONIC Philippines. 

The Filipino esports team Bren Esports also won the championship the year before, in the M2 World Championships. On a global level, our athletes from different teams are highly competitive against other teams that they’ve even had to compete against one another. 

The gamers

Blacklist International, ONIC Philippines, and Bren Esports are among some of the strongest Philippine esports teams. Their medals and titles make that known. But our national athletes under SIBOL are also worth the hype. 

In the Philippines’ impressive SEA Games stint for esports, it was our men’s team who earned us the medals. However, this year, the women had the chance to shine. Thanks to our athletes Christine Natividad, Rose Ann Robles, Charize Doble, Giana Llanes, April Sotto, and Angel Lozada, our first esports gold medal was won in the League of Legends: Wild Rift tournament. 

Two of the country’s most prominent esports athletes also represented the Philippines in the SEA Games MLBB tournament. Johnmar Villaluna, popularly known as OhMyV33nus, and James Del Rosario, better known as Wise, are two of Blacklist International’s best MLBB players. And they definitely showed this with their SEA Games gold-medal finish and as the reigning champions of the M3 World Championships. 

While the country’s presence in esports is still very young, the talent from around the country is promising. And there are more tournaments to look forward to. 

What’s next?

There are several tournaments left for the year, and they are some of the biggest tournaments.

From June 11 to June 12, Philippine esports teams RSG PH and Omega Esports will be competing in the MLBB Southeast Asia Cup, where the country was runners-up just last year. 

We are also yet to see when this year’s Mobile Legends World Championship will take place. Expectations for our country will be at a high as the Philippines were champions in both the M2 and M3 tournaments. 

Finally, and one major development for the sport: esports will be making its Asian Games debut this 2022. The Philippines will definitely be looking to hit the ground running in the event’s first appearance.

Though the sport is young, it already is one that we can thrive in and one whose future we can be excited about as early as now.