Newsmakers in Philippine esports

While most sports went on a standstill due to the coronavirus pandemic, esports continued and even grew bigger this year. 

Thanks to its non-contact nature, esports ably provided fans with thrill, excitement, drama and most importantly entertainment during these dark times. 

The Philippine esports scene had its fair share of memorable moments in 2020 and the Manila Bulletin acknowledges the newsmakers behind those notable events.

Bren Esports

Photo from Bren Esports' Facebook page

Owned by Bernard "Bren" Chong, the black and yellow squad finally grabbed its first-ever Mobile Legends: Bang Bang Pro League (MPL) title to warrant its #BrenLangMalakas warcry. 

Built on the core of SEA Games gold winners Angelo "Pheww" Arcangel, Karl "KarlTzy" Nepomuceno, CJ "Ribo" Ribo, Bords "Lusty" Castromayor together with super rookie David Charles "FlapTzy" Canon and sixth man EJ "Ejhay" Sambrano under world champion coach Francis "Duckeyyy" Glindro, Bren coasted to the top of its group, cruised through the playoffs then crushed Smart Omega, 4-1, in the Season 6 grand finals last October

Bren went on to finish runner-up in the ONE Esports MPL Invitational featuring the strongest teams in Southeast Asia and successfully defend its crown in The Nationals against Omega, proving its crown contender status in the upcoming MLBB World Championship (M2) in Singapore. 

The premier esports organization in the country also made waves in Riot's fast-growing first-person shooter game Valorant, winning numerous tournaments including the First Strike: Mineski VxV, while its Counter-Strike: Global Offensive (CSGO) squad.

Bren bannered women empowerment in the male-dominated industry as well after fielding in an all-girls team in the The Nationals Dota 2 conference and inserting Colleen "Kolin" Cruz in its main Mobile Legends lineup. 

Sunsparks (Aura PH)

Prior to Bren's rise to the MPL mountaintop, Sunsparks made history as the first team to win back-to-back championships in the most popular professional ML league. 

For the second straight time, Sunsparks broke the heart of its bitter rival Onic PH, posting a 3-1 victory in the Season 5 grand finals which was the first title series to be held online back in May. 

Kiel Vj "Kielvj" Hernandez's Kimmy across the three wins and former Onic member Allen "Greed" Baloy's Natalia in the title-clincher were the keys for the black and blue squad. 

Sunsparks rebranded to Aura PH in Season 6 but failed to find the same success as it suffered an early exit in the playoffs at the hands of Onic. 

Abed Azel "Abed" Yusop 

Photo from Abed Yusop's Facebook page

Abed proved to be the ultimate trendsetter in the Dota 2 ranking system as he became the first player to hit the 11k matchmaking rating (MMR) last May. 

The Evil Geniuses' star midlaner was also the first one to reach the 10k MMR mark in 2017 and the first to achieve the same milestone under Valve's new medal system in 2019. 

Several top players followed in the footsteps of Abed including Filipino pros Kim "Gabbi" Villafuerte and Armel "Armel" Tabios of TNC Predator and Karl "Karl" Jayme of T1.

TNC Predator 

Patience paid off for TNC Predator as it snapped a year-long title drought by topping the ESL One Thailand in September. 

The Filipino powerhouse team won the MDL Chengdu Major, the first Major of the 2019-2020 Dota Pro Circuit season, but struggled in the following tourneys. 

TNC outlasted BOOM Esports in a grueling grand finals that went to a deciding Game 5 to claim the championship and the $50,000 prize in the 12-team online tilt. 

However, TNC fell on a slump again, prompting its decision to release Korean captain Park "March" Tae-won and inject its Korean coach Kim "Febby" Yong-min into the main lineup for the Beyond The Summit (BTS) Pro Series Season 4 earlier this month.  

Some fans were quick to question TNC's decision but the team silenced them with a championship run in the eight-team SEA tournament. 

TNC topped the eliminations, swept T1 in the lower bracket finals then came through with a comeback 3-2 triumph over Abed's Team Dog in the finals. 

NRX Jeremiah 29:11

NRX Jeremiah 29:11 waved the Philippine flag as it ruled the Garena Qualifiers of the Call of Duty Mobile (CODM) World Championship in October. 

It was a rough ride to the top of the Southeast Asian region for NRX. 

The PH side dropped its first match to Indonesia's DG Esports apparently due to a faulty Internet connection, drawing harsh criticisms from Filipino fans. 

NRX silenced its doubters as it never lost a single series since then though it needed to pull off a number of comebacks throughout the qualifiers. The Filipino crew capped its remarkable run with a nerve-racking 3-2 win over Thai heavyweight Daivo.FreeSlot in the finals. 

Unfortunately, game developer Activision cancelled the supposedly first-ever CODM World Championship slated in Los Angeles, USA early December, citing health concerns brought about by the Covid-19 pandemic. 


Arena of Valor player and shoutcaster Em “Kaisaya” Dangla broke her silence about an alleged sexual harassment experience which involved other esports personalities. (Photo from Kaisaya Facebook page)

The Philippine esports landscape was rocked in late September when professional gamer and shoutcaster Em "Kaisaya" Dangla opened up about an alleged sexual harassment incident she experienced in the industry. 

Kaisaya bared in a lengthy Facebook post that copies of her private video with ex-boyfriend Aron Laxamana were allegedly spread by fellow caster Zeus Torquator. 

The captain of Liyab Esports' Arena of Valor team claimed that she filed a case against Laxamana and Zeus last year but it did not push through as caster Shinboo Ponferrada refused to testify. 

Numerous esports organizations and personalities such as Bren, AcadArena and The Nationals commissioner Ren Vitug praised Kaisaya for speaking up while condemning any form of sexual abuse. 

Talent agency Luponwxc slapped an indefinite suspension on Zeus even before his decision to step out of the esports scene while Shinboo was relieved of his duty as an exclusive caster for the MPL. 

The issue has since fizzled out but it proved to be the spark for the local esports community's efforts to provide a safer workplace for women.  

Philippine Esports Organization (PESO)

Back in September, the Philippine Esports Organization received its well-deserved recognition as the Philippine Olympic Committee selected them to become the official national sports association for esports in the country. 

PESO was instrumental in the debut of esports during the 30th SEA Games last year, serving as the tournament organizer as well as providing support for the national esports team Sibol. 

The NSA is composed of member-groups Mineski Philippines, TNC Holdings, Bren Esports, PlayBook Esports, Gariath Concepts, The Nationals, Tier One Entertainment and TV5. 

Read: PeSO to form best esports team for SEAG 2021

PESO has been a member of the International Esports Federation since 2012. 

POC's accreditation of PESO is seen as a legitimization of esports in the country and a contribution to the mission of having esports recognized across the sporting world.