Esport gold medalist at SEAG happy to see more opportunities for Pinoy video game athletes

Published June 8, 2022, 11:31 AM

by Carla Bauto Deña

GENERAL MARIANO ALVAREZ, Cavite – The local government unit recently recognized Giana Joanne Llanes for the honor she brought to the town as a gold medalist in the 31st Southeast Asian Games.

Llanes is part of Sibol – GrindSky Eris squad, which bagged gold in the women’s League of Legends: Wild Rift in Hanoi, Vietnam in May. Also part of the team were Charize Joyed Doble, Rose Ann Marie Robles, Christine Ray Natividad, April Mae Valiente, and Angel Danica Lozada.

Photo from Giana Joanne Llanes / MANILA BULLETIN

“I had mixed emotions right before our flight as I had flashbacks from where I started and realized where I will be in the next few hours,” Llanes told the Manila Bulletin about her experience in the SEA Games.

“I gained new friends. We took a lot of pictures and shared a lot of joyous moments inside and outside the competition regardless of country origin and language barrier.”

Amid the excitement of the competition, it wasn’t all fun and games for the group. The 26-year-old e-sports athlete said the biggest challenge was stepping up their skills and working together as a team.

“Aside from your body being healthy, your mind should also be at the best state. Wild Rift is a 5v5 team game. Aside from honing your individual skills as a player, you should also synchronize well with your teammates,” Llanes shared.

Esports in the Philippines

Llanes began playing video games very young as she was influenced by her father. She started with Dota in 2011 and switched to League of Legends in 2014, which opened doors for her to be scouted to join professional teams.

Despite her success in esports, Llanes acknowledges that not many Filipinos believe that video games can lead to an athletic career. For one, some perceive gaming to be an unproductive activity.

Even the professional esports athlete also experienced a level of discouragement from her parents when she was a young student.

“I felt that they didn’t want me to be indulged in video games. They wanted me to focus on my studies as I was at the top of my class,” Llanes said. “I understand parents who feel that way. They are just concerned about their kid’s future.”

Fortunately, Llanes said esports is starting to gain more positive attention in the country – enough to get government support for esports athletes like her.

Photo from GrindSky’s Facebook Page / MANILA BULLETIN

“I’m just happy that most people are recognizing that it is a legitimate sport now,” Llanes said about the current state of Philippine esports.

“Esports athletes are now enjoying the benefits just like any other athlete out there. More and more people are starting to believe and invest in this industry.”

Llanes is looking forward to playing in big stages again, including the Wild Rift Champions Series.