Asian 5 Nations 2014: Philippine Volcanoes vs Japan Brave Blossoms and when the scoreboard doesn’t even matter at all

Hot and humid. It was 34 degrees and the sun was just relentless. Heat & exhaustion can easily nauseate you if you’re not used to this kind of weather in the Philippines. And despite all of this, there in the middle of the Southern Plains Football Field, you’ll find the Philippine Volcanoes, our national Rugby Union squad, lined up & ready to face Asia’s top team, the Brave Blossoms of Japan.

A few minutes into the game, we looked into the score board, 7-3 in favor for the visitors. Yes Japan was leading but the meager Filipino crowd still cheered on after team captain Oliver Saunders slotted home a gorgeous penalty around 40 meters out. It was like manna from heaven. Yes we scored!!!

6th minute into the game, Oli’s brother, Matty Saunders saw an opportunity, picked off an awkward pass from the Japanese and just made a run for it and scored again, 8-7, Philippines now up by a point versus Japan. Conversion from Matt’s try was successful and we got 10-7. For a while there, we were on top of mighty Japan and I just couldn’t explain the feeling. I was just so happy shouting and & cheering on for the team. Well done, just well done.

I think right before the game, nobody expected the team to score against Asia’s best after the jittery opener versus Hong Kong where the Hong Kong lads blanked us out, 108-Nil. We didn’t expect the score but I for one, didn’t doubt the team. I always know they have it in them. I know they can, they just have to find out how to. 🙂

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We lost to Japan, 99-10 but who cares? Who cares we lost to them & who cares the lead didn’t last? All those Volcanoes supporters, Expats & Filipinos alike, doesn’t seem to care. They don’t seem to be bothered by the scoreline. I think what really matters is that we got into the scoreboard and for a while there, the team shone & gave us a glimpse of what could have been if both 15s and 7s were given equal opportunity in funding, preparation, camp, training, and everything else by the Union. And that reminded us why we need not to waver and get tired of supporting this team. When all else fails, the team can only count on us, the 16th man, to get behind them and cheer them on.

I’m on the verge of ranting again, really. But no… Don’t you go barging the dark side again. I’m pretty sure I share that same level of frustration with some friends in the Rugby community. I take comfort in that and in the hopes that somehow, in the near future, everything will change for the better and for the benefit of the team. So, let’s just leave the ranting to another post and just relive the fun moments last saturday! 😀

This trip and game watching almost didn’t materialized after we found out that all games will be held in Southern Plains in Laguna and not in University of Makati as originally planned by the Union. But thanks to my good friend Nikki, former Liaison Officer for Chinese Taipei (Under 20s) and Sri Lanka, who came all the way from Singapore, we were able to rent a van to take us to Laguna. She is the coolest really! And we really miss her, more than a year away from the Philippines, she spent 2013 in Singapore.

Nikki in the middle wearing light blue blouse & skirt with the girls!
Nikki in the middle wearing light blue blouse & skirt with the girls!

 

Then a few weeks before the game versus Japan, Junnel, former PRFU Administrative Officer and a good friend of mine informed me that a certain “Volcanoe” is in distress upon knowing that the games will not be held in University of Makati but in the far-flung Southern Plains. “They need a ride..” Junnel said. So I said yes (just cause, I couldn’t say no to any Volcanoe who needs my help)! :)))

lucky Josh he got himself some fan-girls!
lucky Josh he got himself some fan-girls!

Meet Joshua Tolentino, Rugby player who is currently based in Vancouver, Canada. He tried out for the team year 2012 and stayed for the camp but unlucky he wasn’t able to make the cut. Though he never got capped for the Philippines, he remained close to the team and has been keeping tabs on the team’s progress. So needless to say, I’m glad I was able to reunite Josh with his Volcanoes family. I can see & feel he misses the team and really wants to get back to play again. Perhaps in the near future, he’s only 26, still young and can still try out. Hell we have Lolo Austin Dacanay in the team who’s 37 so really, nobody’s too old for any sport!

But right now, Josh is enjoying the moment with his wife. They’re newly weds! Just a week old in marriage and they found themselves in the Philippines watching games and about to go on vacationing La Boracay style! :))) Congratulations to this lovely couple! Cheers to more years of wedded bliss! 🙂

Of course I wouldn’t pass up the chance of taking pictures of the game. It became rare these days when I get to enjoy and indulge my love for photography so whenever there are games, I go for it. (Apologies for the lack of practice in taking shots) Here are some of the photos I got last Saturday:

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Taken right after the game. Ze lads gamely posed for the picture taking. :)))) It became pretty hard to take pictures when all the fans (mostly girls) came running to the field right after the game! XD

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Really been a while since I last capture photos like this. 🙂

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Lolo Austin… uhhhmmm… I just couldn’t figure it out what he was doing? Be like “hey guys, give us the ball and you be spared!” -LOL :)))))))

 

Scrum. Contesting the ball.
Scrum. Contesting the ball.

The Philippine Power Forwards! All those  eaten cupcakes paid off! (Yes, Lolo Austin, you..) hahahaha!

Stay up high, Japan.
Stay up high, Japan.

This picture, I got it by accident. I was holding my DSLR and accidentally pressed it while holding it up and viola! 🙂

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And here’s the team Physio for as long as I can remember, Rico!!! 🙂 He’s the go-to guy for all injury-related stuff. You can see him busy running around and tending on the team’s various injuries. There’s just no “petiks” time for this guy! And to me, he’s one of those unsung heroes behind the team who never gets mentioned and never gets any citation for doing a job well done every single tournament the team is in. He’s the hardest working Physio I know and for that Sir, I am forever grateful for all the things you’ve done for the team! Maraming maraming salamat po for taking care of them! 🙂

Also happy that I was able to take my cousin with me last Saturday (2nd girl from the left). She had a blast and enjoyed the day! It was Jae’s first time to watch Rugby 15s live and I am totally happy to have shared that experience with her. 🙂

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and lastly… t’was odd… I find this awesome! :)) awesome that a guy as big as him (#1) made it into the National Team! Buff and chiseled bodies be damned but he can bulldoze opponents in a heart beat! :))) i am so proud! guess you need not to be “model size” to get to play Rugby! and we both play the same position! Prop! :))))) –> can somebody get me the name of this player?! :))

It was a fun day indeed. And really happy to be reunited with the team! Despite what happened before the Japan game (between me and the PRFU Admin and it’ll be reserved to another post), I will never get tired of supporting the Philippine Volcanoes who’ve become a second family to me through the years of doing volunteer work for the Union. They are family, period. And I can always look beyond the score board. Guess you can say, my love for the team and the sport is greater than those numbers & those stats. And like the famous saying in Hawaii –> Family is Ohana.. and Ohana means nobody gets left behind! Walang iwanan, I promise! 🙂

**Please guys if you have time, we still have one home game on May 24th in Southern Plains, Laguna versus South Korea. Please be there and get behind the Philippine Volcanoes! Game kicks off 3:30pm.**

So until the next great Rugby Adventure! 🙂

Respect. Discipline. Proudly Pinoy.

 

 

 

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HSBC Asian 5 Nations: Filipino fans, easily the best in the World…

I have long been arguing that I am not a fan girl but if you dissect the meaning of the word & get to the basics –> it just means people who support and I have been supporting the team and the Union in any way I can for as long as I remember so there, right there, I can finally rest and accept that I am indeed a fan girl at heart.

A week before the Volcanoes game versus United Arab Emirates, an article in gulfnews.com was published and it was an interview with the UAE Rugby Federation CEO Ian Bremner. He was asked what he thinks about the fanatical support for the Philippine Volcanoes in the home soil and here’s what he thinks about the fan support in the homeland:

Fanatical home support will be an advantage for the Philippines, but from what I’ve seen on TV it’s mostly screaming females as opposed to rugby fans. The screaming was fairly incessant and indiscriminate. No matter who had the ball it didn’t waver in any direction, so it could turn in our favour.

Read full article here: http://gulfnews.com/sport/rugby/ian-bremner-heaps-praise-on-battling-uae-1.1182399

And this, shall I say, was not taken lightly by the Volcanoes supporters and even earned the ire of some fans. I too was a little offended having been a supporter/fan of the team for as long as I can remember. To be fair to the CEO, I have met him. He may not be the nicest guy in the bunch & he was shouting at my face first meeting but I know he just wants the best for his team and he’s doing everything to help them win. Here’s my take though on what he said and for being a fan girl myself:

Mock these people and you mock the whole nation. The fans, the supporters, us. I cannot deny the fact that we have little (if none) understanding of the game of Rugby but we do everything we can to get to know the sport that have no historical ties whatsoever to the Philippines by participating to free learning sessions, watching games, and tagging along with the players be it personally or in the cyberspace. We compensate but of course I don’t really expect you to know that coz after all you are commenting on something that you know nothing about.

We love our own. Period. The team, they’re all Filipinos. Same blood running through our veins and one home land we owe our loyalty and allegiance to. Our support and love for the team is all we can give to them as a token of appreciation for all the effort, time, hard work, and passion they put in just to wear that jersey and represent this country. Coz after all they chose us, they choose to represent the Philippines.

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As per Philippine Daily Inquirer, an estimated 5,700 people have shown up at Rizal Memorial Stadium to support the Philippine Volcanoes and this just melts my heart. From empty stadium seats to this. So to all the fans and the supporters MARAMING MARAMING SALAMAT PO! As what Jake Letts said, we truly built a fortress in Rizal. And if you’ll just check the players’ tweets, they are all in love with their fans. Here it goes;

From Jake Letts

jakey

From Darran Seeto

darran

From Matt Bellenie

matt

From Oliver Saunders

ollie

From David Feeney

david

From Michael Duhig

duhig

And of course from our proud Lolo, Austin Dacanay

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And this page wouldn’t be enough to list all the thank you messages the players sent out for their fans. It just makes your heart swell that you guys heeded the call. United and stood as one, chanting and cheering with all might, loving and supporting the team regardless of the outcome, we truly have the best and the most loyal & loving fans in the whole wide world! We all hope to see everyone again next year! Cheers to Philippine Rugby! : )

P.S. Easily, we do have the best fans in the whole wide world and cheering while getting drunk is the bomb! hahahaha!

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till the next great Rugby adventure! : )

HSBC Asian 5 Nations 2013: Memoirs of the weekend and of the game…

Disclaimer: This is not a match report kind of blog so to those expecting to see a blow-by-blow account of the PHL Volcanoes vs UAE… you guys can visit the PRFU website: http://www.prfu.com/prfu-news.html

So I was called up again from LO retirement a few months before last week. task was i need to take over and liase for the opposing team in this last game, United Arab Emirates. Even before, I always made sure I am available whenever Philippine Rugby is in need of help hence I’ve been on-the-job trainee for PRFU for 3 years now, having handled 3 teams already: Malaysia, Chinese Taipei (Taiwan), and last was UAE.

duty started Thursday afternoon (May 16), early check-in at the Century Park hotel near Rizal Memorial Stadium. We took care of the early check-in for the team, the food, and the bus then some errands at the match venue. 10pm, UAE Rugby Team arrived at NAIA 1 and the rest is, as they say.. history.

UAE is a whole lot different from the first 2 teams i’ve handled. the first 2 (Malaysia & Taiwan), were a young bunch. We have as young as 17 and the oldest is my age, 26 years old hence it was easier to mingle with them coz we are on the same age bracket, same likes, same kind of music, TV, movies, and food, a little bit easier to talk to coz there are a lot of things common to talk about. while UAE, well they’re all adult! legal age and all. so yeah, there…  its a little bit different, a bit intimidating coz most of them are half of my size & 10 years older than me. hahaha! but as days progressed, I found out that they’re pretty much one cool and very accommodating team.

UAE Rugby Team training at Rizal Memorial Football Pitch, Saturday morning. The guy wearing sunglasses, that’s the Team Manager, Brett Scott –> coolest team manager I’ve met so far with a knack of making fun of me & making me laugh. :)) Too bad I wasn’t able to get a photo of the quiet and reserved Coach of the team, Coach Duncan Hall.

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more of UAE here:

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I shared a couple of laughter moments with the team but unlucky i wasn’t able to take a photo of it! here it goes:

Laughter Moment 1:

After training at the match venue, Coach Duncan called me. Was a bit nervous walking towards him thinking if I screw up something or if there’ll be any special additional requests that is too impossible to do. so i went to the middle of the field where the team is huddled in and surprise, surprise! the reason why i was needed there was because the team captain Reinier Els will be presenting me a team jersey! And Coach Duncan said: “To those who didn’t know, this is Ms. Jannet, our Liason Officer who’s been helpful and did a great job taking care of the team so as a token of appreciation, our captain, will present her the UAE team jersey.” –> heart melted at that moment coz after the fail bus moment at the airport w/ the CEO shouting at me, they’ve appreciated all efforts i made to make their stay a little bit comfortable. but here’s the catch, the jersey is sized small for women’s and totally won’t fit me at all so I said: “Thank You! truly appreciated but I think the jersey won’t fit me but don’t you worry guys, I’ll have this framed and will hang it in my room!” and we all laughed. =)))

Laughter Moment 2:

Game time. I was all nerves. I made sure that everything in Rizal was prepared for the team. A/C at the dug out checked. water, gatorade and sacks of ice, checked. All doors including the athletes’ entrance gate, opened with security guarding it, checked. And I clearly and strictly instructed the security to KEEP ALL DOORS OPEN at all cost. But to no avail, someone locked the 2nd door in the dug out. when we arrived there, I panicked, why is the door locked?!?! nobody listens to me when I specifically gave instructions not to lock it. I was all ready to smash the door down, while calling the head LO to unlock us out of there then one of the players said: “Hey chill Jannet, relax. its fine. You want us to smash the door for you?” then another batch of guffaws and laughter again. hahahaha! =)))

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well i guess the most important lesson I learned handling this team is to always stay calm & intact regardless of the situation you are in and always remember to smile (which is by the way hard to do especially when you’re always thinking on your toes!), it makes everything a lot easier. I see all of them doing just that. On the verge of relegation and yet everyone seemed to be all calm and relaxed, staying intact and not cracking with pressure.

UAE experienced almost all kinds of bad luck here in the Philippines: we were not able to train at the match venue friday night because of this Iglesia ni Cristo event at the football field, the A/C in the room/dug out went bonkers on game day and the team had to huddle outside coz it was 40 degrees under the grandstands. They were sweating bullets which i think contributed to the loss since ball handling will be a little bit difficult if you sweat out on the ball. But the team remained calm, eager to win and was never distracted with all things coming at ’em. This is what I admire about UAE. As what Coach Duncan said, trials and tribulations, all the more makes a man stronger than he is before. =)

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all the best to this team. next year they’ll face a different set of opponents from Division 1 with Kazakhstan as the team to look out for. I told one of the players that they should ace the Division 1 then we’ll beat the crap out of Sri Lanka next year so they can go back to Top 5 and I’ll be able to see them all again. =)

Another interesting fact about United Arab Emirates Rugby Team is that there are 2 Half Filipinos playing for their team; #2 Jonathan Greenwood & #11 Malcolm Greenslade. Both their moms are Filipina but they grew up in Dubai. See, its really hard not to support and love this team coz I got 2 of my Kababayans playing for them. =)

here’s Jonny, first guy carrying the ball.

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and the guy on the left (below picture) is Malcolm.

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(photo credits for the above picture to The National/Mike Young)

And I ought to write a second post for the fans and supporter and other pictures i had last saturday. this is getting way too long as a blog! =)))) so until the next post and the next great Rugby adventure! =)

Random thoughts: Of being a proud Pinoy and of the Philippine Volcanoes

Have you ever felt so frustrated that any moment you feel like you can burst like a bubble? Yeah, its always like that for me when I see empty seats in the stadium. It is also kinda depressing. Why are people not coming in if we’ve been doing so well after 5 years? Why are people not coming if the team have been phenomenal?

Do you know what its like when you’ve played your heart out, almost losing a limb in the process and yet nobody seems to know? Nobody’s watching? Yeah, tell me all about it. That’s the most painful that after you’ve given everything you’ve got, nobody cares. I should know coz I’ve been playing football for 3 years (not an athlete just to be clear) and the teams I’m with still struggle, begging for people’s attention. But its quite understandable coz we are not a National Team.

But for a National Team like the Philippine Rugby Team Volcanoes, who’s been existing, playing and doing really, really well for the last 5 years, not getting the people’s attention sucks big time.

For the past 2 years that I have been volunteering and helping out in organizing the tournaments & handling International teams for the Union, this always get my attention — empty stadium seats.

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We’ve been struggling (pretty damn hard to be honest) to fill the stadium with audience who can cheer & vie for the team. With a capacity of just 13,000, Rizal Memorial Stadium (RMS) is considered one of the smaller venues for football here in Asia. Best we can do is an almost (but not quite) full grandstand during the final game with still empty bleachers (the green & blue area).

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yep, that green area –> bleachers of RMS. Still empty seats.

So you ask yourself, what seems to be the problem? The team have been doing really, really well, on top of their game since the team formed & played year 2008. And to prove just how good, no, how PHENOMENAL the Philippine Volcanoes are, the International Rugby Board (IRB) applauds the team citing its remarkable climb to the top of the rankings. IRB says & I quote; “Of these seven nations, the Philippines are the ones to have left their mark, ending the year 15 places higher than they entered the rankings after winning the HSBC Asian 5 Nations Division 1 title on home soil in April to earn their place alongside the continent’s elite in 2013.” And its not only the 15s team who’s cited with remarkable performance, the 7s team as well as they have qualified for the 2013 Rugby 7s World Cup in Russia for the first time in record history.

Read IRB’s full article here: http://www.irb.com/rankings/news/newsid=2064835.html

Well perhaps the sport Rugby is too foreign to Filipinos. We’ve been known for ages as Basketball and Boxing country and these two can be quite hard to contest with. Rugby is totally foreign to us that we’ve got no historical ties with it. And we also cannot deny the fact that its hard to endear yourself to a team looking too foreign, sounding so foreign too, speaking any language but not Tagalog and know nothing about the Philippines, not until they made it into the team.

But I dare not to lose hope. I started out as a soccer player but I fell head over heels in love with Rugby. The discipline, fitness and the confidence it gives you, something that I never found in Soccer. Its really not hard to love and embrace the sport, if you just give it a chance.

And what’s not to love about the team? Well for girls, you can see the very “obvious” reason why they hound I mean support the players as most of them are good-looking sons of a gun and can give David Beckham a run for his money!!! But kidding aside, they may look & sound too foreign having no knowledge about the mother land and cannot sing the national anthem in whole, believe me, they’re Pinoys through and through and here is why:

1) Like most of us Pinoys, they too love to take their pictures of new places, stuff, and what have you. Look at Ollie Saunders here with his new furniture & that other photo taken when he first got on board NTT Shining Arcs RFC of Japan! :)) I must say, that is just so Pinoy, Ollie! and that peace sign.. Pilipino ka nga! :))

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2) Ask Matt Bellenie “What about you is Filipino?” His answer? “My rice consumption & dashing good looks!” ahahaha! read full article here: http://www.teamphilippinevolcanoes.com/1/post/2013/04/10-questions-for-mat-bellenie.html. But I think, the way you sleep is the most Pinoy in you! :)) photo courtesy of Ollie! :))

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3) One of the most favorite food of Darran Seeto is Chicken Inasal! Whether it’s from Bacolod or Iloilo, it doesn’t matter, as long as it is Inasal!

darran

4) Ask Lolo Austin Dacanay of how proud he is of his Filipino heritage & of being a Philippine Volcanoe, here’s what he said:

We represent 92 Million people every time we put on that National Team jersey. And although the brotherhood is very loose & fun, from the most senior players to the rookies, we all understand that it’s an honor and privilege to represent the Philippines. Our words, actions and performance is just a result of that understanding. Being a Volcano finally validates all of the years of sports where I fought with the White, Black and Hispanic kids that I never fit in with, but tried so hard to. It has given me an identity that I am forever proud of, and that honestly, I’m ashamed not to have known much about until 2007. It’s something that I will pass on to the players that follow me, to my children, and every Filipino that I meet anywhere in the world until I’m gone. I’m proudly Pinoy, and that’s what it means to be a Volcano.”

Lolo is definitely one proud Pinoy! Fact: Austin Dacanay is one of the few team members who’s pure Filipino, both parents are Pinoy. read full article here: http://www.teamphilippinevolcanoes.com/1/post/2013/04/10-questions-for-austin-dacanay.html

Just give ’em a chance, will ya? They all have a different way of thinking & speaking but they are doing their best to adjust and reach out to fellow Pinoys. They need room to work at trying to live and be a Filipino without other fellow Pinoys judging them or making fun of them. They are all working hard to get to know a place that they didn’t have the privilege of growing up in. We should also recognize and accept the fact that they are bi-cultural, that the other half of them belongs to another place, another home.

Now think of it this way… These players CHOOSE TO PLAY FOR THIS COUNTRY, FOR THE PHILIPPINES. They can opt to play to wherever but they choose here, they chose us. Its more than a testament that they acknowledged and embraced the Filipino in them.  Who is a Filipino? Sino nga ba ang Pilipino? How can one say I am a Filipino? Is it the color of your skin? Your looks perhaps? Is it the language you know & speak of? Somebody born, raised, and living here in the Philippines? Somebody born from 2 legit Filipinos? Here’s what I think — You don’t have to be born, raised, and living here in the Philippines for you to be called and considered a Filipino.  Being a Filipino is not just by blood, by your skin color, or your looks — it is but most importantly by heart.

One of my favorite sports commentator and analyst, Sir Bob Guerrero capped all of this in one of his interview: “At the end of the day, if your momma knows how to cook a mean adobo, then you have to be considered Pinoy. Even if you are raised abroad and have never been to the Philippines. The reality is there is a huge Filipino diaspora living abroad and their children have every right to represent the Philippines in sports.”

and its just mean and unfair of us to deny these lads of our support. We should remember to love our own, no matter what package they are presented in. : ) So the next time you think about you being a Filipino and how proud you are of it, remember these lads and how they fight just to bring glory and pride to the mother land.

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I am inviting everyone to get behind the Philippine Volcanoes and support them in their home games on May 4th & 18th, 7pm at Rizal Memorial Stadium. Tickets are available in all Ticket World outlets nationwide and via Ticket World online: https://www.ticketworld.com.ph/Online/default.asp. PLEASE do watch the games live! It will make a world of difference seeing your home crowd cheering for you to win, it’ll definitely give the team a boost after the loss vs Japan and I’m pretty sure the boys will appreciate it seeing each and everyone of you at the stadium. : )

So why am I doing this? What do I get from this? I frequently ask myself that. To be honest, this is not a paid article. I get nothing doing this… I don’t even know if the players even know that I am doing this or if they even remember me… But, I’ve seen them since day 1 and the amount of dedication, passion, and hard work they put in to just wear that jersey and represent this country, it just moves me. Their eagerness to share and teach what they know about the sport to every Pinoy, that makes me happy. Their “never give up” attitude, Pinoy na Pinoy yan and something that I look up to. And their love for fellow Pinoys, always trying to pay it forward in anyway they can, all of these, It makes me extra proud that I am Filipino. The Philippine Volcanoes is one of the many reasons why I flaunt and will always be proud that I am PINOY! : )

Be in the know and catch up with the team & the Union thru:

https://www.facebook.com/PhilippineRugby

https://twitter.com/PhilippineRugby

For inquiries and sponsorship, you may contact the union via:

http://www.prfu.com/

email: communications@prfu.com

email: prfu@prfu.com

Best of luck to the team in their next games! and everyone, hoping to see you all in Rizal this May! : )

Respect. Discipline. Proudly Pinoy.

Philippine Lady Volcanoes on ARFU Women’s Division 2 Tournament

After the success of Philippine Volcanoes in the recently held Asian 5 Nations 2012, their lady counterparts, Lady Volcanoes is now gearing up for the ARFU Women’s Division 2 Tournament happening this June 14 and 16. The Philippines will again be the host nation for the said women’s event.

Lady Volcanoes will take on Laos, Thailand, and Singapore in a four day tournament happening at Eagle’s Field, Southern Plains, Silangan, Laguna next week. In preparation for the tournament, the Lady Canoes will be in a four-day camp starting June 10 under the supervision of National Team Coach Expo Mejia, who also coached the men’s team to championship last A5N 2012. It will be one tough climb for the ladies but its doable. They are eyeing Thailand and Singapore as the hardest teams to beat, especially Singapore, the team relegated to Division 2 after they failed to win games in Division 1 last year.  Laos on the other hand, will be the must win game for the Lady Canoes to avoid demotion to lower division.

Lady Volcanoes line up for ARFU Women’s Division 2 Tournament 2012:

Lalaine Albarando
Alice Almocera
Amelia Bryere
Rose De La Cruz
Blessie De Los Santos
Mai Farjado
Jessica Filoteo
Tonette Gambito
Eloisa Jordan
Aye Honoras
Ann Layumas
Nikki Lira
Ada Milby (Captain)
Nicole Moore
Rozie Morala
Noreen Novero
Reena Novero
Aiumi Ono
Anne Sajorne
Madille Salinas
Acee San Juan
Angelica Santican
Manila Santos
Cassie Umali (Vice-Captain)

Lady Volcanoes with Singapore after a friendly game last week (photo credits to Singapore team)

Women’s Rugby is still on a struggle for development in this side of the world, that is the reality we cannot deny. When i started training Rugby with this team, few girls pay attention and interest in the sport primarily because its a tough sport to play and Filipinas are typically the shy, quiet, and gentle type. You see the picture? Let me quote what Coach Expo said in one of his media interviews “Filipino girls find it hard to be aggressive on the field while playing Rugby.” Pinays and Rugby don’t mesh up easily. Another thing that halts the development of the sport for women, well unlike the men’s team who’s popularity shoots up like a meteor, spectators and sponsors alike don’t pay much attention to women playing Rugby. But having said all of these, I still am hopeful that one day, Filipinas will learn to embrace the sport and they’ll be able to earn respect from football fans and get much needed support from sponsors as well. After all, who says Maria Clara can’t play ball? In this day and age, everything is doable and possible if we believe. 😉

I too have fond memories training with this team. Because I’m more focused on soccer and my club just recently joined the first ever Women’s Soccer League in Philippine soil, I kinda lost Rugby a little so my dream to play together with these wonderful ladies will remain parked in the meantime.

Here are some of our pics during Rugby training;

yes true, Rugby skills are still a work in progress but what we lack in skill, we compensate with our heart & iron-will to win. I think even the great American Football Coach Vince Lombardi will agree with me that the will to win is the most important of all. At the end of the day, its not the greatest team or the fastest player who is a winner, it is the one who believed she is a winner and she can make it to the top.

so girls, i bid you good luck. I will be cheering you on towards winning. Whatever it is that you’re going through as an individual and as a team, just shrug it off. keep your focus. don’t listen to people who says you can’t do it, just believe in yourself and in your capabilities, that right there makes you a winner already. and always remember that whatever the outcome is, as long as you know you give more than your 100% in it, you gave it your best shot, you can always hold your head up high and be proud. toughen it up! never surrender, never back down! best of luck! 🙂

Please do watch the ARFU Women’s Division 2 games happening on June 14 and June 16, 3pm-5pm at Eagle’s Field, Southern Plains, Silangin, Laguna. Let’s cheer on our Lady Canoes to win! 😀 

RESPECT. DISCIPLINE. PINOY PRIDE.

Behind the scenes: Asian 5 Nations 2012 in Manila!

disclaimer: To those expecting for a pure sports blog, well you’ve gone into the wrong place. this is not the blog you’re looking for coz it won’t give you a blow-by-blow Rugby summary of the games, just narration of behind the scenes events, mishaps and what have you. don’t say you’re not duly warned. 😉

Another milestone achieved for Philippine Sports coz this year, we are the proud host of the prestigious rugby event, the Asian 5 Nations 2012. for those who do not know anything about Rugby, HSBC Asian 5 Nations is an annual international rugby union competition held between the top five Asian national rugby sides. The teams play a round-robin competition held on five consecutive weekends throughout April and May. The competition represents the highest tier of international rugby in Asia, and is the apex of a multi-divisional Asian international calendar. also, our National Team for Rugby, the Philippine Volcanoes was hailed champions in Division 1 after beating all the 3 other teams in their division hence promoting us in Asia’s Top 5 team. if that ain’t awesome, i don’t know what is! 😀

right after the Under 20s Rugby tournament held last December 2011, we already knew that the Philippines is hosting A5N and and that massive work is cut out for us to achieve a successful staging of an international sports event in this country. so when the Philippine Rugby Football Union (PRFU) once again asked for help, I responded right away, ditching everything and immediately filed for a leave of absence at work. it has been a tradition for me actually to help and support the union in any way i can to give back coz i learned Rugby from them and i will forever be grateful for that! =)

last year, I was tasked to be the Liason Officer for Malaysian U-20s team but for A5N, I chose to be with the seniors team of Taiwan, the Chinese Taipei Rugby team. we actually had the free reign to choose whichever team we want to be with and since i already met the coach last year, Coach Pai, Wan-Yin (Edward Pai) when he was with the juniors, i opted to be their LO despite the fact that communication will be a little difficult. And i have a good sense that they’ll be an awesome team to be with (and i am so damn right about that!).

it turned out pretty well, AWESOME actually! I have nothing but praises for these young lads! First meeting was kinda awkward but me & my awesome partner Leslie did warmed up with the team. all it took was a few banters here and there, a little mischief, and some nai cha! viola! we became inseparable! =))))

touring Luneta Park at 2pm under the scorching hot Manila sun! XD

this was taken during our tour in Luneta. t’was scorching hot at 2pm in Manila but the team was still up for the tour! hehehe.. really now, it wasn’t our idea, it was Coach Pai’s idea! hahaha!

so how do i describe the team? they’re pretty young team, young blood, pretty much the youngest team in the tournament. we have players as young as 18 years old and our oldest is 24. i’m even a year older than that player. its a good mix of working & studying individuals who plays and represents their country in the Rugby arena. our first meeting was kinda awkward of course coz we can’t pronounce the names quite correctly, and all I knew was Coach Pai! =)) and communication was a problem, most of the time we have to ask Coach Pai to do the translation to better understand everyone! i remember Coach Pai said to me “You look Chinese, are you Chinese?” i answered “Yes Coach, i’m part Chinese but unfortunately I never learned to speak, understand, and write mandarin! i’m so sorry!” =))) Coach just laughed. he is such a nice guy by the way, always calm and collect. a teacher by profession, the Chinese Taipei Rugby team improved when he started coaching them, starting with their promotion to Division 1 last year up to their campaign to maintain their spot for this year’s A5N.

here’s Coach Pai, Wan-Yin!

looking good, Coach! 😀

he’s a very hands on coach. Running, playing & doing the drills with the team!

it was a bit different approach i had with this team comparing to what i did with Malaysia U-20s. i was able to file a leave for A5N so that means i am free from my real-life work and i was almost always with the team, very much hands on in attending to all their needs and not to mention my partner was also a very hands on and a very protective LO for our team! hahaha! i remember in our game vs the Philippines, Leslie was shouting at the top of her lungs “Not to rough! Please not too rough for my kids!” and Peter from PRFU board was just staring at her w/ his mouth hanging open! hahahaha! hilarious moments during A5N!

here’s my awesome partner Leslie with some of our kids! 😀

when we chose our team, me & Leslie we’re really hoping that they’d be a nice group of lads, praying hard for it actually coz we heard nightmare horror stories of LOs about the teams they’ve handled and we don’t want any of that. and it turned out good. we ended up with the nicest, well-mannered, and fun-to-be-with team! among the 4 teams, they have the least number of requests and most of their requests were just easy to do and manageable. both the coaches were like fathers to us, looking out for us too. =) the players and our physio all play nice, though sometimes they were annoyingly rowdy and naughty (ask the hotel waitresses!) but in general, they are sweet and caring men. very respectful to women and the elders  but at the same time they knew how to have fun! they drink, they party and they love to eat & shop. that’s what they do during their free time. it was definitely a fun & happy week with them!

shopping at Shopwise! I think they demolished the shelf for dried mangoes!

I call them “my kids” coz aside from the fact that they’re way younger than me, they also act like kids! hahaha! i think the words “my kids” as my term of endearment suits them just fine. its always fun when we were with them. what’s amazing about them is that they know how to have fun but they also know when to be serious & productive. they were dead serious during trainings and fierce & ready every game.  i couldn’t be any prouder of them. =)

our pictures during training!

true story: during this training sesh, I was walking quietly on the pitch, holding my DSLR and looking for subjects worth taking snap at when Coach Pai called me and said: “hold this tackle bag for me please..” i was like: “okay, coach.. O_O” did the stance, the one I do when in Rugby 101, then he said “I’ll tackle you!” head straight to me then bam! hahahaha! i was dead scared but good thing it wasn’t a serious tackle from Coach Pai coz I highly doubt if I’ll ever survive that tackle! Coach Pai was laughing at me coz the look on my face was just priceless then he tapped my back and said “Its okay, its just a joke!”

hahaha! Coach Pai did scare the hell out of me there but t’was cool! its not everyday you get tackled by one of the legit rugby coaches here in Asia. I am honored dear Coach Pai! 😀

it was a historic run for Chinese Taipei Rugby team as they’ve just bounced back & got promoted in Division 1 recently. During A5N 2012, our first game versus Sri Lanka was shaky perhaps because the team didn’t have time to prepare and get the players acclimitize to hot Manila weather. Hence it ended with a loss, 29-8.

Determined to bounce back the next game versus the Philippine Volcanoes, our team balanced training, attending functions/commitments for IRB, and relaxation. Found out that Chinese Taipei Team worked brilliantly if they don’t feel as if they’re backs are pushed on the wall, that’s how they are. Coaching is always balanced, never too hard, not too relax either. unfortunately, we weren’t able to snag a win against Philippines, 34-12 but my kids gave the Volcanoes quite a scare when they stretched & demolished the  defense line in the last minutes of the game until finally my kids were able to score.

Game 2 against the Philippines was also nerve-wracking for me & Leslie. 2nd half of the game, one of our kids, Chen, Chia-Han, got hit with a bad tackle from the Philippines and he went down the pitch writhing in pain. We rushed down the tracks to see what happened and to check if he was ok and apparently, he wasn’t. He couldn’t get up after that and worse, he could hardly breathe. Leslie suspects its a broken rib, the medic rushed in & got him to a stretcher off the field. The doctors went on immediately on checking him & administered first aid. It was confirmed, a fracture on the rib. The doctor recommended to rush Chen, Chia-Han to Makati Medical Center for x-ray & further tests to see the extent of the injury. Leslie & Coach Pai went with our kid (Leslie’s a nurse so I asked her to go with Coach coz she knew better than me, I stayed with the team until the game was through). Thank goodness it was just a fractured 7th rib that doesn’t need any surgery. all he needs is rest & chest binder for support, it’ll heal up on its own in weeks. Had it been a broken rib, it’ll be a lot worse coz he’s at risk of puncturing his lung if that’s the case. they were discharged after spending 4hrs at the hospital.

here’s Chen, Chia-Han at the hospital! i won’t forget his name coz I had to memorize his name to get all his medical results & medical certificate before they all went back home to Taiwan. =) it was a close call but glad he’s just fine.

he kept calling us “bad people” for taking & posting his hospital pictures! haha! parang bata talaga i swear! so adorbs..

still in pain after meds were administered.

still smiling.. discharged! Chen, Chia-Han with Coach Pai! 😀 the only downside on all of this is that we’re down to 23 players. the doctors didn’t give clearance to Chen, Chia-Han to play on the finals so he was sidelined. He’s a good player & one of the top scorers of the team so its sad to not see him play in the finals but he did well on the first 2 games already.

heart-breaking to see my kids twice defeated but I admire them coz they never lost hope, kept the hunger to win & the fire to get the job done burning. I never saw them sulk and get all depressed with the loss. Finals came and they were even more determined to keep  their spot in Division 1 and not relegated to second division again coz that would mean the end of their campaign for the Rugby World Cup. And it was indeed one of my proud moments during A5N when they were able to win against Singapore, 31-49! i was close to tears really coz i watched them and been there with the team since day 1 and of course the looks on their faces was just priceless when they won. =’)

in one of the media interviews of Coach Pai after they won, he said and I quote “Now that we have managed to retain our position we plan to select a larger squad earlier so that we can focus on our improvement over the next year. Our goal will be to compete at Division I level and crack the Top 5 of the HSBC Asian 5 Nations for the first time.”

I do have high hopes for this team. they’re extreme hard workers and pretty young bunch so really, the chances of getting into top 5 is doable, they just got a lot of growing up to do, more international caps/games to better gain experience and that’s it, i wouldn’t be surprised if i see them playing against the top teams in Asia. what can i say, i just love this team! they won my heart and for that they can be sure that they’ve got a loyal & true fan and friend here in the Philippines!

more of our misadventures with the Chinese Taipei Rugby Team!

meet Shaun, one of our youngest. He maybe 18 years old but he can take on opponents twice as large as him & twice the age too coz he was able to tackle down our “Flying Jeepney” (so sorry Justin Coveney! we still do love you!)! I’m so sorry I’m just proud of Shaun! 😀 He’ll grew up a fine man and a good rugby player someday. =) he’s all sun-burned in this pic but refused to put on some sunblock! hahaha! so adorable.. we call him “kukulah” — a Sri Lankan word which means chicken head & he’s always asking: “Kukula?!? why?!?” =))

goofing around in one of our pool sessions! hahaha! kids! 😀 the other teams always request for ice baths every after training but my kids, they’re simply content with the hotel swimming pool! 😀

pity this sleeping guy! XD

all smiles! they’re looking at the guy swimming in the public fountain in Luneta and maybe wondering why those men were swimming in a public place! hahaha!

one of our kid trying to replicate Jose Rizal’s pose! hahaha! I gave a little trivia about our national hero Dr. Jose Rizal to them that Rizal is also part Chinese, well most of Pinoys are, like me. they were amazed with the connection & influence the Chinese people have in the Philippines. =)

Sunday, April 22 was my last day as an LO and my last day with them. I sent them off back to Taiwan but surprisingly, we never lost contact. We still talk if given a chance, through facebook chat. they’re updating me about their life after A5N which I really appreciate. I found true friends in the most unlikely places & events and for that I am thankful. I honestly can say I miss them, hanging out with them, story-telling, shopping, Nai Cha moments at Moon Leaf, everything.. and I do hope we get to hang out again sometime in the future.

I owe Rugby a lot. It has taken me to places I’ve never been before and I get to meet people whom I never dreamed of meeting, as in never in my entire 25 years of existence. Rugby even got me new friends i can really count on. so much has changed in my life since i got into Rugby and this Liason Officer experience brought so much change in me since day 1 (last December 2011). It gave me the confidence I never had before, developed my interpersonal communication skills drastically since I have to meet and talk to different kinds of people coming from different culture & upbringing. It made me smart, street-smart perhaps is the correct term and helped me discover all the strengths that i have as an individual. Also, volunteering is a job worth stressing and sweating for.. it makes you fulfilled and makes you feel good about yourself.. true enough VOLUNTEER NOT TO BUILD YOUR RESUME, BUT SO YOU CAN BUILD YOURSELF..

really, its one experience i’ll never forget and will forever be grateful for. so until the next Rugby Adventure guys and keep on moving your feet! =)

**some of the photos here are owned by freelance photographer Mark Cristino and my LO partner Leslie Laya! thanks guys for sharing the pictures! hope you don’t mind me using some of it here.

**More of Mark Cristino’s Rugby photos here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/streetunka/collections/72157627575497074/, please do check it out.

Rugby 101 with TEAM XENA! =)

I remember last year when I first set foot in Ultra to join Rugby 101. 1st sesh there, we’re just a total of 5 girls training on the pitch, usually merged with the boys so just to let us experience playing touch rugby.. and after almost a year, I now can see 12 or more girls training every session! what a change it has been! =)

Picking a name for the team also has gone through several evolutions.. starting with tagging us as “TEAM GL (GL for Good-looking)” given I think by Coach Matt, then there was “TEAM ATHENA” given by PHL Dev’t team & Volcanoe member, Arnold Aninion, who’s also one of our coaches. He said the name fits coz Athena is the Greek Goddess of war & wisdom. and finally “TEAM XENA” after Xena the warrior princess.. =)

so now, without further adieu, everyone meet TEAM XENA!

we’re the women’s team formed from Rugby 101. we’re a mix of Rugby newbies & players from the national women’s team for Rugby, Lady Volcanoes. Captained by Lady Volcanoe Cassie Umali. to be honest, its a constant challenge and one hell of a battle for women to be playing the men’s game. you constantly have to prove yourself to everybody and to really get out there and perform/play well so as to earn respect from people so I really am proud of this team! hopefully we can sustain it & be able to have enough players for us to compete in 7s, 10s, and 15s league. =)

Calling all ladies out there, we’re still trying to beef up the squad. Please do join us every mondays & wednesdays at Ultra, 6pm to 8pm for a fun and quality Rugby training! =)

So whoever said that Rugby is for men’s only?! We girls like to kick some ass on the pitch too!