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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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!

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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.