Come March 2019, esports in the Philippines will be rising to a whole new level as The Nationals begins the maiden season of the first-ever franchise-based esports league in the country.
For now, confirmed teams and their leaders to compete in this six-conference first season include Bren Epro (Bernard Chong), Cignal Ultra (Jane Basas), Suha (Jobe Nkemakolam), Happy Feet Emperors (Kevin Chung), STI (Mhel Garrido), and PLDT Smart (Andrew Santos). These teams will be competing in Dota 2 (PC), Tekken 7 (Console), and Mobile Legends: Bang Bang (Mobile) for two conferences each.
Nationals Commissioner Ren Vitug is optimistic that the league will usher in the all-important elements to give esports the recognition and respect it deserves. “With the start of The Nationals, we are taking a significant step in achieving the maturity and accountability needed for our players to mature and be more competitive. The Nationals can provide stability, exposure, and opportunity for raw talents – of which we have aplenty – so that they can be harnessed to their full potential,” Vitug says.
Vitug’s enthusiasm stems from his observation that even without the necessary infrastructure for the sport, esports has been steadily gaining ground for the past decade. “Right now, Filipino esports athletes are globally competitive – but there are still very visible windows for improvement and growth,” Vitug stresses.
Vitug is confident that The Nationals will pique more positive interest, invite more people into the sport, and attract corporate sponsors that will support the 32 million plus gamers in the country.
League president Kevin Chung shares Vitug’s vision for esports. He says that unlike some traditional sports, the Filipino is not put at a disadvantage because of his physique. In fact, he says the Filipino has the innate talent for esports. A part of the local gaming industry for more than a decade and also the current team owner of Happy Feet, Chung sees the favorable forces coming together for esports. The Nationals league he says is the critical first step. The inclusion of esports in this year’s Southeast Asia Games, which the Philippines is hosting, is another boost in the right direction. He also acknowledges the important role that media can play in setting aright misconceptions about esports.
Vitug and Chung are leading The Nationals brimming with hope but with eyes wide open. Esports is accredited and recognized by the Games and Amusements Board. Vitug gives the assurance that all their teams and players will be compliant with GAB’s policies that include licensing and drug testing among others. Chung also says now that the infrastructure is being readied for the esports community, his one big hope is that through The Nationals, they will be able to develop the first national league template that other Southeast Asian cultures can replicate and eventually unite under one banner.
Chung also says that corporate entities should take serious note of the direction and phenomenal growth of esports. “For now, investment is still relatively cheap compared to the region and we have a huge gaming population,” he says. He asserts that there are even players that have millions of followers.
Chung and Vitug are both moved by their vision for esports as evidenced by their roles in The Nationals. “We need to have a bigger vision beyond boundaries. In esports, there are no age limits, no physical borders, no cultural or language barriers. Esports will be shown in The Nationals as a unifying event. The culture of esports is totally unprecedented. The passion, energy, and possibilities are endless and go beyond boundaries. It is paramount that we professionalize and thoroughly legitimize esports, and it’s important to do that now through TheNationals”, Chung enthuses.
The Nationals kicks off on March 17. You can watch it at EGG Channel on Cignal TV and at 5 Plus in ESPN5.
Quotes from Team Owners
“Cignal Ultra is excited as we gear up for The Nationals. Our recent win in the MPL and the signing of our Dota team shows our prepping to a competitive esports league. We anticipate TN’s promise of premiere esports and the ambition to compete internationally.” – Jane Basas, Cignal Ultra
“It is a big honor to be part of history. This is something that we will cherish for life. We can’t wait to play in Nationals” – Jobe Nkemakolam, Suha
“We are very excited to be part of the first esports franchise league in the region. We believe that The Nationals will be the first of many opportunities for the further growth of the esports industry in the Philippines and we are glad to be at the forefront of it all.” – Bernard Chong, Bren Epro
“It is paramount that we professionalize and thoroughly legitimize esports, and it’s important to do that now through The Nationals.” – Kevin Chung, Happy Feet Emperors
“PLDT and Smart are excited to be part of the Nationals, the country’s first franchise-based esports league. Our support for The Nationals is rooted in our faith in Filipino gamers. We have witnessed the passion and energy of gamers and fans, and they are all very inspiring. We are very proud to support Filipino esports players as we believe they have what it takes to be the best in the world. Our role is to empower them with the best gaming experience through the best Fibr and LTE connections.” – Andrew Santos, PLDT – Smart