By Jason Andrew Vila

It feels like way back when children will fill the streets with the noises of the games they used to play outside their houses. Hands clapping in tune to “Nanay, Tatay, Gusto kong Tinapay” or Tin cans rattling as it’s getting constantly hit by flip flops flying as the kids run to not get caught by the “it” in Tumbang Preso.

Although not completely gone we now see kids glued to their phones or computers playing the newest online games with their friends. Some of us may see this as something generally bad for the kids, but developments in Esports would tell us otherwise. This is one of the reasons why a group of youth started the Antipolo City Esports team. To create an avenue for Antipolenyo youth to take their passion for the new games they love to the professional level.

The Antipolo City Esports team was created to foster talent from individuals around Antipolo City who wish to take their gaming skills to a professional level. Yes! Gaming has changed from just a pastime to a whole global competition like the traditional sports we have. This is also the reason why the E-Palarong Pambansa (EPB), the online game equivalent of the sporting tournament that schools all around the Philippines participate in, was created.

It is surprising to note that the people who are undertaking these tasks of finding and growing the next Filipino gaming “superstars” are part of the youth as well. Three young adults from Antipolo assembled the city’s participants for the next E-Palarong Pambansa.

Anj Monteverde, a 22-year-old native of Barangay San Luis who is one of the coordinators for the team, shared how the group came together.

“Base sa EPB rule, volunteer siya for coordinator. Mayroong form na available for everyone nationwide online para yung lahat ng city ay makapag register and then kaniya-kaniyang lapit na sa mga SKs (Sangguniang Kabataan),”  she said.

Monteverde also shared that she found it hard to contact the SK and is very thankful for the friend who helped link her up with the Sangguniang Kabataan.

She also wasn’t informed that there are others who have contacted the SK for the event and that’s how she met up with Von Jasper Bongcac and Mavearicka Roca, 19 and 22 years old respectively, who are college students from Antipolo who also showed interest to build and lead the teams.

Since EP included 5 games for the tournament which are Mobile Legends: Bang Bang (MLBB), League of Legends and its mobile counterpart Wild Rift, and shooter games Valorant and Call of Duty Mobile (CODM), the three of them with the help of the Sanguniang Kabataan ng Antipolo City posted a call for tryouts on their Facebook page and they were overwhelmed with a lot of support and responses from teens all around the city who are enthusiastic about the games they’ve been playing.

Monteverde shared that they weren’t expecting the post to have the reach it has and it is the reason why the tryouts became a mini-tournament because only a select number of players (including their coaches) can be allowed in a team for all five games but the number of aspirants was large.

Like most stories though, assembling the team is not all flowers and sunshine. E-Palarong Pambansa postponed the event since there was an issue with the management of the tournament. The team faced a lot of criticism especially when the announcement of the EPB postponement was made and it was made worse by social media.

Monteverde shared a case where they were even insulted by some players on social media and since they are also still part of the youth, they experienced some financial constraints which also added to the long processes required to make the team official.

They never gave up on the team as they believe that it is important to have this grassroots tournament to help in the search for talented players.

“We’re establishing the focus on our dedication to fighting the interest and well-being of young people dito sa City” Anj said.

As the team are also gamers, they are determined to keep the team as they believe it encourages teamwork and strategic thinking as well as expanding the eSport teams in the city.

Monteverde shared her perspective that eSports gives people the opportunity to show their skills on the global stage.

“Even in their families, to be honest kailangan nila (eSports players) ng support,” the Antipolo Esport Team coordinator said.

“It also gives people chances to prove that this is not just a game. It also gives hope and passion to those who are lost and demotivated.” Monteverde said.

Even after EPB, the team would like to continue holding tournaments in different barangays to help the Antipolo youth to connect with other people who share the same passion they have and promote camaraderie among them. A very welcome change from the usual “Paliga” that have been the most prominent project for the youth for the longest time.

Before it’s postponement, the E-Palarong Pambansa was supposed to be held from July 5 to August 29.