WATCH: Sibol Arena of Valor strikes for gold

MANILA, Philippines – As MOBA (Multiplayer Online Battle Arena) games continue to grow in popularity, the Philippines hopes to dominate the Arena of Valor (AOV) competition in the 2019 Southeast Asian Games. 

And the country looks to pin its hopes on the seven-man Sibol Arena of Valor team of Jeremiah '1717' Camarillo, Jevan Lorenzo 'Bents' Delos Santos, Lawrence Anthony 'Rubixx' Gatmaitan, Miguel Klarenz 'Miggie' Banaag, Bradie Ryan 'Yats' Velasquez, John Carl 'Aim' del Rosario, and team captain Kevin Kio 'Gambit' Dizon. (READ: ‘Arena of Valor’: What you need to know)

For these AOV professionals, it's a surreal experience to don the Philippine colors for the first time, thus motivating them to work twice as hard. 

"It’s (representing the Philippines) very different from carrying our organizations kasi bansa na 'yung dala namin, so mas mabigat for us," said veteran player Camarillo. 

“I mean, oo mas special itong tournament na lalo na first time nga magde-debut ang esports sa SEA Games so very honored kami.”

(Representing the Philippines is very different from carrying our organizations because it's the country we're representing, so it's more pressure for us. This tournament is more special as this is the first time esports is included in the SEA Games, so we're very honored.) 

Leading a team dominated by Team Liyab starters, Dizon banks on his pro team's international  exposure, including a stint in the AOV International Championships where they battled against nations outside of Southeast Asia. (READ: 'Arena of Valor': Pro tips from the Sibol players) 

"Right now yung AOV International Championships, iyon 'yung kumbaga parang step namin para mas lalong mag-improve 'yung laro namin kasi may mga team doon na hindi kasali sa SEA Games like Taiwan and North America, Europe," said Dizon. 

"Kumbaga mas matetrain kami bago sumabak sa SEA Games. Iyon 'yung pinaka importante,"

(Right now, the AOV International Championships is one of the steps we're taking to improve our game because there are teams there that are not part of the SEA Games like Taiwan, North America and Europe. This will be like our training before entering the SEA Games. That's what's important.) 

Camarillo, the oldest in the team at 27 years old, has led Team Liyab to multiple championships in local and international tournaments and was hailed as one of the best DS Laners in the region’s Taiwan server. 

Although the Sibol AOV players come from different backgrounds, they said they went through similar hardships to become national athletes.

Gatmaitan shared how it took time for his wife and mom to accept his passion for gaming. 

[‘Yung] turnaround ng mom ko [sa pag-gagaming ko] naman is 'yung naging Sibol kami, yung lahat kami, kasi nakakaproud naman nakikita mo yung anak mo, nasa Team Pilipinas din," said Gatmaitan. 

(The turnaround for my mom was when we qualified in Sibol. She was proud to see her son as part of Team Philippines.) – 

Beatrice Go

More commonly known as “Bee”, Beatrice is a multimedia sports reporter for Rappler, who covers Phillippine sports governance, national teams, football and the UAAP. Stay tuned for her news and features on Philippine sports and videos like the Rappler Athlete’s Corner and Rappler Sports Timeout.