Filipino fighting game teams take the world stage

Don Kevin Hapal
Filipino fighting game teams take the world stage
PlayBook Elite and Imperium Pro Team show the world that the Philippines is no pushover when it comes to fighting games

SINGAPORE – Filipino professional fighting game teams PlayBook Elite (PBE) and Imperium Pro Team (IPT) showed the world the Philippines is no pushover when it comes to fighting games at the Southeast Asia Major 2016 (SEAM), held in Singapore from October 7 to 9, with some landing on top spots in different tournaments. (READ: ‘Japan’s Tokido dominates Southeast Asia Major, PH players rise against odds‘ )

Co-sponsored by Sony Interactive Entertainment, the SEAM highlights a Street Fighter V tournament which is a qualifier for this year’s Capcom Pro Tour. Some of the world’s most renowned players flocked here to join the SEAM and fight for a coveted spot in Capcom’s top-level tournament with a gleaming $500,000 prize pool. 

Held as part of GameStart Asia, Southeast Asia’ premier gaming convention, there were also tournaments were for different titles: Tekken 7,Guilty Gear Xrd RevelatorKing of Fighters XIVUltimate Marvel vs Capcom 3, and Blazblue: Central Fiction.

Two of the Philippines’ strongest teams also joined the fray, showing some success in facing challenging odds.

For Street Fighter VDonald “PBE Don” Gimperoso, also the only Filipino who made it to the top 8 of the Manila Cup held recently, managed to break through the pool, all the way to the top 17 spot, only to be stopped by Singapore’s veteran player Kun Xian Ho who finished 3rd in last year’s Capcom Pro Tour.


When asked about the tournament, he said, “I feel very proud because we represent the country. Nakaabot tayo sa top 32 and survived the pool with lots of notable players. Fortunately we survived.” (We reached the top 32 and survived the pool with lots of notable players.)

Gimperoso admitted however that lack of practice contributed to his defeat. “To be honest, I was lacking in preparation because I have a different focus – I’m taking the NCLEX exam. Its not a good enough reason but I still did my homework – watch videos to prepare for the fight,” he said. “But God helped me reach the top 32.”

PlayBook Elite also showed that they were a force to be reckoned with in the Guilty Gear Xrd Revelator Toushinsai Qualifier, with both Jay-R Ryan “PBE Drake” Isaguirre  and Mark Anthony “PBE Noob” Casing facing each other in the semifinals, with the latter coming out as the winner. PBE Noob, however, lost the chance to qualify for the Toushinai Tournament in Japan after losing to Korean champion Daru at the grand finals.

PBE Drake (2nd from left), Daru (3rd from left), and PBE Noob (4th from left) during the awarding ceremony.

Both Casing and Isaguirre admitted that they realized at the tournament that they further need to polish their defense. For Casing, his reaction time needs improvement. “Kailangan ko maimprove ang reaction speed ko para makita ko ginagawa ng ibang players, para gumanda yung defense ko.” (I need to improve my reaction speed to be able to see my opponent’s movements and fortify my defense.) 

Meanwhile, Isaguirre will be working on his blocking next. “I think kailangan ko i-polish ang blocking ko. More on offense ang laro ko ngayon. Next training ko, defense talaga [ang itra-train ko] tapos try ko not to have an open sa mga laban ko.” (I think I need to polish my blocking. My play now is more offense. On my next training, I will be polishing my defense and try not to leave openings for my opponents.)

Meanwhile, Imperium Pro Team’s Alden “Ipt.alden” Jacob dominated the BlazBlue: Central Fiction tournament. This despite having to overcome changes in his character after it was updated from BlazBlue: Chrono Phantasma. Jacob says he had to ‘relearn mu-12’s combos and moves’ just before the tournament, having to spend 3-4 hours everyday for practice.

IPT Alden

When asked about his experience in SEAM, he said, “sobrang saya. Ang daming play styles na hindi mo makikita dito sa Pilipinas. Napakagandang learning experience.” (So much fun. There were different play styles that you wouldn’t see here in the Philippines. It was a great learning experience.)

Are they ready for the world stage? These top Philippine players said yes. 

“Kayang kaya labanan mga foreign players basta practice lang palagi. Ready naman lagi ang Pilipinas para lumaban sa ibang bansa at i-represent ang Pinas,” Casing explained.

(We can compete with foreign players as long as we always practice. We’re [Philippine teams] always ready to fight and represent the Philippines.)

Rise of Philippine eSports

Richard Brojan, the CEO and owner of PlayBook Elite eSports team, said that they are very happy with the turnout for this year’s tournament but pointed out that there are still areas for improvement.

“This year, for Guilty Gear umabot tayo sa grand finals. For Street Fighter, Don was able to enter the top 24 which is a big improvement last year… This year we’re very happy to improve our standings.”

When asked about what still needs to be improved, Brojan says that Filipino eSports players still need more exposure in the international arena. “I think, number one is exposure. Exposure sa international level of play. Merong weeklies locally sa Pilipinas at nagjo-join sila [the players] but we can’t improve kung kalaban natin tayo tayo lang. So we really need to go abroad to give them the exposure and experience.”

(I think number is exposure. Exposure in international level of play. We have weeklies locally in the Philippines and they join but we can’t improve if its just us. We really need to go abroad to give them exposure and experience.)

For Brojan, the future of Filipino eSports players is bright and one day, Philippine players will be able to catch up and play at par against Japanese players. “Kulang lang sa exposure. Nauna lang sila [Japanese players]. (We just lack exposure. They [Japanese players] just got exposure [to the games] first.) 

He added that eSports in the Philippines is growing really fast and he has seen the local fighting game community become really passionate about the game. “If you’re a fighting game player, it’s a very good time to play kasi buhay na buhay ang eSports ngayon because of social media around.” 

(If you’re a fighting game player, it’s a very good time to play because eSports is very much alive now that social media is around.) 

Imperium Pro Team’s Angelo Morelo Baldonado, who juggled being a player and a game commentator for SEAM 2016, echoes Brojan’s thoughts about eSports and the fighting game community. “Ngayon sa Pilipinas, masaya [ang community] kasi maraming eSports organization ngayon na tumutulong talaga sa mga players. Kung gusto niyo sumali, now is the time to join,” he said.

(Now in the Philippines, the community is happy because there are many eSports organizations really helping the players. If you want to join, now is the time.)

IPT's Angelo juggled playing and commentating for SEAM 2016

For anyone who are also aspiring to be professional gamers, Gelo has one advice: You have to have fun.

“Kusang lalabas yung interest eh. kung sa tingin mo magaling kayo maganalyze, maglaro o magcommentate, kusang lalabas yan. Unang una just have fun first and love your game.”

(Interest will show by itself. If you think you’re good at analyzing, playing, or commentating, it will show. First and foremost, you just have to have fun and love your game.) –

Do you feel inspired to take your interest and passion for gaming a step further? Click here for awesome deals on gaming products that will help you when you practice and when you compete.

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Don Kevin Hapal

Don Kevin Hapal is Rappler’s Head of Data and Innovation. He started at Rappler as a digital communications specialist, then went on to lead Rappler’s Balikbayan section for overseas Filipinos. He was introduced to data journalism while writing and researching about social media, disinformation, and propaganda.