The Manila Major raises hopes, aspirations for PH gaming scene

Don Kevin Hapal
The Manila Major raises hopes, aspirations for PH gaming scene
The Manila Major hype is real. Fans from various places come to watch the matches – from Manila, nearby provinces like Bulacan and Cavite, and even all the way from the Visayas.

MANILA, Philippines – The Manila Major hype sure is real.

As early as 8am, gamers and e-sports fans flocked outside the Mall of Asia Arena to witness the largest e-sports event the country has ever seen. (READ: ‘The DOTA 2 Manila Major kicks off‘ )

Fans wore shirts and waved banners that carried their favorite teams’ emblems. Cosplayers proudly walked around the venue, clad in DOTA 2 costumes.

Everywhere you went, you would hear people talking about their bets, explaining zealously why they think their picks will win.

Tickets sold out fast. The 16,000-seat arena was packed. 

The crowd went wild when the competing teams entered the arena, and went even wilder when our homegrown team, Mineski, arrived. 

Just when we thought the screams couldn’t get any louder, Natus Vincere (Na’Vi) came out, clearly the crowd favorite. “Dendi,” yelled the crowd repeatedly like an incantation to the gods.


Filipino fans may not be able to witness e-sports tourneys as grand as the Manila Major often, but they sure know the game’s anatomy through and through. 


Master caster and Dota 2 stats analyst Alan ‘Nahaz’ Bester himself tweeted, ‘these are real Dota 2 fans!’

Real fans

Fans from various places came to watch – from Manila, nearby provinces like Bulacan and Cavite, and even all the way from the Visayas.

Ang masaya dito sa Major ay yung crowd eh. Sobrang madadala ka sa crowd,” said Xairylle Lucena, who came with her husband Nico. 

Meanwhile, the event didn’t disappoint Richard Manalang and his friend Anthro Katipunan who came all the way from Cavite and Dumaguete respectively – all to watch their favorite teams in action.

The production, according to them, exceeded their expectations. “Yung production talaga. Ang ganda ng set-up nila,” says Anthro. (It’s really the production. The set-up is great.)

For Carmelo Culvero, who came with his girlfriend Lady Lopez, the opportunity to see his long-time idol, Na’Vi’s popular midlaner Dendi, in real life wasn’t something he was to going to miss.

Siya [Dendi] talaga yung naging inspiration ko for gaming eh. Talagang pag naglaro siya, may puso talaga eh,” says Carmelo excitedly. “Kahit di ko siya malapitan, nakaka-starstruck pa rin. Ganun pala talaga itsura niya in person. Nakaka-intimidate.” 

(Dendi is my inspiration for gaming. He plays with his heart. I feel starstruck even if I wasn’t able to get close to him. So that’s what he looks like in person. Intimidating.)

Professional DOTA2 players, Earlwin ‘Ewe’ Ylibre and James ‘Wootz’ Valdez, who came to watch at the event, also said that the Manila Major is also better than the international tournaments they’ve been to before, praising the event’s production.

PH gaming scene

The Manila Major raises news hopes and aspiration from fans – from changes in the gaming culture to improvements among teams representing the country.

Di tayo lagi makakakuha ng ganitong major events eh, so this is really a big deal. Kaya hype na hype tayo. Lalo na ngayon na ang DOTA 2 ay subculture na para sa atin,” says Xairylle. “Ang tanging wish ko lang from the Philippine teams, magkaroon na tayo ng maayos na strategy. Hindi puro safe picks, comfort picks.”

(We don’t always get to go to events like this, so it’s a really big deal. This is why we’re so hyped for this. Especially now that DOTA 2 has become a subculture for us. My only wish from the Philippines is hopefully they become more strategic. Do away with safe picks and comfort picks.) 

For Carmelo, tournaments like the Manila Major help show the world that Filipino players can compete toe-to-toe against foreign players.  

Isang magandang spark na rin ‘to for Philippine gaming. Ngayon, napapakita ng Mineski na mayroon naman pala tayong palag sa gaming,” Carmelo says. “We’re ready for more [tournaments].” 

(This is a great start for Philippine gaming. Now, Mineski shows that Filipinos can actually compete.)


For Earlwin, who competed in international tourneys before under Execration’s banner, Philippine teams still have a lot of catching up to do and need to do away with constantly re-shuffling players.

Kulang na kulang experience natin… walang chemistry. Laging nag-iiba ang players kasi kulang sa pera, budget,” he said.  (We’re lacking in experience and chemistry. We always shuffle players because we don’t have enough money and budget.)

Both Earlwin and James, who played for Mineski in previous tournaments, added that our players also need to learn to stop ‘trash talking and blaming each other whenever they lose.’

Another fan, Lea Niña de Leon, said that the salary for professional Dota 2 players in the country is also very low compared to other countries. “Sa ibang bansa, kaya nila gawing full-time ang pagiging player, unlike dito na part-time lang. ‘Di ka kikita ng pera kung di ka manalo,” she said. (In other countries, players can go full-time, unlike here where they can only do it as part-timers. You can’t earn if you don’t win.)

The Manila Major is the second premium e-sports tournament held in the Philippines this year, the first being ESL One Manila.

In a press conference for ESL One Manila last May, Mineski Chief Executive Officer Ronald Robins said that the Philippine gaming scene is ‘lagging’ compared to its South East Asian neighbors. –

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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.