The Fear and Excitement of the Unknown
Sorry I don’t do that! That could have been my reply to an invitation to watch the Philippine Volcanoes match against the UAE players by the dynamic people behind Fila, the major sponsor of the team, as if I was offered its solvent namesake. After all, that’s the rugby I am more familiar with.
The challenge of experiencing live a very physical sport my “mahinhin” persona could not imagine playing is just too much to forego. Moreover, the thought ringing at the back of my mind of brute masculinity in its rawness played out before me is more than, I just have to mention it again, my “mahinhin” self can resist! I found myself getting hot with excitement as the momentous day arrived.
It was indeed a weekend of firsts for me in the field of sports events (the other one being the Alaska Ironkids Aquathlon which I did a write up in another entry). Aside from running which is a regular form of exercise for me, at various stages of my active life I also played volleyball, badminton, roller skating, piko, Chinese garter, and jack stones. Recently I became in love with cycling and hope to fall back in love again with my college days sport of swimming. Last Saturday evening though, I became witness to a sport event I never had seen played before me.
The Fila Connection
The HSBC Asian 5 Nations in its sixth year since 2008 when it was first held saw the Philippine Volcanoes take part for the very first time in this battle of champion teams coming from Japan, South Korea, Hong Kong and UAE. Being the eight and the newest nation to reach this elite level with Japan and Hong Kong owning the esteemed frequent dwellers distinction since the Asian Rugby Football Union first held the event in partnership with HSBC, the local rugby team would very much like to hold this momentous event amidst Filipinos who are still considered as relatively uninitiated to this sport.
I considered myself very lucky to be invited by the Fila Marketing Group through Maida Pulido who got in touch with me and other running blogger friends through super blogger friend Teacher Cheryl. Not only a popular and long trusted sportswear brand (since 1911) worn by famous tennis stars and legends like Bjorn Borg and Boris Becker, but a producer of various specialized lines for Running, Basketball, Racquet Sports, and Golf. In the country, its presence lords among top sports apparel brands since 1983 and front runs Basketball, Badminton, Cross Training, Running and Sports Casual outfitting. Spearheaded by the visionary pair of FILA Philippines owners, Butch and Cris Albert, the company is bound for greater success with design originality and color boldness stamped in every quality product lines.
A svelte Joan Bonifacio, Fila account executive, ushered us by the moment we checked in at the Fila booth just outside the side entrance of the newly refurbished Rizal Memorial football stadium. After checking out the quality but very affordable and colorful Fila shoes, bags, slippers and souvenir shirts, we were led into the cavernous stadium abuzz with excited and festive supporters and spectators with the salsa drum beats reverberating throughout heightening the excitement.
Scoring and Formations 101
But how am I to properly cheer and applaud the Volcanoes if I have nil idea as to how the game is played, much more when a point or points are scored? I would not want to look foolish standing up to give my raucous cheer with matching standing ovation and shaking of the hips in a victorious dance only to realize it was the opposing team which scored! Fortunately, our press kits included Rugby 101 boards which the organizers thoughtfully included to inform us of the basics of the game. This I browsed before the game started and I became more confident in giving my adulation for each point won.
I learned from the Rugby 101 board that the spider-like formation of two teams facing each other making up half of the spider’s body and legs is called a SCRUM after an infraction was committed. A smaller version of this formation is called a RUCK and the MAUL is like a ruck done standing. Another formation consisting of two or three players done each time a ball was kicked into touch, an area which is like an outside for soccer, is the line out. This looked like a lifting version of that one done by the cheer leaders causing me to think my friends at the Fabulous Running Divas can take up this rugged sport and outperform them in this aspect forming perfect line outs with flair and poise! All of these are done whenever the referee stops the game due to certain infractions.
Scoring a TRY which is equivalent to 5 points is gained whenever the ball is grounded, or brought by hand to the end most area of the field past the goal poles, or uprights (placed in the area where the goals in soccer are similarly located), known as the try area. A CONVERSION of two points is awarded each try whenever a player can kick the ball right into both uprights and above the crossbar from the point where the try scoring game first started. A DROP GOAL worth 3 points is scored by dropping the ball and allowing it to bounce before kicking it towards the goal during the play.
These rules at scoring and terms used during play and all the formations churva I just enumerated might seem hard to digest and very intricate in written words but believe me they are not at all! In fact all it took was just that simple board of Rugby 101 for almost all of us in the VIP section who are either photographers or bloggers or both and who are mostly illiterate of the game, to understand and appreciate the game as it happens! Talk about rugby in a nutshell! Even I was unsure that I would ever understand, much more enjoy, this seemingly foreign game of burly guys bumping and wrestling each other. Sexy, maybe, but exciting? Nah! I was totally wrong of course!
Let the Game Begin
Rules are boring but the game is definitely not! Each attempt by the Volcanoes to reach the try area made the bleachers explode in a concoction of drum beats, booming shouts, volcanic cheers, cat calls, whistles, claps and whathaveyous. Undulating “Volcano! ..Volcano! …Volcano!…” cheers were interspersed with thunderous boos and jeers from both sides of the field each time seemingly successful runs at scoring by the UAE team were in progress. Fabulous cheerers in hot pink Afro wigs and perky personalities added some touch of gaiety. Had my Fabulous Running Diva friendships been here, we would have given them a run for their money!
Throughout this nerve tingling exchange of threats of breaching the defense and some near successful runs by both teams only to be ending in a tackle just a few meters from the try area, put the entire audience in a frenetic roller coaster ride of ups and downs. Lots of snacks and drinks, beer for the hard ones and soft drinks for the, well, soft ones, were served by the efficient Fila staff members. The owner of Fila, Cris Albert herself, was there with some friends like Tessa Prieto and Christian ministry co-members Love and her sister who are my Salon clients too, to see through the successful undertaking of this sporting event I am beginning to love. Yes the sport itself, not the players! Hmmmmm……
Ending on High!
In the end it was the Volcanoes who erupted in a lopsided 24-8 victory brought about by solid defense and aggressive offense. In fact, a game disrupting brown out occurred some few minutes before the end of the game which halted it for more than 5 minutes. It did not affect whatsoever the drive of the Volcanoes for the first home win making them place fourth in a group of Asia’s rugby titans. This is indeed a clear showcase of our flag carrier’s meteoric rise to the top making it the most successful team in A5N next only to Japan which is the number 1 team. This was brought about by their status of being unbeaten in previous divisions pitting them against Chinese-Taipei, Singapore and Sri Lanka.
For a Running Diva like me, the end of my mission did not end with the game but after a very frentic photo op with the members of the Volcanoes right after the end buzzer blew off at the 80th minute of the game. Bloggers and photographers were given the chance to breach the stands and flood right into the oval and straight into the very field where they stood victorious for some close up and some sweat sharing.
The entire experience not only is memorable for me but made me experience a different kind of high, not a runner’s high I am so most familiar with, but a totally new and volcanic one – a rugby high!
Here are the proofs in pictures of my foray into the rambunctious realm of rugby! Drool baby. Drool!