AT AN illuminating press conference before the kickoff of the MPL-PH’s fourth week of the current season, ECHO PH country manager Mitch Liwanag and Omega Esports team manager Rhea “Persian Cas” Navarro talked at length about the pro players they had under their wing.
Initially, though, they were very cagey about who they were talking about, and refused to name any names.
“I have this one player. Hindi ko na lang siya ine-name drop,” said Liwanag. “Nahirapan halos ang mga organization na humawak sa kanya."
But she proudly said, “I'm the only one na napatino ang player na 'to.”
But Adi Padilla, Bren Esports team manager and also one of the panelists present in the press conference, couldn’t resist giving clues. “Yung na-mention ni Ate Mitch na player niya, napunta na din sa akin yung player na yun. Marami din akong natutunan sa kanila,” she said.
Persian was also stingy with the namedrops when it came to her turn on the mic.
“For Omega, most of you guys, alam niyo kung sino ang gusto kong itukoy dito,” she said with a laugh. “That was the super major na napagdaanan ko since nahawak ko nga yung Omega. I have three minors so far, but one of them, talaga, is doon ko naramdaman na parang may kulang.”
For both Mitch and Persian, their maternal instincts helped them communicate better with these unnamed players.
“You have to be the second parent,” stressed Liwanag. “As a mother, gina-guide ko siya on how he should handle those things. Kasi, nagli-learn pa yung bata e. So kailangan ng pasensya. Sinasabi ko lang kung ano yung mali niya, at hindi na niya uulitin. For me, as I can see right now, may character development yung player.”
For Persian’s part, she said, “Kung paano ko minamahal yung anak ko, ganun ko din mamahalin lahat ng players ko.”
The newfound maturity of KarlTzy
Upon further prodding, both Mitch and Persian talked more openly to the press about two specific players: ECHO PH’s Karl “KarlTzy” Nepomuceno, and Omega Esports’ Duane “Kelra” Pillas.
During his time in Bren Esports, KarlTzy rose to become one of the shining lights in the Mobile Legends pro scene, leading the team to the top spot in both the M2 World Championships and the MPL-PH Season 6. He later moved to ECHO PH in Season 9.
Kelra, meanwhile, has emerged as one of the scene’s most effective gold laners, steering marksman heroes to earn himself the nickname “Filipino Savage.”
Both, however, have earned a reputation among some fans and observers of being spitfires. Kelra has also been embroiled in several controversies. In one case back in 2021, the league had to step in and slap the youngster with a suspension.
However, the team managers said, these two players are just misunderstood.
“For KarlTzy, I can say mabait talaga yung bata,” said Liwanag.
She does admit, however, that KarlTzy can be very frank and upfront. “Di siya ma-eme na tao. Pag tinanong ko siya, 'O, what's your problem?' Sasagot siya kung ano yung problema talaga. I think malakas talaga ang personality ng bata, but I can tell you that this kid, napakabait.”
She’s seen firsthand how KarlTzy provides for his family, and has risen to become a true leader ever since his transfer to ECHO.
“[S]obra yung maturity niya. He leads them inside the game and outside,” said Liwanag.
How different is the KarlTzy of Bren and the new KarlTzy? “I think yung sinasabi nilang 'character development' ni Karl, siguro proper guidance lang talaga. Napipigilan na niya ang emotions niya ngayon. Kasi before, diretso talaga siya magsalita.”
She added: “I can really say na mali ang mga tao [sa] kung ano yung nakikita nila, at sinasabing mayabang. No, napakabait na tao ni Karl.”
Guidance puts Kelra in the right path
Speaking about Kelra, Persian became emotional, tearing up as she talked about how much Omega’s gold laner has grown in terms of maturity.
“Aminado talaga ako, at first, talagang matigas talaga ang ulo niya,” the former ML pro player admitted. “But nakita ko kasi kung ano yung weakness ni Kelra, and ano talaga yung kulang. By then, doon namin siya in-assess, ano ba ang dapat naming gawin?”
Again, her maternal instincts kicked in.
“Feel ko sa kanya, nandun yung love, but kulang sa guidance,” said Persian. So she went hands-on in mentoring the young athlete, even going as far as to talking directly with his teachers to discuss his schooling.
“Ngayon masasabi ko na Kelra is a good child na,” she said. “Just like Karl[tzy], mayabang siya sa tingin ng ibang tao, pero, honestly, inside of Kelra, nakita ko kasi kung paano siya maging breadwinner."
She paused for a moment as she talked, just to gather her emotions. "Alam ko lahat ng sakit ng bata, alam ko lahat kung saan siya nanggagaling. Yung way ng kayabangan niya, yun lang yun pinakikita niya na 'Matapang akong tao.' Pero hindi. Super lambing na bata. Super bait na bata.
“Sabi ko nga, parang akong nagkaroon ng binata.”