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PNG Students promote Rugby League in Batangas province, Philippines

BY ERICK ELEFANTE –   PAPUA New Guinea (PNG) students studying in many of the two dozen colleges and universities in the province of Batangas in the Philippines, have established the Rugby League team Batangueno Mandirigmas (Batangas Warriors) Rugby League team, consequently sparking local interest in what Australians and PNG nationals call as “the greatest game of all.”

Another Rugby League team composed mainly of UB students called University of Batangas Toro meanwhile vie for peoples’ attention in the local scene.

Philippines National Rugby League (PNRL) representative Jannel Dela Torre eventually made contact with the the Batangueno Mandirigmas, but the new team failed to compete in the second PNRL Rugby League 9s tournament in the Philippines in October  2013.

A year after it was established, the Batangueno Mandirigmas, finally played in a local Rugby League tournament last September 16, 2014 at the Adventist University of the Philippines (AUP), PNG Independence Day Celebration Rugby League tournament. For a second year in a row they again competed in last September 13th 2015, PNG Independence Day game at AUP.

With the majority of foreign students attending the University of Batangas (UB), coming from PNG, third year Civil Engineering student, Ismile Kepu discovered that it was difficult getting sponsors for the Batangueno Mandirigmas. Kepu who is the president of the International Student Oganisation in University of Batangas, realised few people in the Philippines know the game of Rugby League.

Backed by majority of foreign students studying at UB, Kepu  wrote a letter to  University President, Dr. Hernando B. Perez, asking permission to introduce Rugby League into the University’s official sports program. The President approved it and even bought the team new club jerseys.

“I am  happy and  I thank the University President Dr. Hernando B. Perez and Vice Presidents: Dr. Abegayle Machelle Perez-Chua for Academic Affairs, Mr. Atty. Jesus V. Mayo and Leiah Sheila M Atienza for Students and External Affairs for making things possible for the foreign students to introduce Rugby League in Batangas and here in the Philippines,” Kepu said.

But unlike the 2013 Batangueno Mandirigmas who come from the many Colleges and Universities in Batangas, the UB Toro Rugby Football Team, is an exclusively University of Batangas student team.

Rugby league sports was for a time mainly the domain of Maritime Industry School in the Philippines (MISP), which was one of institutions that introduced the Rugby League as sports curriculum in the Philippines.

Outside MISP, University of Batangas was the pioneer in introducing Rugby League as a university sports.Sports  aficionado Kepu  looks forward to bringing the University team the UB Toro into the PNRL local tournament planned for 2016.

So on the 27th of November 2015, the newly formed UB Toro Rugby Football Team proudly took part in the annual University of Batangas Sports Parade day, introducing the new sport to the school and the province of Batangas.

Kepu is keen to introduce Rugby League to local Filipinos in Batangas. Jannel Dela Torre a PNG citizen of Filipino heritage and a co-founder of the 2013 Batangueno Mandirigmas is one very good Rugby League player according to Kepu.

“The future plan for the UB Toro is to introduce Rugby League in Batangas province and teach the young Filipino boys (future UB Toro players) to take part so that after we have graduated and returned home to PNG, they will continue from where we’ve left off and so that one day a Filipino UB Toro player will represent the country as an International Philippines Tamaraw!”

With the PNRL still in its infancy, the UB Toros are organising their own preparations for the 2016 PNRL season and are currently training and looking forward to play a trial match against the Manila Recto Royals.

The Royals is another PNG student team  that have been regular competitors at the PNG Independence Day celebration games at AUP, since its inception 3 years ago. The Toro’s and Royals are yet to confirm the date and the venue for the trial, so stay tuned for more Rugby League news from the Philippines.