The Philippine men's volleyball team on Sunday pulled of a huge semifinals win over defending Southeast Asian Games champion Thailand in five nerve-wracking sets, 17-25, 25-20, 23-25, 27-25, 17-15.
Photo from Marck Espejo's Twitter (@MarckEspejooo)
A huge step for Philippine men's volleyball
Rick Olivares ( - December 9, 2019 - 12:11pm

MANILA, Philippines – There is no denying that despite the power game that characterizes men’s volleyball, it has taken a far backseat to women’s volleyball. Maybe because you’ve got dozens of pretty lasses playing the game and the long rallies make for roller coaster excitement. The men’s league, Spiker’s Turf, is played to almost no fanfare and believe it or not — save for the finals — in a non-air-conditioned setting (there isn’t much of a crowd to begin with).

But that could all change after that huge semifinals win over defending Southeast Asian Games champion Thailand in five nerve-wracking sets (17-25, 25-20, 23-25, 27-25, 17-15).

That win sent the Philippines to a finals encounter against Indonesia, which defeated them in the group stage. Now the Filipinos have a chance for payback. If not, the lowest they can get is a silver medal. And this will make the best finish ever.

In the Philippines’ best-ever showing in the biennial regional competition (3-1 thus far), there are already a lot of heroes and great stories. Then the men’s volleyball team just crowded that storyline and list of heroes.

The tandem of Bryan Bagunas and Marck Espejo has really caused opponents problems with terrific contributions by Ave Joshua Retamar and Kim Malabunga. The rest of the roster is no slouch as head coach Dante Alinsunurin getting good performances out of Rex Intal, Ran Abdilla and Ricky Marcos. 

The core of this team has won the last five UAAP men’s volleyball titles with players coming from National University and Ateneo de Manila University. They have two of the biggest names in the game in Bagunas and Espejo, who has also played abroad (in Japan). 

The fact that Espejo and female wunderkind Alyssa Valdez (who has also played abroad in Thailand) and Jaja Santiago are breaking new ground says something about the local game. That it is getting better and we are starting to export players.

Imagine. In the Asean Basketball League (ABL), Filipino players are imports as well. And now, following football, we are seeing Filipinos go abroad to ply their trade. And that is good. This will inspire the young to know that there is a future in the sport.

And the Philippine men’s volleyball team isn’t even done yet. There is a gold medal game to play. Who knows what will follow?

I can only look laterally. When the Azkals booked a historic semifinals seat in the 2010 Suzuki Cup, one of the biggest beneficiaries of that was the old United Football League. 

Hopefully, after this, Spiker’s Turf attracts new crowds, attention and media scrutiny. And maybe then, they can start playing in air-conditioned gyms.

  • Latest
  • Trending
Are you sure you want to log out?
Login is one of the most vibrant, opinionated, discerning communities of readers on cyberspace. With your meaningful insights, help shape the stories that can shape the country. Sign up now!

or sign in with