LONDON, United Kingdom - Along with other star student athletes, Alyssa Valdez, Kiefer Ravena and Gretchel Soltones, the Queen Eagle met with excited fans in London.
The trio joined the Filipino community in a two-day event filled with signing, photo ops, exhibition games and even karaoke singing.
“It’s my first time in London and it’s a really great experience. Whenever we go around, if we see any Filipinos, it feels like we're just at home. They’re really welcoming – as in super nice. They’re really nice,” Valdez said.
It was also Ravena and Soltones' first time in the country and they were both thrilled to have the opportunity.
NCAA MVP Soltones said that it can be overwhelming to know that their popularity has even reached abroad.
“Not all players will have this opportunity. And like, from London, nagsisigawan sila. Sobrang ingay nila sa social media na ‘Ay! pupunta si ano dito!’ Sobrang thankful lang kasi dati kinakanta ko lang, now I’m here!” she said.
It was a night of mingling with fans and signing memorabilia of their visit. To the delight of their fans, the multi-awarded athletes even got up to the karaoke for a couple of duets.
“When I heard about it, I couldn’t even sleep," said 25-year-old Kyla Guillen. She said that she really admires their skills and character. “It’s good that I’ve seen them personally. I’m such a die-hard fan.”
Of course, it’s not just a meet-and-greet that they were here for. They also brought their A-games for exhibition competitions held at the University of East London in London Docklands.
Two-time UAAP MVP Ravena led a team with other Filipinos against the local team Harlow Hawks. It was a tense and close game with scores tied at 89 in the last minute.
But the guard from Ateneo Blue Eagles pulled through with a winning three-point shot five seconds before the buzzer, which brought the whole gymnasium on their feet.
With the final score at 92-89, it was a cheerful win for the Filipino team.
Meanwhile, it was a match between Team Valdez and Team Soltones.
The two volleybelles showed-off their powerful serves and fierce spikes as they joined local Filipino volleyball players.
Valdez, the three-time UAAP MVP volleyball ‘Phenom’, and her team won the match 3-1.
Weng Bravo is one of the board of directors for Courtside Sports and Entertainment which organized the event. She said the community requested for these athletes to come here.
“This will enhance the Filipino community to play and just enjoy the sports,” she said.
Valdez still expressed shock and disbelief that people know her abroad.
“I really didn’t know that volleyball is really known outside of the Philippines also. I mean, Filipinos are really watching. So, I’m really shocked whenever people just want to have a picture with you or just smiling at you. Those small little things that you see when people see you, it’s something that I never thought will happen,” she said.
Kiefer said that he is very thankful that people in the UK know him and his fellow athletes.
“They know us. They support us. So that’s one thing we’re really grateful for. And we are equally excited to see them, be with them and play for them. They only see us on TV, but now they can see us personally – how we play… how we can interact with them. It is a once-and-a-lifetime experience for me and for all of us here,” he said.
The three are heading to France and Italy next to meet with the Filipino communities in those parts of Europe.