Just a pretty face? Female ML talents bare lingering industry challenges

Angela Coloma, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Mar 25 2023 03:25 PM

Chantelle Hernandez. Courtesy: Chantelle Hernandez. 
Chantelle Hernandez. Courtesy: Chantelle Hernandez. 

MANILA - Mobile Legends: Bang Bang shoutcaster Chantelle Hernandez had to face a barrage of hate comments when she started casting in the Philippines' biggest ML esports stage. 

As the first woman in the casting table of Mobile Legends: Bang Bang Professional League, she often felt like she had to perform right to avoid sexist comments. 

"Mahirap siya kasi laging parang may stigma, [na] pag sinabing babae may norm na ito ka, ito lang ang kaya mo gawin. So everything is questioned dahil sa gender mo. Lalong lalo na sa esports," Chantelle said in a roundtable discussion ahead of the Mobile Legends: Bang Bang Professional League matches last Sunday. 

Mobile Legends: Bang Bang Development league host Brigitte "Brigida" Ramos shared that as a woman in a high-level machismo industry such as esports, she often felt the need to prove herself: "When I started dito na-feel ko yung presence ng never-ending cycle of the thoughts of presence of the need to prove themselves in this industry." 

After adding former PBA Courtside reporter Mara Aquino as the league's host and Chantelle as the first female caster, MPL Philippines decided to add more women into their talent pool -- Brigida and Claudine "Odin" Tayco (who bared she auditioned for Darna in 2019). 

Artist Kimberly "BurgerKim" Mas, is also a constant part of the ML:BB scene's talent pool, having conducted the English cast of MPL Cambodia from her home, as an English commentator in MPL Malaysia Season 10, and is a steady presence in analyzing women's tournaments. 

"I feel like everyone thinks I'm just a pretty face or she doesn't know much about Mobile Legends so parang there's that constant need to tell them na 'di kaya'," BurgerKim shared. 

"So there's always that, but it's nice to have fellow women to help you out and siyempre they are your strength whenever there's a broadcast," she added. 

The presence of more female talents, for Brigida, "slowly starts to change the stigma and starts to take the notion na 'pag may nakita babae may backlash agad." 

For Aquino, who carried years of sports broadcasting experience with her when she entered esports, said she didn't feel the need to compensate, as one of the pacemakers in the ML:BB talent pool. 

"You find out what they need and you give it to them. And be successful. That's why inventions started, that's why roles are filled. So when I started in MPL, with a broadcast background I asked them 'What do they need?' and that's what I give. Tips on broadcasting and hosting and such, and they didn't have a host that's more traditional in terms of like events, TV shows, and sports. So in terms of overcompensating, I never felt that because I knew what I could offer," she explained.

Odin, who is the first female courtside reporter since the concept was introduced in MPL Season 11, agreed. 

"HIndi ko naramdaman na there's a competition na I have to be better than someone kasi kinuha ako kasi may maio-offer ako sa table na hindi parang sa kanila." 

"Hindi ko tinitingnan na 'oh I have to be better than him or her'." 

 Mara Aquino talks to Bren Esports. Courtesy: MPL Philippines
Mara Aquino talks to Bren Esports. Courtesy: MPL Philippines

The history of female ML talents in the Philippines 

Aquino, packed with a background on courtside reporting in mainstream sports, was one of the first-ever prominent female talents in ML:BB, if not Philippine esports. 

Chantelle, who first casted in MPL Season 4 and returned in MPL Season 9, is the league's first female esports caster, with Odin, Brigida, and BurgerKim rising onwards.

For Aquino, known to bring glamour into every intro of the local professional league's games with her onstage fashion, the presence of female ML:BB talents is something the Philippines started. 

"Sometimes it's nice na if there's no path yet, you make a new path where there's no path and then you lead the trail... And now we see that the other regions are catching up, the Philippines started it," Aquino said. 

Other notable female ML:BB talents globally include analyst/casters Rachael "Aeterna" Melati and Monica "Momochan" Mariska of Indonesia, and Singaporean Mae "ScrubbyCheeks" Wong. 

This year, Malaysian-based Pinay streamer Rose shocked the crowd when she addressed Pinoy coach Dale "Dale" Vitug in Tagalog, on her very first day as MPL Malaysia's host. 

On the other side of the world, Argentinian Barbara "Secretaria" Gottardo coached Latin American M4 World Championship team S11 Gaming. 

This begs the question: are professional Filipino teams ready to take in a female coach? 

"The players are young. tapos imi-mix mo sila sa bootcamp na wala kayong makikita kung 'di ang isa't isa, and there is one female in there, that could be challenging," Aquino said. 

For Chantelle, it will take a long time to consider the idea as the esports ecosystem continues to develop. 

"Ngayon pa lang tayo nagkakaroon ng sistema -- broadcasting, management in terms of production pero hindi siya imposibleng mangyari. Kasi the mere fact that there are these questions kino-consider natin siya as an idea." 

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