MANILA, Philippines -- Players of the Premier Volleyball League (PVL) know it will take them some time to get used to playing without their fans in the "bubble" in Laoag, Ilocos Norte.
Used to playing in front of big crowds in their venues in Metro Manila, PVL players are now competing behind closed doors at the PCV Socio-Civic Cultural Center in Bacarra, Ilocos Norte. Their audience? Their own teammates and coaches, officials and staff of the PVL, and a few members of the media.
Creamline team captain Alyssa Valdez, who has played in front of record crowds since her collegiate days at the Ateneo de Manila University, says the current situation is a new one for them.
"It's so much different," said Valdez, who steered Creamline to a four-set win over Sta. Lucia, 25-18, 25-20, 25-27, 25-18, in their first game.
"Alam mo naman, isa sa pinagkukuhanan namin ng inspirasyon ay 'yung mga fans also," she said. "'Pag nakikita namin 'yung crowd, iba rin talaga 'yung motivation na binibigay nila. So, very unusual."
For Jaja Santiago of Chery Tiggo, the situation is made all the more strange as she had played in front of fans during her stint in Japan for the Saitama Ageo Medics. There, they also didn't need to be in a "bubble" environment and instead played home-and-away games.
"Ang daming bago," said Santiago, who scored 11 points in Chery Tiggo's straight sets win over PLDT.
"Kasi hindi kami nag-bubble training (sa Japan)," she explained. "Kapag stressed ka at may anxiety or frustrated, nakakalabas ka at unwind. Dito, parang hold mo lahat, sacrifice talaga lahat."
"At the same time dito, walang audience, wala 'yung nagchi-cheer sa'yo. Sa Japan, pili. May mga teams na 'pag home game nila, pwede maglagay ng audience pero 50%."
With no fans in attendance, the PVL stars say they will rely on each other to lift their spirits instead.
"Naririnig naman namin 'yung mga teammates namin," said Valdez. "We feel like virtually, nanonood din 'yung mga sumusuporta ng volleyball."
"So 'yun na lang 'yung naiisip namin. Kaya 'yung energy talaga sa loob at labas, kailangan talaga intact. Kasi 'yun 'yung kailangan namin para ma-survive 'yung isang match," she added.