MANILA, Philippines -- With its profile booming even during the COVID-19 pandemic, esports has emerged as a major factor both in the Philippines and abroad.
It has extended its reach even to the academe, and local schools and universities are ready to welcome esports with open arms through the newly-minted Collegiate Center for Esports (CCE) which streams on CALM network, presented by Bio-Agrownica and Rebel Sports.
"We have to adapt with the changing times. We have to ride with the trend. Esports give student-athletes an opportunity to try out something new. It's inspiring in a sense," said Arellano University athletics director Peter Cayco.
"It's an alternative and the best alternative. Its online nature is part of the realization in time of the COVID-19 pandemic. We have no choice but to go in that direction," added Fr. Vic Calvo of Letran.
Schools are beginning to step into that direction by participating in the inaugural competition of the CCE, an organized collegiate esports league starting with the renowned Mobile Legends: Bang Bang game.
CCE has ushered in its MLBB 1-on-1 Exhibition Matches last month featuring varsity athletes from Arellano University, College of St. Benilde, Emilio Aguinaldo College, Jose Rizal University, Colegio de San Juan de Letran, Lyceum of the Philippines University, Mapua University, San Beda University, San Sebastian College - Recoletos, and University of Perpetual Help System DALTA.
Next month, it will launch the main 5-on-5 MLBB Varsity Cup event among basketball players with a plan of making it a seasonal event among interested schools, hopefully, nationwide.
Meanwhile, some schools have already established esports clubs and tournaments, and Lyceum and St. Benilde are even offering academic courses in esports.
"Esports now is a growing passion not only for the youth. It's still in infancy but the potential is huge. I'm excited about what can happen in the future," said director Hercules Callanta of Lyceum, which has introduced the country's first Bachelor of Science in Esports with tracks on Esports Management and Game and Design Development.
"Esports is kind of a way to stay relevant. It's allowed and safe in this difficult time. Now, it can also be a career path. It's a successful program for Benilde," added CSB's Dax Castellano as the school also has Bachelor of Science in Interactive Entertainment and Multimedia Computing with majors in Game Development and Game Art.
San Beda, for its part, is also hopeful of introducing an esports course after its CCE participation.
"It's an opportunity for us to learn more about Esports and to have an open door for SBU for some courses and training for students who would want to engage in that kind of field. We do not know what will happen in future and if it grows, SBU will be on board already," said Atty. Jonas Cabochan.
"For now, it's a good thing for athletes to have something to look forward to. The spirit of competition is alive."
These schools are already in the process of assembling a solid squad for the CCE main event next month, with hopes of also producing the country's future medalists in the rising esports discipline that has started making its way as an official games in some international events.
The Philippines won the inaugural esports event in the 2019 Southeast Asian Games, while calls to list the discipline in bigger international tournaments -- such as the Asian Games and the Olympics -- are also underway.