MANILA - Known as the "house of highlights," Mobile Legends: Bang Bang reigning world champions Echo Philippines are known to take the plunge and make risky plays that are highlight-reel caliber.
In that house is a child prodigy in Karl "KarlTzy" Nepomuceno, the playmaker Tristan "Yawi" Cabrera, the storm and explosive Benedict "BennyQT" Gonzales, the young duo Sanford "Sanford" Vinuya and Alston "Sanji" Pabico, and coaches Trebor "Treb" Sanchez and Archie "TicTac Reyes."
But what most people do not know is that they have a beacon (Liwanang ng Tahanan), Echo Manager Mitch Liwanag, who's seen as the house's mother figure.
From first managing Digital Devils Pro, Liwanag has grown into a household name as "Mama Mitch" or "Madam Mitch" in Echo Philippines, which became the world champions in ML:BB last January when the M4 World Championship was held in Jakarta, Indonesia.
In an exclusive interview with ABS-CBN News, Liwanag recounted Echo's growth from a star-studded lineup that crumbled on pressure, to a world championship-calibre team that seemed like they could do anything.
Little did anyone know that they were close to crumbling due to the ghosts of their past.
"I was so proud. After all those years na pinagdaanan namin, wala akong masabi kundi sobrang proud kami sa kanila. Kasi may mga internal problem kami that time, and some of them were not confident winning or how they play their heroes," Liwanag said.
Ending MPL Philippines at second place, people began to count them out as second to then reigning world champions, Blacklist International. On top of that, the spicy food and the distance and time away from their families amid some personal struggles hounded them.
With all that happening, Liwanag's maternal instincts - she's a mother of one - kicked in.
"Kinakausap ko sila isa-isa, and nilutuan ko sila kasi nasa Indonesia kami that time and nami-miss nila ang sinigang and ibang food. Alam na alam ko kung paano sila... ma-focus," she said.
There was one player in particular that she had to keep an eye on -- KarlTzy, a young man under the radar as he was about to make history as the first two-time world champion.
"Siya ang nagkaroon ng problem that time. So sabi ko sa kaniya, yung ikaw ang pinakamalakas na jungler para sa amin kasi kami, mga teammates mo, we never doubted you," Liwanag said, recalling her advice for KarlTzy.
In an environment full of young machismo, Liwanag relished on the importance of being a mother figure to her team --a tall task she embraced when Echo started forming a "super team."
"Sometimes, kids tend to maging rebellious. Parang the more na paghigpitan sila, mas magagalit. So you really have to understand why they are struggling," she said.
"Parang need mo alamin kung may problema sa anak mo... Kasi yun yung kaya minsan nagkaka-attitude ang player. Yun yung dahilan talaga... Yung 'di sila nagsasalit,a mas kailangang kausapin sila."
After Echo's win in Jakarta, Yawi, the team's captain did not hesitate to give credit to Liwanag, as he said, "Sobrang lakas din po talaga ng Blacklist. Grabe ang paghahanda sa draft. Tapos, credits po sa management namin, sobrang dinisiplina kami, lalong lalo na kay Coach Tic, Ate Mitch and Boss Treb."
As it stands, Liwanag is one of few female esports managers in the scene, which remains rare as esports continues to boom in the Philippines.
She reminds women out there that working in esports can involve going beyond being a player.
"Actually, hindi naman lahat yung way lang to enter esports (is) being (a) player. There are a lot of opportunities out there, inside the esports industry. And I can really tell them na malaki ang industry na ito and maraming matutulungan."
This article is part of the Amazing Women series of ABS-CBN News this month of March, featuring stories of select women who are making a mark in their respective fields. March is National Women's Month in the Philippines.
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