The Comeback Kids: The Rise, Fall, and Redemption of AP BREN

AP BREN’s boot camp is a far cry from the old glory of the Hive’s first headquarters back in Makati. Situated in a gateless neighborhood in Quezon City, there is nothing remarkable about the boot camp except for the plainness of its facade. Its high walls and grilled fences looked unwelcoming—an architectural feature, we observed, was common among houses in this area.  We pulled up to the gutter and saw Owgwen attempting to enter the house. 

AP BREN’s Boot Camp in Quezon City

AP BREN boot camp


He was beaming—his default facial expression. 

“Sir! Pasok po!” (“Come inside!”)

Ogien Unigo, aka Owgwen. Role: Roamer

Ogien Unigo, aka Owgwen. Photo: Richard Dizon Esguerra
Photo: Richard Dizon Esguerra

Various laundry hung in the garage. There was an SUV, and a heavily pockmarked dartboard on the wall. The entrance to the house led to the dining area. Next to it were shelves with various snacks, a jar of whey protein, and packs of Milo, but no coffee. Except for the dining area, the boot camp is fully air-conditioned. The lounge is adjacent to the studio, decked with AP BREN’s world championship trophies.

Everything inside made the studio look like a bachelor’s pad: high-end PC setups, gaming chairs, and a flat-screen TV. The floor was carpeted dark gray and the walls were padded with black sound-proofing foam. Only one thing was out of place: A blue push game toy for three-year-olds. 

“Whose is this?” we asked. 

“Kay Pando,” answered Adie, the team’s manager.

Vincent Unigo, aka Pando. Role: Multirole

Vincent Unigo, aka Pando. Photo: Richard Dizon Esguerra
Photo: Richard Dizon Esguerra

Pando, the self-proclaimed “Sigma Rizzler ng Mandaluyong City,” took the toy and started playing. 

“Tsk! Ayaw na gumana ng ibang buttons! Yung iba kasi rito sa bahay ambibigat ng kamay, eh… nasira nila,” he said, with a particular affection for his beloved toy. 

(“Some of the buttons don’t work! Some people in the house are so careless… they broke it.”)

Duckey, Super Marco, Owgwen, KyleTzy, Pando, and Pheww were all settled but someone was missing.

“Asan na ba si Flap?” asked Duckey.

The call time was 10:30 a.m. It was already past 11. 

“Parating na,” someone answered. (“He’s coming.”)

After one hour, FlapTzy arrived, earning him the playful ire of his teammates. 

“Tang ina mo kanina pa kami dito!” (“You motherfucker, we’ve been waiting for so long!”)

“Kahit kailan ka talaga!” (“You never change!”)

The usually swaggy FlapTzy looked uncharacteristically sheepish, scratching his head. 

David Charles Canon, aka FlapTzy. Role: Exp Laner

David Charles Canon, aka FlapTzy. Photo: Richard Dizon Esguerra
Photo: Richard Dizon Esguerra


AP BREN, composed of Owgien “Owgwen” Unigo, Vincent “Pando” Unigo, David Charles “FlapTzy” Canon, Marco Stephen “Super Marco” Requitano, Michael “KyleTzy” Sayson, Angelo Kyle “Pheww” Arcangel, and Coach Francis “Duckey” Glindro, is the only team to win two world championships in Mobile Legends: Bang Bang (MLBB). In Season 13, they recruited Robert “Trebor” Sanchez as analyst-coach. They were labeled “Curse Breakers,” referring to the superstition that world champions never win again in MLBB. 

“Actually, I don’t believe in that curse,” said Coach Duckey. “If you put in enough work, you’ll definitely achieve things.”

AP BREN’s Boisterous Boys

AP BREN. Photo: RIchard Dizon Esguerra
Photo: Richard Dizon Esguerra

FlapTzy agreed. “Hindi rin ako naniniwala sa curse kasi kapag pinaghirapan mo ang mga bagay, makukuha mo. Pinaghirapan namin lahat ng championships na nakukuha namin.”

(“I also don’t believe in the curse because if you work hard for something, you will get it. We worked hard for all the championships we’ve won.”)

“Pero late ka!” said Duckey. 

(“But you were late!”)

For the duration of the interview, the entire team would bash FlapTzy for his tardiness. 

‘We Felt Like Gods.’

In 2021, the team shocked the world when it won the M2 World Championship in Singapore. It marked the start of Filipino dominance in MLBB esports. Succeeding M-Series World Championships were won by Filipino teams: Blacklist International for M3, and ECHO for M4. 

Sadly for AP BREN, the team fell by the wayside after their M2 run. It struggled to return to its championship form, playing mediocre matches in the MPL just enough to get a slot in the playoffs. Many have written them off as championship material. 

What did its players think was the reason for their downfall? 

“After namin manalo sa M2, feeling god na, eh,” said Pheww. “Feeling sobrang lakas na, madali nang nahabol ng ibang team, hindi na kami nag-focus sa pagpapalakas,” he added.

(“After we won M2, we felt like gods. We thought we were so strong, that’s why other teams caught up to us, we failed to focus on improving.”)

“Sobrang confident tapos nagkasitamaran na,” FlapTzy added. 

(“We were so confident, we became lazy.”)

Angelo Kyle Arcangel, aka Pheww. Role: Midlaner

Angelo Kyle Arcangel, aka Pheww. Photo: Richard Dizon Esguerra
Photo: Richard Dizon Esguerra

Many people lost faith in BREN after the M2 World Championship and wrote them off for good. When we pointed this out, Owgwen picked on FlapTzy again. 

“O, Flap, after M2, walang tiwala yung mga tao. Wala nang sumisigaw ng ‘FlapTzy!’” teased Owgwen. 

(“Hey Flap, after M2, people lost trust in you. No one’s shouting ‘FlapTzy’ anymore.”)

Coach Duckey had a more sobering response. 

“Hindi naman namin kailangan ng maraming taong sumusuporta,” said Coach Duckey. “Kahit isa, dalawa, okay na iyon, eh. Sa totoo lang, kaunting push lang naman ang kailangan ng mga bata. That’s what I feel about that.”

(“We don’t need a lot of supporters. Even with just one or two, that’s enough. Honestly, the boys just needed a little push.”)

Francis Glindro, aka Coach Duckey

Francis Glindro, aka Coach Duckey. Photo: Richard Dizon Esguerra
Photo: Richard Dizon Esguerra

FlapTzy opened up about his shortcomings and felt like he was part of the team’s problems in the past. 

“Kasalanan ko rin naman kasi nagpabaya rin ako that time. Feel ko, deserve ko lang din, ganoon,” said FlapTzy. He did not elaborate.

(“It was my fault I became complacent at that time. I feel that I deserve what happened to us.”)

“But how did you rekindle your passion for the game?” we asked him. 

“Noong ano po… noong naghihirap na kami!”

(“When we became poor!”)

Everybody burst out laughing. 

It could have been an inside joke about FlapTzy being the “rich kid” in the group or the team’s financial struggles. 

“You spent all your prize winnings from M2?” we probed. 

“Hindi po, hindi ko naubos lahat. Iniipon ko lang,” said FlapTzy.

(“No, I’ve set those aside.”)

Pando interrupted, “Yung Axie mo!” (“Your Axie!) He makes eye contact with Duckey, and both men burst out laughing. Another inside joke. Pando was referring to Axie Infinity, a play-to-earn crypto game that became popular in 2021. 

But something grave did happen that nearly caused the world champion team to disappear. 

Michael Sayson, aka KyleTzy. Role: Jungler

Michael Sayson, aka KyleTzy. Photo: Richard Dizon Esguerra
Photo: Richard Dizon Esguerra

AP BREN Teetered on the Brink of Collapse

After their M2 win, BREN suffered a series of losses and non-appearances in the MPL grand finals for six seasons. It was such a hard fall from the throne that it took Coach Duckey six seasons before they came on top again. 

Their Season 6 championship in MPL Philippines qualified them for the M2 World Championship, which they won. But in Season 7, the team placed 4th out of 8 teams in the MPL. In Season 8 and 9, it placed 7th. In Seasons 10 and 11, it placed 4th.

“It took us three years! It took us three years to build this up again,” said Coach Duckey. “When we won the M2 World Championship in Singapore, it took us three years to get back on top. I was able to build up a new set of champions. Luckily, they didn’t have symptoms of overconfidence like our M2 roster. I think it boils down to the culture-building that I identified back in M2, I identified issues that we cannot afford to happen again if we ever won a championship.”

But it wasn’t just a lack of focus that hindered the team from winning. In 2023, during Season 11 of the MPL, the team teetered on the brink of collapse, unsure if their organization would still exist for another year for financial reasons. 

“We did not tell the kids that we were in that situation. It’s just the management who knows that. We never made them feel na, ‘mawawala na tayo,’” said Coach Duckey.  

“Back then, we in the management weren’t getting paid. But we never told the players. They were still getting their salaries on time. So, never namin ipinamukha sa kanila iyon” said Coach Duckey. 

But eventually, the boys had to know that the team might not exist within a couple of months. 

“They needed to know eventually, so I sat down with the team. I said, there’s a very big chance that we might be parting ways after this. And then our director, Jab Escutin, came in and said, ‘Hindi tayo maghihiwa-hiwalay!’ (“We will not part ways!”) Everything else is history,” said Coach Duckey. 

Aces Pro picked up and rescued the struggling team, and rebranded it into AP BREN. It was the start of the team’s uptick. 

In Season 12, the rebranded AP BREN shocked the MLBB community with a late-season surge. Their come-from-behind miracle knocked out ECHO in third place and Blacklist International in second, securing the championship and a ticket to the M5 World Championship. On that stage, they slaughtered favorites ONIC Esports from Indonesia in a gripping best-of-seven series, winning by 4-3. 

The curse had been broken. 

AP BREN. Photo: RIchard Dizon Esguerra
Photo: Richard Dizon Esguerra
AP BREN. Photo: RIchard Dizon Esguerra
Photo: Richard Dizon Esguerra

AP BREN On Why Everyone Stayed

Despite their series of setbacks after M2, AP BREN remains one of the leanest and most intact rosters for the longest time. While some teams have a 10-man roster, they only have six. And all of them have been together for five seasons. There were offers to poach some of the players, but everyone chose to stay, even during their toughest times. 

“Nag-stay ako kasi may tiwala ako sa teammates ko. Nakita ko sa kanila na willing to change sila,” said Owgwen, referring to the team’s commitment to becoming champions again.

(“I stayed because I trust my teammates. I saw their willingness to change.”)

“Thank you sa tiwala, pre,” FlapTzy told Owgwen.

(“Thanks for trusting me, bro.”)

“Hindi! Ikaw hindi! Wala ka nang pag-asa pre!” Owgwen snapped back. (“No, not you! You are hopeless!”)

FlapTzy was being teased as his atonement for tardiness.

Everyone agreed with Owgwen. 

“Parang hindi ko nakikita yung sarili kong nag-go-grow ako sa ibang team. Mas comfortable na ako dito,” said KyleTzy. 

(“I don’t see myself growing in other teams. I’m more comfortable here.”)

And it’s okay for KyleTzy to remain comfortable with his team. As of this writing, AP BREN sits on top of the league in Season 13, having won 18 out of 21 games in the past six weeks. But it also came with a price. 

Stephen Marco Requitano, aka Super Marco. Role: Gold Laner

Stephen Marco Requitano, aka Super Marco. Photo: Richard Dizon Esguerra
Photo: Richard Dizon Esguerra

A Very Heavy Price

For serious esports players, a championship goal comes with a hefty price. More than sacrificing time away from family, sacrificing school, and playing for 12 hours a day, people overlook that they also sacrifice their youth.

Most esports players in the Philippines start young: Kairi Rayosdelsol, “Sky King” of Onic Esports, started playing pro when he was 14. Sanford of ECHO also started at the same age. Smart Omega’s Cebuano Heartthrob Louis was 15 when he entered the pro scene in 2023. RSG’s rookie Exp Laner, Nibor, is 15. 

Although it’s their choice—supported by their parents—to become pro players in esports, the kids are left wanting in time spent on themselves and friends outside of esports. 

“Na-sacrifice po ang enjoyment para sa sarili. Self-time,” said KyleTzy.

(“What was sacrificed was enjoying myself, self-time.”)

FlapTzy agreed, saying he also regrets not spending time for himself, like hanging out with friends or catching up with classmates. 

Pheww, the oldest in the team at 24 years old, also feels the same way. “Sa akin, ganoon din po, kasi since 2018 pa ako. Ang buhay ko na noon is boot camp, tournament. Yung circle of friends ko, nagrerevolve lang sa esports.” 

(“I feel the same because I’ve been here since 2018. My life revolved around the boot camp and tournaments. My circle of friends only revolve around esports.”)

Owgwen is sad because his friends outside of esports are no longer in touch. “Para sa akin, ganoon din, kasi yung friends ko outside of esports, parang out of reach na. Hindi ko sila masyado nakaka hang out, hindi nakakapag catch up. Marami ring times na gusto ko rin talaga makipag meet sa mga friends. Pero gusto mo rin naman ang ginagawa mo, kaya goods rin naman.” 

(“I’m on the same boat because my friends outside of esports are now out of reach. I don’t get to hang out with them or even catch up. There are many times when I just miss hanging out with them. But I chose this path, so it’s all good.”)

For Pando, his ultimate sacrifice is his dream of going to college. 

“Siguro yung pag-aaral lang. Minsan naiisip ko na gusto ko pa ring makatapos, gusto ko pa rin ma-experience ang college life. Iyon ang pinakamalaking sacrifice. Kasi syempre, kapag pro player ka, dapat focus ka talaga, eh. Di ba gusto mo mag world champion, mahirap talaga ipagsabay eh. May mga mawawala rin sa iyo. Give and take lang iyon. Kapag pinili mo mag-aral, mawawala yung paglalaro mo,” said Pando. 

(“My sacrifice is my studies. Sometimes, I think about how much I want to graduate. I want to experience college life. That’s my biggest sacrifice. Because when you’re a pro player, you have to focus seriously. It’s difficult to juggle studies and esports if you want to be a world champion. You have to let go of either one. Give and take. If you choose to focus on your studies, you have to give up esports.”)

Of all the pro players we’ve interviewed, only Pando was brave enough to admit this reality. 

While the boys were saying these, Coach Duckey was somber, taking in every word they were saying. Maybe he felt fortunate that he has a degree in Nursing, or felt sorry that his boys were missing out on a lot of things for esports. 

Many of the boys are breadwinners, too. 

Pheww helps out with the bills at home and provided for the renovation of their house and the payment of their family car. KyleTzy sends his older sister to college and shoulders her schooling expenses. Pando is working hard to buy appliances and furniture for their new condo unit, where he and his brother live. Owgwen takes the responsibility of being a “second father” to his six siblings. 

“How about you, Flap?” we asked. 

FlapTzy hesitates. 

“Mayaman iyan eh!” his teammates tease him. (“He’s a rich kid!”)

With a deadpan expression, FlapTzy talks.

“Palagi ko po binibigyan ng pera yung ate ko. May mga pusa po kami sa bahay eh. Mga sampu po ata yung pusa namin. Binibigyan ko sila ng pera para sa mga kailangan ng mga pusa,” said FlapTzy with a straight face.

(“I always give money to my sister. We have a lot of cats at home. I think we have ten cats. I send money for the cats.”)

At this point, everybody was giggling and suppressing laughter, afraid to laugh at the revelation. FlapTzy is a breadwinner for cats.

Stephen Marco Requitano, aka Super Marco. Photo: Richard Dizon Esguerra
David Charles Canon, aka FlapTzy. Photo: Richard Dizon Esguerra
Ogien Unigo, aka Owgwen. Photo: Richard Dizon Esguerra
Vincent Unigo, aka Pando. Photo: Richard Dizon Esguerra
Michael Sayson, aka KyleTzy. Photo: Richard Dizon Esguerra
Angelo Kyle Arcangel, aka Pheww. Photo: Richard Dizon Esguerra

Nothing Lasts Forever. 

Even as AP BREN has succeeded in becoming the only MLBB team to have two world championship titles on its cap, they like to keep up to shape. 

“Definitely, someone out there, someone bad or someone faster and stronger will definitely come out. It’s just a matter of time, so we’re preparing for those kinds of things,” said Coach Duckey. 

But nothing lasts forever.

“How would you like to be remembered in esports when you leave?” we asked.

“Umm… Kupal? Gusto ko maaalala ako as kupal na coach,” said Coach Duckey.

(“A jerk. I want to be remembered as a coach who is a jerk.”)

It was a perfect execution of his faux-asshole personality.

“Biro lang!” he added.

(“Just kidding!”)

We once asked Coach Duckey for a shoutout video for a fan. He took our phone, turned on the camera, and said, “Hoy, tang ina mo, ang bobo mo mag ML!”

(“Fuck you, you play like an idiot!”)

The fan was delighted. 

Francis Glindro, aka Coach Duckey. Photo: Richard Dizon Esguerra
Photo: Richard Dizon Esguerra

Pheww and FlapTzy want to be remembered as part of a team whose roster has been intact the longest. Owgwen wants to leave a legacy of achieving the Golden Road—a feat of winning the MPL, MSC, and the M-Series World Championship in a single competitive year. No MLBB team has yet to accomplish this. Pando believes their legacy will be cemented once they win back-to-back in worlds, while KylTzy wants to be renowned as the world’s most potent Fredrinn user. 

Super Marco waited for everybody to finish. 

“Gusto ko kapag pinag-uusapan yung mga malalakas na gold laner, gusto ko kasama ako,” said Super Marco. (“I just want to be included when they are talking about the strongest gold laners.”)

The whole team erupts in laughter, apparently because of an inside joke that Super Marco is always forgotten when talking about gold laner rivalries, which was always contended by Blacklist’s Oheb, Onic’s Kelra, and ECHO’s BennyQt. 

“Pwede ba ako sumagot ulit? Kasi joke lang yung sinabi ko kanina,” said Coach Duckey. 

“Go on.”

“Gusto ko lang maalala as someone na nag inspire ng group of young men toward something bigger than themselves.”

As we left their humble house, we couldn’t help but smile at its plainness that hides a powerhouse of champions. AP BREN has come through and the kids are all right.

AP BREN. Photo: RIchard Dizon Esguerra
Photo: Richard Dizon Esguerra
AP BREN. Photo: RIchard Dizon Esguerra
Photo: RIchard Dizon Esguerra
AP BREN. Photo: RIchard Dizon Esguerra
Photo: Richard Dizon Esguerra

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