Cool, Calm, and Nonchalant: Hadji, The Quiet Star

Here’s a Peek Inside the Mind and Humble Heart of MPL’s Silent Legend

“Hadji! May gagamba ka sa ulo!”

A spider decided to rappel from Hadji’s face halfway through the interview. His reaction was nonchalant: “Ay. Hindi naman iyan nangangagat. Galing siguro dito sa sa halaman.”

(“Oh. This doesn’t bite. It probably came from the plant.”)

Hadji tried to gently pick up the spider, now on his arm, to set it somewhere it would not be harmed. 

Hadji of Blacklist International poses for ALL-STAR Magazine
Salic “Hadji” Imam. Photo: Greg Mayo for ALL-STAR Magazine


In-game and off-cam, Hadji is the epitome of calmness, even when he is the unlucky victim of his teammate Oheb’s incessant antics to agitate him. 

“Pinakamakulit talaga sa lahat si Oheb. Napakakulit talaga noon. Kapag nasa mood ako, hindi ako mapipikon niyan kahit kulit-kulitin ako. Pero kapag halimbawa, sobra na siguro, parang nakakasakit na, halimbawa kapag tinapik ka nang malakas, ayun. Tinatapik ko rin!” Hadji tells ALL-STAR Magazine

(“Oheb is the most obnoxious of all. He’s very obnoxious. When I’m in the mood, I wouldn’t mind it at all even if he gets persistent. But when it gets physical and I get slapped hard, for example, then I would slap him back!”)

It takes a lot of determined pestering for anyone to annoy the notoriously soft-spoken and introverted Hadji, but that’s one of the many talents of Oheb, whose other goal in life, it seems, is to prevent Hadji from attaining peace. 

“Simple lang naman ang gusto ko. Gusto ko maayos na buhay lang. Gusto ko rin ng healthy living. Iyon lang!” Hadji’s eyes disappeared behind his eyelids’ slits as he laughed. 

Hadji, The Only Son Among Five Children

Filipno boy sitting on a chair while posing
Salic “Hadji” Imam. Photo: Greg Mayo for ALL-STAR Magazine
Filipino boy wearing hoodie, studio
Salic “Hadji” Imam. Photo: Greg Mayo for ALL-STAR Magazine

Born on April 26, 2003, Salic “Hadji” Imam is the second youngest in his family. He has four siblings, all of whom are girls. Growing up in a Muslim household, Hadji abstains from pork, alcoholic drinks, gambling, and anything considered haram in Islamic law. In solidarity with Hadji, Blacklist International strictly prohibits haram foods inside the boot camp—there is no pork in their pantry or fridge so as not to contaminate cooking tools and supplies. 

As the only brother among the siblings, Hadji is highly protective and supportive of his sisters. 

“Para sa akin, ang inspirasyon ko, pamilya talaga. May kaya naman kami, pero gusto kong makatulong to the point na nasa bahay na lang sila, mag business sila,” said Hadji. “Hindi nila dinedemand na magbigay ako, pero kapag may gusto sila, nagbibigay ako sa kanila. May business naman sila. Pero ang goal ko ay tumigil na sila maghanapbuhay, nasa bahay na lang sila.”

(“For me, my inspiration is my family. We’re not poor, but I still want to help so they can stay home and do business. They never demanded that I support them, but when they want something, I help. They have their own business too. But my goal is for them to stop working and enjoy life.”)

In Season 11, Hadji took a break from esports but decided to return in Season 12 to support his family and because he missed the competitive scene. 

“Para sa pamilya ko pa rin talaga. Kasi kung titigil ako sa pagiging pro player, mahihirapan ako kung paano kumita ng pera. Sayang naman ang opportunity kaya nag-stay pa rin ako. Okay naman ako mag live stream pero hindi ko talaga siya passion, gusto ko competitive pa rin, nakikipaglaban,” said Hadji. 

(“It’s really for my family. If I stopped playing, I’d have difficulty earning money. I don’t want to waste this opportunity so I decided to stay. I have nothing against live streaming but that’s not my real passion, I want to play in competitive games, I want to compete.”)

Hadji started his professional career in esports in 2018 when he was only 15 years old. He was scouted and recruited by Coach Bon Chan, who was then his playmate in ranked games in MLBB. Unlike many pro players today who were recruited from the amateur scene, Hadji was a direct recruit discovered through the game. His first tournament was the MPL Philippines. 

“MPL na talaga ang pinakauna kong tournament. Kung paano ako napasok, unang una nag-grind lang ako. Tapos na-discover na ako nila Coach Bon Chan. Since dati pa, sila ang una kong naging kakampi sa MPL. Since Season 2 kami nagsimula, 2018,” said Hadji. 

(“The MPL was my very first tournament. I kept grinding until I was recruited. Coach Bon Chan discovered me. They’ve been my teammates from the start and we’ve been together since Season 2.”)

After playing for twelve seasons in the league, Hadji admits he misses being a child again. 

Hadji Worked At A Factory When He Was Younger

Filipino boy model wearing hoodie
Salic “Hadji” Imam. Photo: Greg Mayo for ALL-STAR Magazine

“Nag work ako sa pabrika, naglilinis ako doon.”

Filipino boy wearing hoodie
Salic “Hadji” Imam. Photo: Greg Mayo for ALL-STAR Magazine

Although Hadji’s childhood was not spared from the usual problems that beset Filipino families, he still relishes the times when he was carefree. When asked about an experience he still looks back on to this day, his answer was simple.

“Yung pagiging bata ko. Walang problema, masaya, at hindi ko po iniisip ang future noon. Isip-bata talaga. Ngayon kasi kapag tumatanda ka na, nare-realize mo kung ano talaga ang buhay sa mundo,” said Hadji. 

(“I miss my childhood days. There were no problems, it was happy, and I did not think about the future then. I was a child. But now that I’m growing old, I begin to realize the realities of living in this world.”)

One of the things that opened Hadji’s eyes to the realities of life was when his family had to move because of domestic problems. At that time, Hadji worked at a factory run by his grandmother. 

“Isang normal lang na bata lang ako noon na nakikita mo sa labas, naglalaro. Tapos ang una kong cellphone noon, pang Clash of Clans lang. Noong wala pa ako sa pro scene, iyon ang nilalaro ko. Tapos nag work ako sa pabrika, naglilinis ako doon.”

“May problema rin kasi noon kami sa family, so nagpunta muna kami sa lola ko, may pabrika siya. Para magkapera ako, kailangan ko magtrabaho doon.”

Every day, he would turn up at the factory to sweep the floors and clean. He was more than happy to receive an allowance of P3,000 a month for helping out at the factory. 

“Para sa akin, malaki na iyon eh. Parang P3,000 per month. Pero libre naman lahat, pati pagkain.”

The very first thing that Hadji bought with his factory allowance was an entry-level Oppo phone. 

“Pinambili ko ng cellphone yung naipon ko. Dinagdagan ako ng Mama o Papa ko noon, kaya nakbili ako ng Android na phone, Oppo. Iyon yung pinanglaro ko ng Mobile Legends: Bang Bang. Nagtuloy-tuloy na.”

(“I was a normal kid you’d see on the streets, playing. When I got my first cellphone, I used it to play Clash of Clans. Before I came into the pro scene, that’s what I played. And then I worked at a factory, where I cleaned. Our family had a problem, so we had to move to our grandmother’s place. She had a factory. I worked there so I could earn. I had an allowance of P3,000 a month, which I considered big. Everything was free anyway, even the food. When I saved enough money, I used it to buy a cellphone. My parents gave me additional cash so I could buy an Android phone, Oppo. That’s what I used to play Mobile Legends: Bang Bang. And I never stopped playing since.”)

In 2023, Hadji was among the nominees for the Hall of Legends, an annual ceremony by the MPL Philippines recognizing the people with the greatest contributions to the league and the game. He lost to AP BREN’s Coach Francis “Duckey” Glindro. But that’s not to say Hadji is not Legends material. 

Filipino boy wearing hoodie
Salic “Hadji” Imam. Photo: Greg Mayo for ALL-STAR Magazine

“Pag pro player ka, dapat ML lang talaga ginagawa mo.”

Hadji is considered a game-changer in the MPL with a very deep hero pool—he used 19 unique heroes in Season 8—and unmatched versatility on the battlefield. He used to play jungler role in Season 7, dishing out burst damage using assassin heroes that require high mechanical skills. He then became a roamer for Blacklist International, proving his superior battlefield IQ and uncanny map awareness. 

His mastery of multiple heroes was the result of years of doing nothing else but playing Mobile Legends: Bang Bang

“Kailangan kapag pro player ka, dapat ML (Mobile Legends: Bang Bang) lang talaga ang ginagawa mo,” Hadji tells ALL-STAR.  

“Kasi buong araw talaga kayo magpa-practice. Hindi lang practice ginagawa ninyo, may discussions pa iyon. Sacrifice din yung oras mo, mahiwalay sa pamilya mo. Kapag naglalaro ka sa competitive scene, kailangan, ML lang talaga at wala kang ibang inisip.”

(“If you’re a pro player, you should do nothing but play Mobile Legends: Bang Bang. Every day, you’d be practicing and discussing strategies. You sacrifice your time, and your time away from your family. When you’re playing in the competitive scene, you should focus on Mobile Legends and nothing else.”)

At first, Hadji’s family was against him playing in esports, but when he proved that he was able to earn through playing, they eventually supported him. 

“Noong nakikita nila na kumikita ako ng pera, doon nila natanggap. Kaya lang naman nila ako pinagbabawalan noon kasi sinasabi nila wala akong mapapala sa paglalaro. Noong nakita nila na pwede palang kumita at gusto ko talaga ito, wala na silang nagawa. Sinuportahan nila ako,” said Hadji. 

(“When they saw that I was earning money, that’s when they accepted it. The only reason why they were against it in the first place was that they believed there is no future in playing. When they saw that this is a lucrative career, they couldn’t oppose it anymore. They supported me.”)

“Kung malaos man ako, nandiyan naman ang pamilya ko.”

At 21 years old, Hadji is now considered one of the most seasoned veterans in the MPL. At this age, many who have gone before him have already retired. And most of them are nearly forgotten. 

Is Hadji afraid of losing his fame?

“Natatakot ba ako na one day baka malaos ako? Hindi ko naman siya iniisip. Kung malaos man ako, nandiyan naman ang pamilya ko. Kasama ko pa rin sila, kaya hindi ko iniisip iyon. Basta ang iniisip ko, makapag compete at maibigay ko ang best ko talaga.”

(“I don’t think about fading away in my game or popularity. If ever that happens, my family is always there for me. I’d still be with them, so I’m not worried. What I’m focused on right now is to be able to compete and give my best.”)

But of course, retirement is always on the back of his mind, and Hadji likes to keep his feet grounded. 

“Sa ngayon, hindi ko pa rin naiisip yung day na magretire ako. Siguro, kapag alam kong hindi ko na kaya, ako na lang mismo ang bibitaw. Sa ngayon, feel ko na kaya ko pa naman. Kaya ko pang pumindot. Syempre, kapag alam kong hindi ko na kaya, hindi ko na ipipilit kasi mahihirapan lang ang mga kakampi ko.”

(Right now, I don’t foresee retirement soon. I know when I can’t compete anymore, and that’s the time I’d let go. I feel that I can still play. I can still press buttons. Of course, if I feel like I’m getting rusty, I won’t force myself on my team so they wouldn’t be burdened.”)

Hadji remains unfazed by the spotlight, focused on family and competitive excellence. Retirement is not yet on the horizon.

Filipino boy wearing brown hoodie while sitting on a chair
Salic “Hadji” Imam. Photo: Greg Mayo for ALL-STAR Magazine
Filipino boy wearing shirt while sitting on a chair, relaxed pose
Salic “Hadji” Imam. Photo: Greg Mayo for ALL-STAR Magazine
Salic “Hadji” Imam. Photo: Greg Mayo for ALL-STAR Magazine

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