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Iron Lady: Mitch Liwanag Breaks Silence on ‘Asawa Esports’

Once upon a time, Mitch Liwanag was the most hated woman in Philippine esports. This was overshadowed only by her husband and roamer of ECHO, Jaypee Dela Cruz. 

It all started in Season 12 when ECHO’s players and coaches decided to bench their former teammate Tristan “Yawi” Cabrera in favor of Jaypee. Cabrera’s fans accused Liwanag of forcing Jaypee into the team just because he’s her husband. 

But the players defended Mitch and Jaypee. 

“Hindi naman po sa mayroong nagagawa si Jaypee na hindi nagagawa si Yawi, kasi mayroon din namang nagagawa si Yawi na hindi nagagawa ni Jaypee. Mas may fit lang talaga si Jaypee sa amin,” said gold laner Benedict “BennyQt” Gonzales during a presser in Season 12. 

(“It’s not that Jaypee is able to do things that Yawi can’t because there are things Yawi does that Jaypee can’t. Jaypee just fits better with us.”)

“Mas aggressive po yung comms namin kapag si Yawi [yung naglalaro],” exp laner Sanford Vinuya said. “Mahilig po siya sa mga pickoffs. Pero kapag si Jaypee, in and out lang po kami sa mga clash.”

(“Our communications are more aggressive whenever Yawi plays because he likes pickoffs. But with Jaypee, we’re just in and out in clashes.”)

But the bashing, accusations, and even death threats to their family and three-year-old daughter kept coming. 

“Don’t worry about me. I can take it. I’m a tank,” Mitch told this editor. 

She lied. 

On ECHO’s last day in the Season 12 Playoffs of the MPL, after losing to Blacklist International, Mitch braved the crowd and the interviews with a straight face. Her players were too shaken and heartbroken to come to the media room, so she went alone and answered difficult questions from the press, vloggers, and broadcasters. 

But there was an elephant in the room nobody dared disturb: “Asawa Esports.” It was the rallying cry of their haters. 

Jaypee Dela Cruz is Unbothered By His Bashers

Jaypee Dela Cruz
Jaypee Dela Cruz

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After the interviews, this editor followed Mitch as she exited the media room and headed straight for the back exit where she collapsed to the floor and wept uncontrollably. For a full fifteen minutes, she was inconsolable. 

Coach Tictac and Coach Trebor tried their best to protect Mitch from onlookers, but there was a group of people passing by whom Mitch wanted to be the last to see her like that: the players. 

There was a look of shock and disbelief in the faces of the players. They had never seen Mitch—their mirror, mother, and occasional instigator—so defeated. It was a traumatizing sight, seeing your mother crying helplessly on the floor. 

With a wave of her hand, Mitch commanded their handlers to whisk the players away to their van. 

One season and a championship later, Mitch Liwanag feels vindicated enough to talk about Asawa Esports. 

“You were given a lot of reasons to leave esports. Why are you still here?” we asked her. 

“Ito talaga ang gusto ko. Kahit ayaw mo na, kapag nakikita mo lahat ng pinagdaanan at mga pangarap ng mga players, at gaano kaganda yung kayang ioffer na opportunities ng esports para sa kanila, iyon yung dahilan. Sure, I get exhausted, I get burned out, but there are so many reasons for me to stay! There are a lot of reasons, a million reasons, why I am still here,” said Mitch. 

(“This is what I want. Even if there are times you want to give up, whenever you see the struggles of the players and their dreams and ambitions, and how much esports can offer them, that’s the reason I still stay.)

In the boot camp, Mitch is the patron of favors and hearer of grievances from at least 10 boys who call her “mother” or more affectionately, “Mamitch.” She is the refuge of last resort: when coaches can no longer manage misbehaving players, they would escalate it to her. And then there would be consequences. 

Mitch Liwanag: ‘Ako dapat ang huling huling tao na mapapabagsak nila.’

Despite having moments of vulnerability like in Season 12, Mitch remains an iron lady. 

“I was influenced by a strong woman, my mother, how she cared for me. I grew up with her being a single parent and breadwinner. She survived it,” said Mitch.  

“I guess I adopted her influence while I was growing up, so maybe that’s why even though I’m alone, I can handle everything because I know what my mother went through to raise me. So parang chicken na lang sa akin iyon!”

But Mitch concedes that she can be vulnerable. 

“I also have a weak side but I don’t have to show it. For me…”

Mitch pauses for three seconds.

“Ako dapat ang huling huling tao na mapapabagsak nila,” said Mitch.

(“I should be the last person they can bring down.”)

Mitch Liwanag, Country Manager of Team Liquid Philippines (Formerly ECHO)

Mitch Liwanag
Mitch Liwanag

“Kailangan kong maging strong para sa lahat, kasi silang lahat, pasan ko sa likod ko. Parang ganoon ang iniisip ko, na kapag ako yung bumagsak sa pinakababa, apektado sila. So hinding hindi ko iyon ipapakita. Kaya ko naman iyon eh!  Kaya kong lunukin lahat, kaya kong i-take lahat, wag lang sila. Gusto ko sila ay mag focus, mag enjoy, gusto ko para sa kanila, maglaro na lang.”

(“I have to be strong for everyone because I carry all of them. That’s how I see it, if I fall, everybody is affected. So I never show it. I can do that! I can take everything, just let the players be. I want them to focus, enjoy, and just play.”)

We asked Mitch about Jaypee, who has stayed silent throughout the season about being bashed and becoming the most hated player in the MPL. 

“Si Jaypee, hindi siya nahuhurt sa mga bash about him,” said Mitch. 

“Nahuhurt siya sa mga bash about me and our three-year-old daughter.”

(“Jaypee is not hurt when people bash him. He is hurt when people bash me and our three-year-old daughter.”)

In fact, it was the tipping point for Jaypee to lose his focus and even consider leaving esports for the sake of Mitch and their three-year-old daughter, who is on the spectrum. 

“But you know, in spite of what happened, nakita ko yung teammates niya na hindi siya binitawan. Naniniwala talaga sila sa kanya at palagi nilang sinasabi na dadalhin nila ang isa’t isa sa MSC. Ito na nga!”

There was a smile on Mitch Liwanag’s face. 

As there should be. 

ECHO was bought out by the most successful esports organization in the world, Team Liquid, the dream organization that Mitch manifested so many years ago to become. Now, they are called Team Liquid Philippines. 

They also won the MPL-PH Season 13 championship, and are now preparing to represent the Philippines at the MSC 2024, which has the largest prize pool in the history of MLBB esports. The champion takes home $1 million or roughly P57 million, a life-changing sum even for the most successful esports teams out there. 

“Although nakita ko naman na naapektuhan sila last season, pero iyon ang ginamit namin noong Season 13 para makuha namin ang championship.” 

(“Although I saw they were affected last season, we used that experience to win the championship in Season 13.”)

“This championship is for our team last season, which had a lot of shortcomings,” said Mitch. 

Mitch was referring to the players’ lack of focus in Season 12 because of the hatred spread by “Asawa Esports.”

But in the end, Mitch has no ounce of anger toward their bashers and toxic haters. 

“Doon sa mga hindi bumitaw sa amin, thank you. Doon sa mga nagbigay ng criticisms and comments, thank you rin. I know may mga negative comments rin na naibato sa amin, I would like to thank you also because naging motivation iyon sa mga players to be better.”

VINDICATED: Team Liquid Philippines is the Champion of MPL-PH Season 13

Team Liquid ECHO

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