What’s Smart Omega Empress’ ‘Secret’ to Victory? Stargazing. 

The all-Cebuana team saw shooting stars on the eve of the grand finals.

In a stunning display of dominance over TNC Z4, Smart Omega Empress secured the country’s only slot in the 2024 MLBB Women’s Invitational (MWI) tournament in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, sweeping the Phoenixes 3-0 in a best-of-five series. The Empresses also swept all their opponents during the 3-day MWI qualifiers in Makati. 

ALL-STAR asked what they did to prepare for the grand finals on May 12. Their answer surprised everybody in the press room. 

“Nag stargazing po sila,” said Smart Omega Empress Head Coach Salman Macarambon, aka Coach KingSalman. 

(“They did stargazing.”)

Laughter ensued. 

While their opponents felt the pressure of an offline female tournament on a big stage at Shooting Gallery Studios in Makati, the Empresses took a step back to wind down and immerse in nature on the eve of the finals. 

“Hindi na kami masyado nag scrim po, yung mga players po, noong mga 12 midnight or 1 a.m., nag stargazing po sila,” added Coach KingSalman. 

(“We did not do scrimmages but at 12 midnight or 1 a.m., the players did stargazing.”)


Smart Omega Empress
From Left: Sheen “Sinoa” Perez, Gwyneth “Not Ayanami” Diagon, Kaye “Keishi” Alpuerto, Coach Salman Macarambon, Mery “Meraaay” Vivero, and Rica “Amoree” Amores

The all-Cebuana female team laid out mats and pillows on the open-air court inside their boot camp in Marikina and watched the stars slowly drift across the night sky. 

And then they saw shooting stars.

Although they kept their wishes a secret, the girls expounded on things they realized under the spectacle of the heavens. 

“I realized that we have to be calm in all things. There were also flashbacks to the moment before we became esports players. That boosted our confidence, despite everything we’ve gone through,” said Rica Fatima Amores, aka Amoree. 

“Lying down and staring at the vast expanse of space helped my mental state and provided me tranquility,” said Gwyneth Diagon, aka Not Ayanami. “It helped us focus for our match today,” she added. 

It was Diagon who initiated stargazing. ALL-STAR asked her why. 

“Mahilig po kasi talaga ako sa ganoon. Minsan once a week, lumalabas ako sa court kapag madaling araw tapos titingala lang, hihinga,” said Diagon. 

(“I’m into those kinds of things. Once a week, I go out to the court and look up at the stars and just breathe.”)

‘Gigil na Gigil Kami’

Female leagues and teams in the Philippines are struggling in terms of support in all aspects of esports: Logistics, finance, tournaments, training, and investors, among others. That’s why when a team like Smart Omega Empress wins and gets to represent the country, everybody, even the opponents they beat, is very proud. 

After weeks of training, the Empresses shared for whom their victory was. 

“This victory is for my family and the team. Matagal na namin itong hinihintay. Gigil na gigil kami,” said Sheen Perez, aka Shinoa. 

(“We’ve been waiting for this for so long. We’re very determined.”)

Diagon also shares the victory with her family and friends, but also wants to dedicate it to herself. 

“Malaking percent po nito ay para sa sarili ko, kasi ako ang gumagawa ng sarili kong standard, gusto kong patunayan sa sarili ko na kaya namin as a team, and kaya ko as an individual player na maglaro sa malaking stage,” said Diagon. 

(“A big part of this win is for myself because I set the standards for myself and I want to prove that as a team and as an individual player, we can take on the big stage.”)

Mery Vivero, aka Meraaay, dedicates her win to her family. Her mom and siblings flew all the way from Cebu to watch her play and win the right to represent the Philippines in the MWI in Riyadh. 

“Ginalingan ko po talaga maglaro para worth it po yung pagpunta nila rito sa Manila,” said Vivero. 

(“I did my best for my family to make their trip here worthwhile.”)

For months, Vivero had to take a leading role in the team because the Empresses had no coach. “Para sa team din po ito, ginalingan ko po para sa kanila kasi in the previous months, wala kaming coach kaya nag step up po ako,” added Vivero. 

“This win is also for the team, I did my best for them because in the previous months, we had no coach and I had to step up.”)

Maybe it was the cosmos. Maybe it wasn’t. In the end, Smart Omega Empress’s secret to victory wasn’t just stargazing—it was the unwavering belief in themselves and each other and the sheer passion that fuelled their drive to victory.

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