Never in my wildest dreams did I ever think I would be able to represent the country I was born in, never mind on the lacrosse field. Growing up watching Team USA & Canada, it was always a dream of mine. I remember thinking maybe one day there will be a Philippines National Team. After playing for more than 12 years in the northeastern US and traveling up and down the East Coast, I never once saw another Filipino lacrosse player. My dream didn’t appear to even be a possibility. About a year ago, this all changed. I remember reading a blog about the search for Filipino lacrosse players in the USA and first thought, “Is this for real? Am I reading this correctly?”
11 months later, the newly founded Philippines Lacrosse Association successfully met in Austin, Texas and competed together for the first time against Austin Lacrosse Club. It was exciting but even more of an honor to be a part of the first ever lacrosse game played by Filipinos, representing the Philippines. Considering we had never played with one another, we played well and it became just like any other lacrosse game. Before we left for our respective homes, Josh “Chewy” Acut, the Philippines Lacrosse President, Ron Garcia, VP/Managing Director, and Justin “Mantar” Manjares, Director of Finance/Outreach discussed several opportunities for PLA in the future and our chance to compete in the 2014 World Games in Denver, CO. After this trip, the possibility was starting to become real.
A few months after the Austin trip, Josh and Ron announced that we would be headed down to Costa Rica to play against their national team. The game against Austin LC was fun but this was on another level. We went from scrimmaging to finally having the chance to compete at the international level. After a few weeks, my tickets were booked, the roster was set and we were officially scheduled for our first international competition.
I arrived in San Jose, Costa Rica and met Ron along with a few other guys a night earlier than the rest of the team. After we got settled at the hostel that would be our accommodations for the stay, Walter Rojas Supoy, the President of Costa Rica Lacrosse and Alonso Acuña Murillo, AKA, Planck, greeted us. They told us about how their program started in Costa Rica but ultimately shared how and why they fell in love with the game. My teammates and I were glued to every word Walter and Planck said, they spoke so passionately. Walter was telling us they have three teams to pull from when forming their national team; it was so impressive for us to see the game grow this fast in another country.
On Saturday, we finally took the field and ran an intrasquad practice and then a scrimmage with the Costa Rican team. Both teams were excited to meet one another and guys from both squads were helping and instructing each other throughout the morning. While we were waiting for our bus, guys on our team were doing stick trick and interacting with the Costa Rica team. It was clear the Costa Rican team was appreciating the experience just as much as we were. You could just tell when talking to them they loved the game as much as we did and wanted to learn and get better at all times, pretty neat to see. After our practice, we were able to see the country a little bit and go zip lining throughout the jungle.
The next morning is what we all had been waiting for. We arrived at a gorgeous stadium that was a half an hour drive away from San Jose. When standing on the field there was a postcard view of mountains and a historic church that rose behind the stadium. We were welcomed by 150 local family, friends, and fans accompanied by some Filipino team parents who made the trip. Our team was made up of equal parts Filipino and American players. There was a strong representation of DI, DII and DIII schools on our team; these included The United States Air Force Academy, Providence College, Limestone College, Stevenson University, University of New England and Elmira College.
From the first whistle, Costa Rica came out flying. They were ready to play and were hustling to every loose ball. A few minutes in, much deserving, our managing director, Ronald “Rondo” Garcia, scored the first international goal for us. Both teams played hard throughout the game. Team Philippines came out on top but that was not the point of our trip. Our mission was to help grow the game for both countries and I believe we did just that. We arrived in San Jose without many definitive expectations but left with a bond and friendship with our opponents that will last forever. We are grateful to Costa Rica for hosting our team and showing us around their country. I don’t think any of our guys will ever forget when the game ended and their fans came down and even if we couldn’t speak Spanish, there was a connection we could share, a love of the game. It was a surreal feeling and something we will always look back on.
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