Tournament marks rise of rugby popularity in Northern Mindanao

CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY (MindaNews / 23 Aug) — Organizers of the upcoming rugby tournament here dubbed “Higalaay Challenge Cup” is confident that this year’s event will mark the rise of this sport not only in this city but also throughout Northern Mindanao.

“The sport of rugby has grown so much here in Cagayan de Oro in just a very short time since we started back in November 2013. In just two years we have popularized rugby in this part of the Philippines and we hope that this year’s Higalaay Challenge Cup will give rise to bigger competitions and hopefully a league of its own by next year,” said Noel Villa, team founder and playing coach of Cagayan de Oro Rafters Football Rugby Club.

Players from the Cagayan de Oro Rafters give out their best during practice in preparation for the Higalaay Challenge Cup on August 29, 2015. MindaNews photo by Erwin Mascarinas
Players from the Cagayan de Oro Rafters give out their best during practice in preparation for the Higalaay Challenge Cup on August 29, 2015. MindaNews photo by Erwin Mascarinas

Villa, who played rugby in the United Kingdom before settling down in Cagayan de Oro revealed that an expat team from Manila will play against the Rafters in the tournament.

“The Manila Hapons, an all-Japanese team based in Manila will be coming here to play against us. This team has two players that qualified for the national team and they have been playing not only here in the Philippines but in other parts of Asia as well, so we expect a better game against them,” he said.

Villa added that 30 players from Cagayan de Oro City will be playing and hopefully be divided into two separate teams.

“We have several players and we even have two expats from Papua New Guinea who are studying here in Cagayan de Oro and the other in Malaybalay, Bukidnon. Another is a British expat from Singapore who is working here in Misamis Oriental and an Australian. A Filipino-American and a Filipino-Australian will also be playing with us during the games, all of these guys have played rugby in their own countries,” he said.

Murrey Wagi, a 23-year-old rugby player from Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea who is currently studying in Cagayan de Oro said he used to study in Ozamiz City but moved to a university here when he heard about the rugby tem.

“I joined the Rafters just this May and I can see that the sport has so much potential to grow in this part of the Philippines. Right now there are two of us from my country, the other one is in Bukidnon. I’m sure several of our countrymen would be interested in studying here; they have good universities, which are not that expensive and (they will have) a chance to continue playing rugby,” he said.

The Higalaay Challenge Cup will be played on August 29, 2015 as one of the games that is part of the Cagayan de Oro City’s annual Higalaay Festival, a festivity built around the city’s fiesta for St. Augustine.

According to the Rafters, during the event a sport clinic for juniors and girls Rugby will be held and there will be a chance for the juniors (under 15 years) and mini (under 10 years) to play against each other. (Erwin Mascarinas / MindaNews)