Without a doubt, Howard “Owl” Gonzales’ journey toward becoming a professional player stands out as one of the most captivating tales among all the fresh faces in MPL Philippines.
Before setting foot on the MPL stage, Owl first suited up for the SIBOL ML:BB men’s national team during the 31st Southeast Asian Games in Vietnam. There, he played with Blacklist International stars Johnmar “OhMyV33NUS” Villaluna, Danerie “Wise” Del Rosario, and Salic “Hadji” Imam.
Most fans thought that Owl, who was a virtual unknown before his stint in the SIBOL qualifiers, would succumb to the pressure of playing alongside some of Philippine ML:BB’s top talents.
However, that was not the case.
Up against the region’s most skilled gold laners, Owl seized the spotlight and shone despite the presence of three of the Philippines’ best and brightest stars, helping SIBOL claim its second consecutive gold medal in the biennial meet.
After his impressive performance in the SEA Games, many thought that Owl would be included in Blacklist International’s redemption campaign in the MPL Philippines Season 10.
And it turns out, it’s not only the fans who thought of that possibility as the idea also crossed Owl’s mind. But in the end, the up-and-coming gold laner was not included in the team’s final roster for Season 10.
“Pumasok din po sa isip ko ‘yun na baka [ma-lineup] ako,” Owl told Tiebreaker Times in an exclusive interview.
Although he admitted that he was thrilled about the possibility of finally making it to the big leagues, Owl believed that he was not yet ready at the time. He also felt that playing as a backup would not be best for his development at the time.
“Pero mas napaganda pa rin na ‘di ako nasama sa MPL lineup nung Season 10 kasi para makapag-practice pa ako sa ibang tournaments,” said Owl. “Tingin ko good move ‘yun, kasi mababa rin yung chance na makapaglaro ako e.”
After getting left out of the team’s final roster, Owl paid his dues, grinding through the bottomless chasm that is public ranked games before finally getting the chance to play under the same banner in the MDL.
“Nag-lie low muna ako, tamang RG muna sa bagay tapos nung malapit na yung MDL ayun naghanap na kami ng dalawa naming players. Naisip ko noon na ibibigay ko talaga yung best ko sa MDL,” said Owl.
“Tingin ko na-boost din yung confidence ko dahil sa MDL kasi nakatalo kami ng malalakas na team dun e.”
There, the 20-year-old gold laner made sure to perform at his best and soak up every ounce of experience he could until finally, Blacklist International made the call that made all his sacrifices worth it.
Struggling to get wins amid the MPL Philippines Season 11 regular season, the defending MPL champion decided to elevate Owl to the pros and sent Archer “Archer” Perez to the MDL to bolster its playoffs bid.
“Tinanong ako ni Dex kung gusto ko ba mag-MPL. Pero ano pala, wala na pala akong choice kasi iaangat na pala talaga nila ako. Masaya ako pero kinakabahan din kasi if pangit yung performance ko mababangko lang din ako e,” said Owl.
At long last, Owl finally realized his dream of making it to the big stage. And he vowed to give everything he can to help the team that took a chance on him clinch their fourth title in the MPL Philippines.
“Sobrang thankful ko sa Blacklist kasi nabigyan ako ng chance mag-pro. Pagbubutihan ko talaga every game and ibibigay ko yung best ko para sa kanila.”