If there’s someone who has seen it all in the local Mobile Legends scene, it is definitely Joy Calulo.
Oh, the name doesn’t ring a bell? Let’s try it again.
It’s definitely Ginoong Valdez.
Calulo, the former league operations head of MPL-Philippines who was popularly known as Ginoong Valdez in the community, has been with the league ever since before its inception in 2018.
He has seen how Aether Main dominated the league in its inaugural season, how Cignal Ultra claimed their revenge, how ArkAngel went out of nowhere to break the party, how Sunsparks won an unprecedented back-to-back championship, and how BREN Esports finally snagged its breakthrough win.
Aside from the victories he has witnessed during his time in the league, he also watched how a team beaming with such potential began to fold before they even got their chance.
And there was no doubt in his mind that this group of youngsters could have done something special had they stuck together in time for the league’s first-ever season.
“OBS yung what could have been,” Calulo told MPL Recall.
“Kung natuloy agad yung MPL na this was the time na nandoon pa rin si Haze saka si Yakou ‘no, and si Billy sa isang team na yun, sila yung what could have been. I can’t say na they’re the strongest pero sila yung what could have been team — parang yung the one that got away.”
OBS Gaming, led by Mobile Legends icon Billy “Z4pnu” Alfonso, had the likes of MPL champions Jeniel “Haze” Bata-anon, Jeff “Jeffqt4ever” Anaya, Erwin “Yakou” Magno, along with MPL standouts Jomie “Pakbet” Abalos and Paulo “pauu” Tababa at the time.
The team first drew attention when they competed in the Smart Mobile Gaming League wherein they reached the Pampanga leg finals without a single loss. However, the squad was manhandled by local squad XSG Tactics led by Lance “MRVII” Vicencio and Rb “Rbeh” Fernando.
Unfazed by the loss, the team travelled back to Metro Manila to compete in the Manila leg. Just like what they did in the previous qualifiers, OBS Gaming once again reached the finale unblemished. This time, though, the team went on to claim the qualifiers slot after taking down Jules “Lex” Marcelo’s XFS.
But OBS Gaming really made noise when they were able to win the Mobile Legends: Bang Bang Challenge Cup in the SMX Convention Center, where they beat the likes of Solid Gaming Alpha and eventual MPL Season One titlist Aether.
Haze recalled what it was like being part of that special squad and how they burst into the amateur scene through sheer hard work.
“Struggle namin talaga is yung bootcamp kasi namin sa Cubao pa, sa bahay nila Jeff. Tapos ano, minsan tag gutom kasi nakakahiya humingi ng pagkain kila Jeff e. Kain talaga kami ng tsitsirya,” shared Haze in MPL Chillax.
“Maglalaro kami hanggang antukin, tapos wala pang sariling kama nun. Nakikitulog lang kami kila Jeff nun sa may parang storage room nila sa taas tapos dikit dikit kami magkakatabi. Walang aircon aircon pero dun kasi sa bahay nila, may wifi na mabilis kaya dun kami nakakapag-practice.”
Despite the strong bond that they have forged through countless sleepless nights, the team who once wreaked havoc in the amateur scene disbanded prior to the start of the league’s inaugural season with OBS Gaming parading a new-look roster that only has Zapnu, Jeffqt4ever, and Pakbet as their holdovers.
Haze, who joined OBS Gaming’s rival Aether Main, went on to win the MPL Season One title after defeating Yakou’s Digital Devils Pro Gaming in the grand finals.
OBS Gaming, meanwhile, settled for a third-place finish despite being the favorites to win it all.
With the Season One outcome, I think we can all agree that there’s really something special with the squad.
And we can all just wonder what could have been had fate not intervened.