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Kenji looks back on iconic ‘Villa in Manila’ SEAG play


The name Kenneth Jiane “Kenji” Villa will have to be said twice for it to ring a bell for today’s Mobile Legends fans.

Sure, you have the Dlars, the FlapTzys, the Edwards, and the 3MarTzys of today, but before the four of them rose to prominence – there’s Kenji, who gave us the perfect representation of how the off-lane role should be played.

And he did that not just in the local scene, but in the biggest Mobile Legends stage in the region.

Back in 2019, Kenji – who was coming off his fourth season in the MPL-Philippines – etched his name in the annals of Philippine esports after his iconic Chou play that led to the Philippines winning the heart-stopping Game One of the Mobile Legends grand finals in the 30th Southeast Asian Games.

The Philippine national team, who was coming off a grueling lower bracket series against Vietnam and Malaysia, respectively, barged into the grand finals of the Mobile Legends event against all odds.

Waiting for the Sibol crew is the fancied Indonesian squad bannered by the EVOS Legends core who was just recently named as the first-ever Mobile Legends: Bang Bang World Champions weeks prior to the biennial meet.

The Filipinos were able to keep in step with the powerhouse squad in the opener all thanks to the constant efforts of Villa’s Chou and Jeniel “Haze” Bata-anon’s Baxia. However, one of the Philippines core in Angelo “Pheww” Arcangel (Helcurt) struggled all throughout the match which prevented the team from pursuing a full-blown clash against the heavily favored opposition.

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With the clock already past the 12-minute mark, the Indonesians, who very well knew that the Philippines could not make a contest, put all their manpower – including Eko “Oura” Julianto’s X-borg – for the luminous lord take.

What came next was a series of well-timed, high IQ plays from Villa – which was dubbed by shoutcasters Manjean “Manjean” Faldas and Mark Adrian “Butters” Jison as the ‘Villa in Manila.’

Kenji decided to opt-out of the Philippines’ lord contest as he set his sight on the Indonesians’ top lane inner turret. The 23-year-old managed to take down the objective but his teammates, who were going up against a complete Indonesia roster, could not catch a break on the other end of the map.

Villa-in-Manila-Paragraph-10 Kenji looks back on iconic 'Villa in Manila' SEAG play ESports Mobile Legends MPL-PH News  - philippine sports news

Haze came down first while Allan “Lusty” Castromayor’s Grock became the second casualty of the lopsided clash which seemed to be the end for the Philippines.

Kenji tried to aid his teammates at first but ultimately decided to stay put at the top lane to destroy the base turret. Oura went back to defend the turret from Villa’s wrath, which meant that Karl “KarlTzy” Nepomuceno (Harith) and Pheww had to take on a four-man Indonesia squad in the middle lane.

Villa-in-Manila-Paragraph-12 Kenji looks back on iconic 'Villa in Manila' SEAG play ESports Mobile Legends MPL-PH News  - philippine sports news

Though Pheww died a few moments later, the 1-2 punch managed to win the skirmish and kill three of the four players to turn the game to a two-on-one in favor of the Philippines.

Over on the other side, Oura burned his Last Insanity to prevent Villa’s heroics. But the Omega Esports offlaner was able to take Oura down along with the turret with only a sliver of health remaining.

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Yurino “Donkey” Putra cast Minotaur’s Minoan Fury for one final attempt to salvage the opener, but Villa once again made the crucial play, killing Putra to put the Philippines ahead by one.

Villa-in-Manila-Paragraph-15 Kenji looks back on iconic 'Villa in Manila' SEAG play ESports Mobile Legends MPL-PH News  - philippine sports news

Bale ano na lang yun e, parang kusa na lang… biglaang desisyon na lang kasi nung time na yun, alam kong lugi kami kapag nakipag laban kami sa kanila ng limahan kaya dinaan na lang namin sa may isang mag pe-pressure ng isang lane kasi doon kami lamang e,” recalled Villa in the recent episode of the MPL Chillax.

“’Di namin sila kaya sa limahan e, kaya tinake advantage ko na lang kung saan kami lamang.”

That performance by Villa came down as one of the most important moments in that series as the Filipinos lost the next two games before winning Games Four and Five en route to the gold medal.

Despite his incredible showing, Villa still gave the credit to the team and their excellent communication skills for he believes that everything good that came out from that series rooted from that alone.

“Sa tingin ko yung communication namin as a team, kasi maraming time doon sa game na yun na lugi na kami pero nagawan ng paraan dahil sa tuloy tuloy na pag co-communicate namin as a team,” he explained.

Had the Philippines dropped that crucial Game One, who knows what the outcome might be? Luckily for us, though, we never have to wonder as Kenji was there to save the day.

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