Bryan Bagunas to SEA Games-bound PH team: Keep fighting, play with heart
MANILA, Philippines—Bryan Bagunas is hoping for the best for the Philippine men’s volleyball team in the 32nd Southeast Asian Games.
Although he will not see action in the biennial meet due to his wedding in June, Bagunas encourages the rebuilding national team to keep fighting when it tries to return to the podium in the Cambodia SEA Games starting on May 3.
“Laban lang kasi nakita ko naman sila nung naki-tuneup sila sa amin sa Taiwan. Kahit yung mga bata nandoon yung skills nila. Sobrang eager nilang makapaglaro sa SEA Games,” Bagunas, who was part of the historic 2019 silver medalist in the 2019 biennial meet, told reporters. “Nakikita ko na talagang lalaban pa rin sila sa SEA Games. Laban lang, puso. Alam naman natin ang mga Pilipino so puso lang.”
(We have a fighting chance because seeing how they play during our tune-up with them in Taiwan, these young players are talented and eager to play in the SEA Games. Just keep on fighting and play their hearts out, knowing that Filipinos have big hearts.)
The Philippine men’s volleyball team, led by mainstays Jau Umandal and Manuel Sumanguid, trained in Taiwan in February including tune-up games with Bagunas and WinStreak and held a camp in Osaka, Japan with the V.League club Panasonic Panthers.
The national squad, under Brazilian coach Sergio Veloso, aims for a medal finish after placing fifth in Hanoi, Vietnam last year coming off a long pandemic hiatus.
Bagunas also offered well wishes to his national teammates Marck Espejo, Jau Umandal, Manuel Sumanguid, and JP Bugaoan, who will try out for the Asian Quota in the Korean V-League on Tuesday in Jeju Island.
“I’m proud that the Philippine men’s volleyball has been getting discovered by other countries. They are really scouting our players as potential imports. It’s overwhelming that they can see that we can play on the international stage,” he said in Filipino. “As an overseas player, I’m so proud of them and I hope that more opportunities will come to our players.”
Umandal, who won the Spikers’ Turf MVP, credited the success of Philippine volleyball to Bagunas. The latter also lauded the growth of the Cotabato star.
“I’m so proud of him because he has been proving himself with his skills and providing a huge contribution to the men’s national team,” Bagunas said.
The former National University standout made a historic first season in Taiwan, emerging as the Top Volleyball League MVP and leading WinStreak to a title.
Bagunas also advocates for the success of Philippine men’s volleyball by having a professional league, just like the other countries he played in including in Japan V.League.
“Hopefully, the time will come when we will no longer need to play overseas. A local league that will make the players stay here to showcase their skills,” the former UAAP MVP said.
“Whenever I got offers abroad and I’m not available, I’m referring the other players here. They just have to keep on working so the Philippine men’s volleyball will continue to reach greater heights and get an opportunity to play overseas,” he added.