First of all I want to thank every single reader of the previous two pieces I wrote, especially the one about South Korea. It was incredible to see all the interest from people all over the world, so many thanks for that. I also got a lot of interest from the Philippines, so I decided to write my next article about the country of the number one on the Asian Tour Order of Merit for two consecutive years and the two players who hit a nine on the Asian Tour: Lourence Ilagan and Noel Malicdem. And I was surprised by everything I found, there was so much to read, so much to watch and so many great players. If you like this piece of writing, please like my Facebookpage and follow my Twitter for more updates.
Roberto Soncuya (Tito)
Roberto Soncuya is one of the biggest names in Filipino darts and I hope every word I write here does him justice. He passed away last year on December 7th at an age of 68 but has done so much for darts in the Philippines. He was the president of the NDFP for a long while, and helped darts in the Philippines go to the next level and make it more important on an international level. There will be a ‘Roberto ‘’Tito’’ Soncuya Memorial Cup’ as well, which will be held from the 24th to 26th January 2020 in Marikina City.
The NDFP and the growth of darts
In 1998, the National Darts Federation Philippines was founded. They were looking for change: The NDFP wanted for darts in the Philippines to be professionalized and on par with international standards. The first event they organized was the ‘Darterong Pinoy’ in 1998, which is now the historical roots of the organization and Filipino darts. The event is still going strong every year with Noel Malicdem as the latest winner. But it didn’t stop with the Darterong Pinoy. The NDFP set up a complete ranking for men and women, set up clinics and helped regional organizations with tournaments. More national tournaments came, also international tournaments, and the Philippines grew into a darting nation.
Robson Sportscraft is the biggest brand in the Philippines, sponsoring a lot of events. For the ranking tournaments for example, they provide the boards so their Razor boards are being used all over the Philippines. They also sponsor players like Noel Malicdem, Ian Perez, Paolo Nebrida and DJ Tongcopanon.
As we all know, darts has grown over the years and especially Asian darts is on the rise now. The Philippines couldn’t be left out in the Asian Tour and the Open tournaments, so both are combined in Tacloban (Leyte) during one weekend a year. Krzysztof Ratajski won the Philippine Open in 2019. The Philippine Open is being organized by DOT, Darts Organization of Tacloban, another organization that has been around for a long while. Florencio ”Bem” Noel has done much for them as well for the NDFP, in fact just seven hours after I finished this article, he was announced as the next president of the NDFP to follow in the footsteps of Soncuya. In his own words: ‘In darts, we unite’. Watch here a video of the 2018 Philippine Open:
The Philippines is one of the Asian countries where steeltip is really popular. I already said before that the ‘Darterong Pinoy’ is one of the most anticipated tournaments in the country because of the historic value, but there’s a lot more both on the national ranking and just around the corner (regional). For example: The ‘Hinugyaw Festival National Dart Tournament’ is another three-day tournament which counts for the national ranking. It’s held in Koronadal City, South Cotabato. Winner of last year’s tournament was Alexis Toylo, runner up was Christian Perez.
I’d like to explain the national ranking system of steeltip in the Philippines as I’ve talked about the tournaments for a couple of times now, but I’m sure some of you would like to know how the ranking works. I know how the ranking in most countries is (well at least in my country, the Netherlands): The winner of a ranking tournament gets an x amount of points, the runner-up gets a little less points and so on. And sometimes there’s different categories which can earn you more or less points. But this is the Philippines:
The amount of points one gets is based on two things: The tournament level (aka total payout) and the number of players. Below you can see when points get awarded and how many:
So, for example, you are the winner of a Level II tournament with 42 players, you earn 16 points (32×0.5). The runner-up gets 12 points, the joint 3rd gets 8 points and 5-8 get 4 points. Everyone else gets nothing. That’s pretty much how you can calculate the awarded points per ranking tournament.
Unlike South Korea or Japan (where there are thousands of softtip spots), most dartsbars in the Philippines have steeltip boards and organize steeltip tournaments. A good example of such a bar is ‘Tropang Amber’s Best’. This bar organized tournaments for different ages and made streaming coverage of it on their Facebook page. It’s worth checking out their page to have a feel of the atmosphere of such tournaments.
Most Filipino softtip players participate in the SEA Tour, the South East Asian Tour. That’s one of the DARTSLIVE Tours and in 2019 the annual winner also received a ticket for SUPER DARTS 2020 (which was Malaysian player Tengku Shah). A lot of the bigger players in the country also participate in THE WORLD. The best Filipino player on the SEA Tour 2019 was Froilan Soco.
If you think about the Philippines, many of us will think about Lourence Ilagan because of the good results he booked internationally in the past years. He became the annual winner of the Asian Tour in both 2018 and 2019. He also hit a nine-darter in one of the tours, you can watch that in the video below, it ended up as one of my favorite moments of 2019. He won the NDFP Masters Cup in 2018 as well as the NDFP Federation Cup in the same year. Ilagan plays softtip as well from time to time, he actually did very well in the past in tournaments like THE WORLD. He was number one on the annual ranking of 2012 and made SUPER DARTS in 2017. He also made the semi finals of the Winmau World Masters in 2009, which shows how long he has been around and doing well.
If you don’t look too far, it might seem like Malicdem hasn’t won too much actually. Just a couple of Asian Tours, and there we go. That’s not true at all. The NDFP has introduced ‘Player of the Year’ in 2014 and it has been Noel in 2016, 2017 and 2019 for a reason: He wins many tournaments in the Philippines. And those are, for example, the ‘Darterong Pinoy’ in 2019, and with 412 participant that’s a pretty good one to win (and out of the 149 teams, the Robson team with Malicdem, Tongcopanon, Nebrida and Perez also won the fixed 4 person team competition in 2019).
He was also very good against Peter Wright in his match during the PDC World Championship and hit a nine-darter in the 2018 Asian Tour. Average-wise he has also been one of the most consistent players, I think Noel is one of the players to keep an eye on.
Lovely Mae ‘Bebang’ Orbeta
Bebang Orbeta is seen by many as one of the players of the future and I can’t say they’re wrong. She’s only 15 years old this year and playing amongst the women, winning many tournaments in both softtip and steeltip. She won the Philippine Open in 2019, leaving Mikuru Suzuki and Yuriko Yamaguchi behind. She participated in four of the five South East Asian Tours in 2019 when she was just 14, and won all four of them ending up as the annual champion among the ladies with 168 points. Those are just a couple of her biggest achievements, and besides that she won a lot more local tournaments as well.
Other Filipino players
There are a lot of great players in the Philippines that I haven’t mentioned yet. Alexis Toylo, who has made the final of an Asian Tour in 2018 is one of them. Paolo Nebrida, Michael Viola, Dolreich Toncopanon Jr (a great youth-player who has also been player of the year in 2015), Christian Perez (who played the PDC World Championship twice as well as the World Cup in 2012). For the ladies players, besides Bebang, we have Angelyn Detablan, so there is a lot of talent in the Philippines and I’m sure it’s only a matter of time until there’s a big breakthrough internationally.
I hope I gave everyone a global look into darts in the Philippines and I’m sure another article will follow in the future. During my research I fell in love with this country so I hope that someday I’ll be able to visit. I hope you’ll all enjoy reading the article and upcoming articles as well!