Fancy travelling all night in a 14-seater coach, arriving at 6am after a 12-hour journey and then playing your first game four hours later?
Meet the Albay Bulkans, the Philippines’ most southerly rugby team in the shadow of the Mayon Volcano, who travelled to the Development Series Sevens at Southern Plains, Laguna in Manilla.
A day of Sevens later, after playing in front of the Webb Ellis Cup, which was visiting as part of the Rugby World Cup 2019 Trophy Tour, the 12 players headed off for the overnight return leg, arriving back at 10am on Sunday morning after the 1,000km trip.
This is a journey they have done twice a month for the past three seasons since Ric Bellen arrived in the Legazpi region and spread the rugby message following his time with the Maap Warriors in Manila.
“When I married and moved south I joined soccer, volleyball and basketball to find friends. But when they saw me catching and kicking the ball I told them about rugby,” said Bellen, a rugby development officer for the Philippine Rugby Union.
“When I’m asked about why they should play rugby I tell people that wherever there is a rugby club there is a family for you. In 2014 there were just four guys playing rugby – this year we won the Manila 10s.
“We can’t afford to stay anywhere overnight so we travel back overnight and do a bit of recovery when we get home. The journey is sometimes harder than the games!”
But this only half the story of how rugby has made a difference to the group of 18-22 year-olds. During the eruption of the Mayon between March and June this year, an area of 20km around the volcano was evacuated. Former maritime cadet turned computer engineer Bellen and his team-mates supported the Red Cross and the Health Office in the relief effort.
“Through my role as a development officer and with the team we were able to help deliver food parcels to schools and temporary shelters and to help in a small way,” said Bellen.
And with that Bellen and the Bulkans headed back down the Pan-Philippine Highway – ready to do it all again next month.
From Manila the Rugby World Cup 2019 Trophy Tour will continue to India in August before heading to Japan for Rugby World Cup 2019 one year to go celebrations. The tour will excite the global rugby family and drive fan engagement ahead of Rugby World Cup 2019. Click here to view the Rugby World Cup 2019 Trophy Tour schedule.
Click here for images from the Rugby World Cup 2019 Trophy Tour in the Philippines.
Rugby World Cup 2019 takes place from 20 September – 2 November 2019. There has been strong demand for Rugby World Cup 2019 with more than 1.5 million ticket applications already received. Further information on how to purchase tickets can be found at www.rugbyworldcup.com/tickets.