They’re explosively hot on the field and on the billboards, but underneath that solid wall of muscle, the Philippine Volcanoes are warm softies who love their moms, girlfriends and adobo. Inquirer Lifestyle corrals some of the players for a short Q&A at a private dinner hosted by Ben Chan, where we ask them about pregame rituals, supportive fans and support garments.
Michael Letts and Chris Hitch
What is a relationship deal breaker for you?
Michael: Taller than me. I’d have to be taller.
Crazy fan moments?
Michael: It wasn’t for me personally, it was for my brother, Jake. We had just finished a training session, and when we were walking out, there were a couple of Filipina ladies out there with this cake for his birthday which had a little trophy with his head, which I thought was quite funny.
Are you guys superstitious? Do you have any pregame rituals that you absolutely have to do?
Chris: I just tough myself up. I listen to some music to rev myself up for the big game.
Michael: Music, as well. I don’t mind Keith Urban when I’m in my relaxation mode, but then as the game nears, I listen to a bit of reggae, then after that, that new song, “Pursuit of Happiness” by Steve Aoki and Kid Cudi, upbeat music, you know? It gets your blood pumping.
Boxers or briefs?
Chris: Boxers for me.
Michael: It depends. I don’t mind my briefs, but boxers when I’m sleeping.
Austin Dacanay and Justin Coveney
Does a girl you date have to know the sport?
Justin: You take a girl on her merits. I’ve got a girlfriend, but if I didn’t, just because she’s not a fan doesn’t close her off to me.
Austin: I would say no, it doesn’t really matter, ‘cause my wife wasn’t a fan before and she still isn’t a fan, but she’s still really cute.
Was your girlfriend familiar with the sport when you met her?
Justin: She wasn’t actually, it’s been a bit of a learning curve for her. She hasn’t watched me play for the Volcanoes yet, because I haven’t played at home yet, so it’d be a really good experience to have her there and experience what rugby’s all about.
Do you know any Filipino words?
Justin: I do, because when I used to get in trouble from my mum when I was younger, she used to, like, scream at me, she’d say things like (I’m not sure if this is a swear word), but she used to say, like, “Anak ka ng tatay mo!” and she used to say, “Susmaryosep!” and I used to get hit with a thong so yeah, but I’m starting to expand my vocabulary, obviously, playing for the Philippines. I came here six times last year and you pick up more words, you learn how to haggle, you just pick up the language.
You know how to haggle?
What food do you eat before a match?
Austin: Nothing special. I try not to eat too close before it, but I’ll have a big breakfast and some fruit.
Justin: When I lived back in Sydney, I lived with my mum so I didn’t really get a choice as to what I ate, so it was always pancit or chicken adobo or tocino, definitely something Filipino, but I don’t have a preference just as long as it gives me energy, so rice and all the Filipino food is definitely going to do that.
Austin: Music. A lot of music.
Justin: But what kind of music do you listen to? It’s kind of funny that the music that I always listen to before a game is The Transformers symphony, the movie score, ‘cause if you watch the movie, there’s some really high, orchestral notes, it’s really, really pump-up, so on my iPod before the game, I’ll have the big beats on, listening to Transformers. Don’t knock it till you try it. If you listen to it before an interview you’ll be (roars) “ANSWER THE QUESTION!”
Craziest fan moment?
Austin: It’ll start on Twitter, then Facebook, then they’ll go to the games. Kind of odd, you’ll try to be nice, be polite, take pictures, sign autographs, but when they start touching you it’s kind of weird—especially if they’re men.
Justin: But he likes it. I haven’t had really crazy fan moments, they’ve actually been really respectful. One of our fans on Twitter made us bag tags, so all our bags have our names on them, they made it for us, we really appreciate that.
Terry Carroll and Brian West
Are you a mama’s boy?
Terry: Maybe not so much. I’ve been living away from home since I was young, I went to boarding school and I never really lived at home after school so I never really got to see much of my parents.
Brian: Probably not so much a mama’s boy, but in all honesty, I think everyone deep down is a mama’s boy. I’m pretty much the same as Terry, I moved out when I was seven or eight and when I finished high school, so I had to learn to fend for myself and grow up really fast, but deep down we’re all mama’s boys.
Brian, how did you get that scar on your face?
Brian: Had a bit of a graze at practice, I just buried my head in the ground by accident. Thanks to everyone else for pushing me from behind.
What was the worst injury you’ve had playing rugby?
Terry: I’ve had a couple of pretty bad ones. I’ve had two shoulder reconstructions. Playing rugby really wasn’t good for my shoulders, that’s kind of the worst injury I’ve had.
Do you guys play pranks on each other?
Brian: I’ve had to say that the worst prank hasn’t come from myself, neither Terry, It’d probably come from Cleo Gomez, he’s well-known for his prank phone calls to Mr. Perez, in particular; it’s pretty good stuff, he’s probably the biggest prankster on the team.
Would you give up rugby for a girl?
Terry: I’ve got a girlfriend now and she can cope with what I do here so I’m getting the best of both worlds there.
Brian: My girlfriend lets me decide how I want to do it, so she’s really supportive in that regard.
Do you know any Filipino words?
Terry: Just a swear word my mum says when she’s angry at me. I don’t want to say! I’m too shy!
Brian: Most of my cousins have tried to teach me a few words here and there so I suppose I’ve learned how to say “Kamusta ka na?” “Salamat po” and “Walang anuman.”
What’s the first thing you notice in a girl?
Terry: Obviously her looks. The face, really, if they’re pretty. ‘Cause, obviously, you’re not going to talk to a girl who doesn’t appeal to you. People say “It’s what’s on the inside that counts,” but you’re not going to talk to a girl if she doesn’t look cute to you.
Brian: I look at a girl’s eyes. Definitely her eyes, and if I talk to her I base it on her personality. I’m fortunate that I’ve found someone really special.
Terry: That’s sweet.
Jake Letts, Jaime Urquijo and Steve Howorth
How many Volcanoes does it take to screw in a lightbulb?
Jaime: 24. Teamwork.
Steve: Good one!
What is rugby to you?
Jake: It’s a hobby. I just enjoy playing, that’s why I play.
Jaime: It’s a passion. I’ve learned it from a very young age, so that’s what I love to do.
Steve: I’ve been playing since I was nine, it’s a big part of my life, I don’t think I’ll be giving it up till I’m, like, 60.
Did you have to give anything up for the sport?
Jake: Not really, I guess it’s just time, but we enjoy the time, it’s a win-win situation.
Jaime: You have to make a lot of sacrifices, most of us are all working now, so we had to take time off to come do this, but it’s worth it.
Steve: The time, the travel and all that sometimes take a toll on you but it’s definitely worth it.
What makes you a right fit for Bench?
Jake: We’re very appreciative. Rugby wasn’t big before but when Bench came onboard they really gave us great exposure. We’re very, very grateful for that because in the end that’s what you want to do, promote the sport of rugby in the Philippines.
Jaime: They’ve been with us from the start, very encouraging for us to have them as a sponsor. It’s great to have someone that’s very supportive.
Boxers or briefs?
Jaime: I usually have to tape my legs.
Jake: I just listen to a bit of music, just to keep me calm.
Steve: I have to put on my left sock first. I’ve always done it. It’s a bit weird but it puts me in the mindset to get on and play.
Are you a mama’s boy?
What’s the one thing you look forward to when you come to the Philippines?
Jaime: Food. I love adobo, but also the sweets and stuff. I love ube ice cream and cheese ice cream.
Steve: I thought it was vanilla last night, but ugh! I don’t like cheese ice cream.
Jake: The culture. Coming back here, seeing things has made me more appreciative, seeing what my family has gone through, it’s great.
How do you guys relax?
Jake: Basically after training, all we want to do is sleep because we worked so hard the rest of the day.
Jaime: Watch movies, TV shows.
Steve: Go on my laptop, Facebook. We’re big Facebook users in the team.
What advice do you have for aspiring rugby players?
Steve: Watch as much rugby as possible, YouTube is packed with clips, just type in “Rugby 101.” As long as you have passion for it, it’ll come.
Jake: You give it a try, you’ll like it, bring your friends along, you’ll meet a lot of great people. I didn’t know this guy before last week, but it feels like I’ve known him a long time now.
Jaime: And come and watch us.