After the morning training session the team checked into the tournament hotel, the Magellan at Sutera Harbour. Before they proceeded to their rooms we took a group photo.
The Philippine men’s sevens rugby team at the Borneo 7s. From left: Patrice Olivier, Noel Flowers, Andrew Farrar, Mark Chatting, Jon Morales, Harry Morris, Justin Coveney, Chris Everingham, Andrew Everingham, Ned Stephenson, David Carman, Andrew Wolff. Photo by Jessica Zafra. Nice smiles, no? I made them say, “Brush.”
The view from their rooms is fairly spectacular.
David Carman’s video was not supposed to have a naked guy in the background. Still, thank you, Ned Stephenson.
The afternoon training session was off, so the guys were at leisure until the tournament welcome dinner. “You have nothing to do until dinner?” I asked.
“How can you not find anything to do in a place like this?” Justin said, indicating the sea, the rolling hills, etc. “I don’t like nature,” I said.
So Andrew Farrar, Jon Morales, Noel Flowers, Mark Chatting and I decided to go to the mall. We’d been waiting for the hotel shuttle bus for ten minutes when we realized we had to sign up for the service, and anyway there were no seats left. Noel said there was a mall 200 meters away, so we started walking.
Our individual concepts of “200 meters” varied, and it began to rain. We were about to walk across the highway when some girls in a passing car called out to us and waved. The guys waved back. The girls said, “Jessicaaaa!”
“And I was just thinking, Wow, pretty girls and they recognized us,” Jon said.
Jon is Fil-American and grew up in the US. His parents moved around a lot; by his count he’s lived in at least eight cities. “I can’t eat lamb,” he said as he perused the menu. We had ended up in a local cafeteria—there was a whole row of them, so we picked the one that had the most customers. (Our waiter was Filipino, from Zamboanga. He’s been in KK for a year.)
“I lived in New York for a year,” Jon explained, “and I usually ate at a kosher restaurant because it was cheap. I ate lamb every day and now I can’t look at it.” Recently Jon wound up a two-year contract teaching English in Beijing. Now he’s living and working in Manila and taking his masters in development studies at UP. He plays for the Nomads rugby club, and his usual position is sweeper. For this tournament he’s a forward.
“I’m on this team through sheer luck,” Jon said. “The four guys who were called up before me weren’t available, and then Coach Cullen couldn’t reach me because I changed my number.”
Andrew Farrar is Fil-Australian and went to school in Bacolod. He knows Tagalog but doesn’t speak it much because he mixes up his Tagalog and Ilonggo. He works in construction in Queensland, but what he really wants to do is work in a mine.
“A mine?!” Recalling the recent Chilean disaster.
“But in Australia it’s different, they use open-pit mining,” Andrew explained. “The miners get paid a thousand dollars a day, and that’s after taxes.”
They talked about friends from former national teams. “He used to be really ripped, like those Samoan kids, and now he looks like the warthog in Lion King,” Andrew said of one ex-player. Noel explained the strategy for the games this weekend—I fully understood one sentence every other paragraph, but I think I got the gist. The impact players on the team are Harry, Justin and Wolfie. “They’re the cornerstones,” Jon said.
Noel ate raw chillis. He says they contain more vitamin C than oranges. “My whole face is on fire,” he announced.
I’m sleepy. To be continued.