2021 has been a very successful year for the esports scene in the Philippines, with multiple Filipino teams across a variety of titles — such as Dota 2, VALORANT, League of Legends: Wild Rift, and Mobile Legends: Bang Bang (MLBB) — either competing in their respective games' world championship tournaments or getting crowned as world champions themselves.
Read on for our list of the five best moments for Filipino esports in 2021:
#5 - Kuku, Karl lead T1 to Top 8 finish at TI10
The Philippines remains a force to be reckoned with in Dota 2, thanks largely to Filipino veterans Carlo "Kuku" Palad and Karl "Karl" Baldovino leading T1's Southeast Asian squad to become one of the best Dota 2 teams in the world this year.
The dynamic duo has fueled T1's success throughout the 2021 Dota Pro Circuit (DPC), dominating Division I of the Southeast Asian regional league by finishing third in Season 1 then taking the top spot altogether in Season 2.
Kuku and Karl have also led T1 to some excellent showings in international competitions. In June, they finished the WePlay AniMajor in fourth place before taking the championship at ESL One Summer 2021.
The team followed that up with two more fourth place finishes at ESL One Fall 2021 in August and the OGA Dota PIT Invitational in September.
As the sixth-ranked team in the 2021 DPC leaderboard, T1 were directly invited to The International 10 (TI10) Dota 2 world championship in October.
Kuku and Karl led T1 to an upper bracket berth in TI10's Main Event, though they were knocked down to the lower bracket by Chinese juggernauts PSG.LGD after a narrow 1-2 loss in the first round.
In T1's first showing at TI as an organisation, Kuku and Karl led the team to an admirable 7th-8th place finish and took home US$1 million in winnings.
#4 - Team Secret finish in Top 8 at VALORANT Champions
Team Secret proved that the Philippines has a place in the FPS scene after their surprising Top 8 finish in VALORANT Champions earlier this month.
After spending much of the year with Filipino organisation Bren Esports, the roster missed out on attending the VALORANT Champions Tour (VCT) Masters Berlin tournament back in September due to visa issues.
The players parted ways with their former organisation not long after, eventually finding a new home in renown international organisation Team Secret and qualifying for VALORANT Champions while they watched Masters Berlin play out from home.
Secret's debut in VALORANT Champions was a trial by fire against Masters Berlin champions Gambit Esports. While the Filipino squad ultimately lost the series, they turned heads after they took a dominant victory in game one.
Secret bowed out of VALORANT Champions in 5th-8th place with US$40,000 in consolation, also safe in the knowledge that their only losses in the tournament came at the hands of the two grand finalists.
#3 - Team Secret finish 3rd-4th at Wild Rift Horizon Cup
The Team Secret organisation's decision to invest in the Philippine esports scene has been paying dividends, as their Filipino League of Legends: Wild Rift squad made headlines by finishing in 3rd-4th place at the Wild Rift Horizon Cup in November.
Secret earned its spot in the biggest Wild Rift tournament thus far by finishing the Wild Rift SEA Championship in second place behind Vietnam's SBTC Esports.
While both Southeast Asian squads had a rough start to the tournament's Group Stage, Secret bounced back and took the second seed of Group B with South America's eBRO Gaming and Europe's Team Queso.
Secret then avenged their loss in the Wild Rift SEA Championship by sweeping SBTC Esports out of the Horizon Cup before getting eliminated themselves by eventual champions Da Kun Gaming.
Secret's run at the Horizon Cup — which notably bagged them US$60,000 in winnings — continues to build on the Philippines' growing influence in the mobile esports space.
#2 - Bren Esports win M2 World Championship
Philippine esports started 2021 with a bang after Bren Esports claimed the championship of the MLBB M2 World Championship in January, kicking off what is looking to be an era of Filipino dominance in MLBB.
Bren Esports were one of the heavy favorites to win the M2 World Championship as the champion of the MLBB Pro League (MPL) Philippines Season 6 and runners-up of the 2020 ONE Esports MPL Invitational.
After a strong run in the Group Stage gave them an upper bracket berth, Bren Esports were stunned by Burmese Ghouls and got dropped to the lower bracket.
With their tournament lives on the line, the Filipinos flipped the switch and knocked out Todak, Alter Ego, and RRQ Hoshi to force a rematch against Burmese Ghouls in the grand finals.
Bren Esports started the finals strong and took a commanding 2-0 series lead. However, Burmese Ghouls bounced back to win three-straight games and were poised to pull off a massive reverse sweep.
Bren Esports then dug deep in the pivotal sixth game to force a deciding game seven, where they emerged victorious to be crowned as the first Filipino MLBB world champions.
#1 - Blacklist International win M3 World Championship
Blacklist International took the torch from Bren Esports and closed out the year as the new MLBB world champions after winning the championship of the M3 World Championship earlier this month.
Blacklist International had arguably the most dominant stretch in MLBB history this year, as they claimed back-to-back championships at MPL PH Seasons 7 and 8 and (much like Bren Esports did before them) finished the 2021 ONE Esports MPL Invitational in second place.
While Blacklist International had a strong start to the M3 World Championship with a clean sweep of Group A in the Group Stage, they fell victim to a massive 3-2 upset from North America's BloodThirstyKings (BTK) in the first round of the Playoff upper bracket.
Blacklist International were able to right the ship after getting upset and went on a dominant run in the lower bracket.
Blacklist International then avenged their previous loss to BTK by defeating the North Americans, 3-1, in a revenge match at the lower bracket finals to advance to the M3 World Championship's all-Filipino grand finals against ONIC PH.
With all the momentum in the world behind them, Blacklist International dominated ONIC PH in four-straight stomps to be crowned as the new MLBB world champions and the tournament's US$300,000 grand prize.
Embodying the spirit of champions and Filipino generosity, Blacklist International even pledged to donate a portion of winnings to victims of typhoon Odette in the Philippines.