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Filipina DHs awe cricket vets in newfound sport

04 July 2018

By Vir B. Lumicao

In the past, whenever somebody would ask me if Filipinos played cricket, I had a ready answer: “No, we don’t play cricket. We fry and eat it.” Although said in jest, the reply usually left the person queasy or dumbfounded.

The Divas trained for a year before being unleashed in their first tournament.
Now, that joke is passè, as the sport so popular in the former British Empire has become a new domain for a bunch of Filipina domestic workers in Hong Kong.

On Jun 22, SCC Divas, the first-ever cricket team comprising 26 full-blooded Filipinos, stepped on to the stage to receive their trophy as champions in the Development Division of Cricket Hong Kong Women’s League for the 2017-2018 season.

Led by its captain Josie Arimas, the team shocked and awed its veteran, big-name opponents on its debut in the sport by sweeping all its eight matches for the season.

“Grabe! Speechless ako. I can’t believe we are the champions!” said the pretty, soft-spoken Arimas after the Divas crushed Craigengower Cricket Club in the final game at the Po Kong Village Road field in Tsz Wan Shan on Jun 3.

SCC Divas owes its founding to Arimas, who invaded the cricket world by trying out one Friday evening for the Hong Kong Cricket Club women’s team, Willow Wielders. Her throwing, catching and bowling impressed the coach and his players that they took her in.   

The 42-year-old Arimas began playing softball in Grade 3, competing in district games. She was drafted to the RP Blu Girls national softball team in high school and was a varsity softball player at University of Negros Occidental-Recoletos and University of Mindanao, as well as Palarong Pambansa baseball player.

Like hundreds of thousands of Filipinas working around the world, Arimas came to Hong Kong nine years ago as a domestic helper. Here she played for the all-domestic worker softball team Fate and the baseball squads Philippine Sluggers and Buffaloes.

Her joining the HKCC women’s team opened the gate of cricket to other Filipina players.

“One Saturday afternoon at HKCC, after watching men’s cricket, I met two umpires, including Animesh Kulkarni. We chatted about cricket,” she said. It was Apr 22, 2017.

 “Sabi ko kay Animesh, may mga baseball colleagues ako na may ability sa batting, throwing and catching pero di pa na-try ang cricket. Keen si Animesh. Sabi niya, ‘Kung intersado kayong mag-join sa cricket, willing akong mag-sponsor’,” Arimas recalled.

She began enticing her baseball teammates and sent out word to old players in baseball, softball and volleyball about forming a cricket team. “Kahit walang experience sa sports, pag gusto sumali tinatanggap ko for training. Hanggang sa nakabuo ako ng 30 players,” she said. Divas now has 26 players, as four have quit due to job and other reasons.
Ricky Waite, head coach of the HK national cricket team, briefs the Divas before a game.

The Divas began training in June 2017 but waited almost a year before they could debut. That moment came on May 6 and they marked it with a default win against absentee Lantau Team and by devastating veterans Craigengower Cricket Club with 122 in 3 overs against 37/8 for CCC. 

The players are no pushovers. They are veterans in baseball or softball, or both.

Arimas’ key players are Zenny Badajos, who played for Hong Kong teams Fate (softball) and Philippine Sluggers (baseball); Jennifer Alumbro from Buffaloes (Hong Kong baseball) who played volleyball and softball back home; Jona Eguid from Sluggers who played softball in the Philippines; and Ma. Eva Mendez, Liezel Algonez, and Romela Osabel, who played for Sluggers and Fate.

Badajos, Mendez, Alumbro, Algonez and Eguid were varsity players in their university days. Badajos played for University of the Philippines Diliman and was on the National Team before coming to Hong Kong where he joined Fate and coached Fate B.

Mendez, the most senior of the players, was a varsity player of University of Mindanao-Davao and a National Team player who was Arimas’ mentor, trainer and coach in baseball. 

The rest of the Divas are Sluggers veterans Ely Quimpo, Lolita Olaguer, Mary Grace Pocdas, Virgie Domingues, Anafe dela Cruz Regis, Melinda Rodrigues, Editha Hidalgo, Rosaly Pagarigan, Leslie Bautista, Emilie Mabaquiao, and team founder and president Cecil Elleran, also known as the poet Cecil Calsas.

They are beefed up by Buffaloes stars Marivic de Guia, Jackie Lou Torate and Cherry Octaviano, who played for Fate along with Ma Luz Barcelona and Manelyn de la Cruz.

The volleyball players on the team are Marilyn Sebio and Mary Grace Andres.

Arimas said most of the players came from the Visayas, particularly Negros Occidental and Iloilo, where softball has a strong foundation starting from the primary schools.

Back in the Hong Kong cricket circuit, the SCC Divas will move up to the T20 League next season, which begins in September. The promotion was announced by Hong Kong head coach Richard Waite at the Jun 22 awarding ceremonies. Arimas said the Divas will face stronger, veteran teams, but she is confident her girls will be up to the challenge.

“Alam ko malalakas ang mga team sa main league kasi halos naglaro sa national team. Magagaling sila pero lalaban kami… Meron team ang Hong Kong women na naglaro sa national team so sila ang makakalaban namin sa T20,” Arimas said.

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