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OFW leads all-Pinay rugby team

22 March 2019

Khaz Brizuela takes a selfie as her fellow players limber up.

By Ellen Asis

Like most Filipino migrant women, Khaz Brizuela chose to work in Hong Kong to give a better future for her children. But her work here also gave her an opportunity to improve herself, and discover a passion for rugby, a game not familiar to most Filipinos

In the Philippines, the term rugby is often associated with the chemical solvent that is used as an adhesive, but is often inhaled by drug addicts to give them a quick fix. Thus, whenever Khaz mentions rugby, some of her Filipino friends are bound to joke about its addictive effect.

But the jokes don’t bother Khaz, who now captains Exiles Rugby, a team entirely made up of female domestic workers from the Philippines. She has found fulfillment in the sport, and cannot imagine herself doing anything as intensely in her spare time.

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The group was formed on Mar 7, 2016, when Tom Walsh, a professional coach from Hong Kong Rugby Union, encouraged nine Filipino domestic workers who volunteer as ambassadors for Enrich, a non-government organization that provides financial education to migrants, to form a team.

Among them was Khaz, who threw herself into the game wholeheartedly that in no time, she became the team captain, and now also plays coach to the girls sometimes.

Exiles Rugby currently has 66 very dedicated members (including 42 who joined only in July last year) who train hard every Sunday, and do not mind the grueling demands of the contact sport.

The all-Filipina rugby team take a break from their grueling practice rounds for a photo.

The team intends to reach out and encourage more migrant women to play rugby and join different friendly tournaments across Hong Kong. This way, it can help integrate migrants into Hong Kong society and provide them with a recreational activity that will help them develop lifelong skills and values like cooperation and teamwork.

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For Khaz, the past three years playing rugby taught her to keep her eye on her goals, no matter how distant they may seem. She has learned that there may be bumps along the way, but one has to choose whether to step back, or go head-to-head with the task and emerge bruised yet victorious.

She says the game also taught her that sometimes, admitting defeat is the bravest thing to do because with that admission one can drop the shield of pretense and find the courage to face reality and reach out.

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“Each Sunday makes me more eager to help them (members) with the help of my co-captains now, Myra (Tapiceria)  and Celine (Tomugdan), who stepped up after a coaching course last May at Hong Kong Rugby Union in Causeway Bay,” says Khaz.

To date, the Rugby Exiles has played in various tournaments, with the most recent being the All Girls Beach Festival held last Jan. 13 in Discovery Bay. But the biggest event they have joined was the Hong Kong Corporate Sevens held in December last year.

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Khaz relates that their Sundays are called “Rugby Day” which they spend not just as a team, but as family.

“We laugh, we have fun as we love being with each other,” she says. “So many people (in Hong Kong) think that maids cannot do what ordinary people can do or achieve.”

 By just embracing the sport, Khaz and her team have proven these naysayers wrong.


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