Column #CM105 The World Championship… and the Philippines

Tuesday, December 21, 2021
Column CM105
The World Championship… and the Philippines

Not long ago, one often heard there were a lot of good darts players in the Philippines and that it was only a matter of time before we would see the first Philippine winner in an international competition. So far, it hasn’t happened and one of the reasons may be that the sport of darts is no longer as popular as it was in the Philippines – that people now prefer badminton and billiards.

But one of the biggest problems for the sport is that the darts infrastructure is poor. As the National Darts Federation of the Philippines (NDF) found out in a study, most of the darts players live in villages and the missing infrastucture is a very high hurdle for them.  In addition, there are no sponsors at all around for the sport. The NDF, which was founded 1998, believes the top priority must be to establish the necessary infrastucture to help the sport and offer the local darts organisations tools to help them. It will not be an easy task.

Nevertheless, for many years – from the very first year (2008) the PDC invited international qualifiers to take part in the World Championship – we have seen players from the Philippines on the stage at Alexandra Palace.

The first participant, in 2008, was Rizal Barellano, who was eliminated in the preliminary round by Miloslac Navratil and of whom we have never heard from again.

Next up, in 2009, for the first time was Lourence Ilagan who was eliminated in the preliminary round as well.

One year later, Christian Perez appeared.  He won his preliminary round match with an average of 94.53 but lost first round 1-3 to Robert Thornton.

In 2011, the not so well-known Juanito Gioson came on stage for the Philippines  but didn’t survive the preliminary round either.

In 2012, Christian Perez returned and again won his preliminary round match but again lost in the first round – this time to Alan Tabern.

Lourence Ilagan made his next appearance in 2013. He won his close preliminary round match against Jamie Lewis 4-3 but lost first round to Colin Osborne.

In 2014, Edward Santos qualified but was not able to travel to London.

Perez returned once again in 2015 but this time lost his first match 0-4 to Cristo Reyes.

In 2016,  Alex Targarao represented the Philippines but lost his first match 0-2 towas the qualifier – he lost his first match to Keita Ono.

Gilbert Ulang fared no better in 2017.

In 2018, no player from the Philippines took part in the World Championship but in 2019 two appeared. Lourence Ilagan  lost his first round match despite an 95.25 average against Vincent van der Voort. The second player, Noel Malicdem, won his first round match agaist Jeffrey de Graaf before losing second round to Kyle Anderson.

The same duo reappeared in 2020 and the same happened – Ilagan lost first round to Cristo Reyes while Malicdem won his first round match but lost in the second round to Peter Wright.

Due to the Corona pandemic 2021 was a difficult year for international qualifiers but nevertheless Lourence Ilagan returned but lost to Ryan Murray in the first round.

Of course, Corona is still a problem but Ilagan made it back this year once again –  only to lose without a chance to Raymond van Barneveld in the first round.

It is interesting to observe that while in Europe Ilagan is the best known player from the Philippines he is not outstandingly ranked. In the NDF men’s rankings from January, he only is ranked 18th – far behind the leading Malicdem, who nationally seems to be the dominate player.

Malicdem was as well “Darter of the Year” in 2016, 2017 and 2020 while Ilagan never has been since the NDF introduced the award in 2014. He reached second place once, in 2018, but in some years can’t be found anywhere at all in the Darter of the year ranking.

More often, Christian Perez can be found.  In 2014, he was 2014 Darter of the year and often placed quite high.

The Philippines don’t seem to be a member of the WDF – perhaps they are, but not one player from the Philippines appears in the WDF rankings.

Of course Corona didn’t spare the Philippine darters who probably all will lack match practice.

The best known players from the Philippines are…

Lourence Ilagan – who plays not only steel darts but is a very successful soft darts players as well. His nickname is The Gunner and he uses Monster Gunner darts. He plays on the PDC Asian Tour and not only took part in several PDC World Championships but played with different partners in the PDC World Cup as well.

Currently, Noel Malicdem seems to be the strongest Philippine player. Malicdem also plays on the PDC Asian Tour where, when the Tour was played for the first time in 2018, he threw a nine-darter. In 2019 and 2020 he, together with Ilagan, represented the Philippines at the PDC World Cup. Malicdem, “The Gentle Giant,” plays with 18g darts.

Rizal Barellano, born 1965, reached in 2006 the quarterfinals of the Asia Pacific Cup and was the first Philippine player invited to the PDC World Championship. It doesn’t appear that he is still playing.

Paolo Nebrida is a young upcoming player who, in 2014 and 2018 the final of the Malaysian Open. In 2018, he qualified for the PDC Unicorn World Youth Championship and reached the last 16. He is quite successful on the PDC Asian tour as well. Together with Lourence Ilagan he qualified for the PDC World Cup 2021 but as he was only vaccinated with Sputnik V he was not allowed to enter Germany.

The 1979 born Gilbert Ulang, who represented his home country together with Ilagan in the PDC World Cup 2015, is more infamous then well-known. He qualified for the PDC World Championship 2017 and there lost in the preliminary round to debutant Kevin Simm. But something fishy was alleged to have occured in that match and Ulang was banned from PDC tournaments until December 2023 for match fixing. He continues to compete in tournaments in the Philippines.

There are, of course, female players as well in the NDF but outside of the Philippines and beyond Asia little is known about them.

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Charis Mutschler
The founder of Global Darts, darts journalist Charis Mutschler hails from Marbach, near Stuttgart, Germany. A regular at most major PDC tournaments, a lover of literature, dance and music and cats, Charis' popular writings about darts and its players often transcend the usual. She brings something unique to the chroniclers of the sport we all love.