When the powerhouse squad known as the Philippine Volcanoes dominated the men’s 7s rugby division in the SEA Games last December, they proved they were indeed returning champions, shutting out Malaysia in the finals with a definitive 19-0 game and reclaiming the title they fought back for every step of the way.
Part of this squad is Fil-British athlete Timothy Peter Alonzo Berry, a scrum half from England, who unexpectedly joined the squad in late 2017 when he was working in Australia. “I actually had no idea there was Philippine rugby national team. I was in Sydney, Australia working for a company and I had a friend who knew the (former) coach of the Volcanoes and he messaged him and told him he had a friend who plays rugby who is half-Filipino who was interested to play. I kind of just got in through that. I had a trial and got in and here we are,” he shares.
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Born in Cebu and raised partly in Hong Kong before his family eventually moved back to the UK, Tim admits that sports had been part of his life since he was four years old. “I did a few sports. Let’s say I’m more sporty than intellectual, so I did a lot of rugby, swimming, and a lot of football because that’s really popular in England. Until I was 15 I actually juggled all three sports. It got to the point where I had to decide on one and I chose rugby." For the national men’s team, Tim’s position is crucial as a rugby scrum half is known to possess good vision, speed, and have excellent passing skills.
After making history with an undefeated streak in the SEA Games, Tim says his pride in his team could not get any bigger after conquering some challenges along the way. “We got the gold which was the end goal and the main thing. There was a huge amount of pressure. We weren’t so arrogant that we were going to win gold because anything can happen in 7s rugby. You can be the best team in the world and lose to an average Joe in a matter of seconds. But we had the home crowd and all our families cheering us on so I think those two things alone kind of won it for us. Just to see your family in the crowd and you play for them and pay for everyone watching, that was the best thing I think. I think we were the favorites going into it but there was a lot of pressure and we weren’t thinking that we would always win so we took each game one at a time and every team that played there gave it their all thinking they had nothing to lose, they just gave everything at us. So there were a couple of games where we were a bit shaken. But we held out and we stuck it out. We just wanted to get gold and play for our families. because a lot of our families traveled from our home countries which is an 15 hour flight just to watch us play,” he explains.
Playing a starting position in his squad while nursing an injury was also an added challenge to the 26-year-old Business graduate who recently decided to be based in the Philippines and work in Business Development for an interior design firm. “It was a tough year. I was competing with two other players for my position and they were both good players. During the SEA Games I was really injured so now I’m trying to get my knee fixed. It was only at about 70 percent. I was always worried about injuries and now I’ve just started my new job so I think I’m just going to let it recover. I just moved here and moved into a new place,” he shares.
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With many Filipinos still not familiar with the sport, Tim says he hopes he can help spread the word about a sport that has helped enrich his life and the people around him growing up. “It’s kind of random how rugby the sport is associated with rugby sniffling glue, but I think it’s such a shame really because rugby has taught me and everyone I know so many things like how to treat people, how to act in certain ways and how to respond to certain situations. It would be a great thing if Filipinos can do that as well. I think it could be something useful for Filipinos. I hope one day that more young children can play rugby out here and it can expand,” he says.
After spending his first holiday season in the country with relatives in Cebu, Tim says he welcomes the chance to get more in touch with his mother’s side of the family. “I had my first Filipino Christmas and New Year in Cebu so it was a lot of lechon and liempo and lumpia everyday. It was good time. I loved it. It’s quite interesting growing up as a half-FIlipino in a foreign country because I have my dad’s side—which is obviously white English side—and my mom’s side. So I’ve learned things on both sides and I find I have something in my personality that most people won’t have in my hometown. I think my mom just raised me to be very respectful and have good manners and basically just not take anything for granted. Because my mom grew up in the province and she’d always have a go at us if me and my sister didn’t share our food with each other. So everything that we had we share. We always give and never take, take, take. So that was one thing I ‘m very proud of, how my mom brought us up,” he reveals.
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On Tim: Shirt, Accel at SM; jacket, adidas, joggers, adidas
Produced by Camille Santiago | Photography by Vyn Radovan | Grooming by Muriel Vega Perez and Team MVP | Hair by Francis Guintu of Aveda Philippines | Styling by Aldrin Ramos. Acknowledgements WeWork Philippines, Aveda, and Teriyaki Boy | Shot on location at WeWork Philippines, Menarco Tower, BGC