MPL PH host Mara Aquino reveals in an interview the emotional rollercoaster of an esports host

As we continue to interview the influential women in games and esports, I sat down with Mobile Legends: Bang Bang Professional League (MPL) Philippines host Miss Mara Aquino to learn her story. She has a long history in the hosting scene with multiple important events under her belt outside of MLBB esports, such as the Tokyo Olympics, OMNI TV Host for Canada, FIBA 3×3 World Tour Host, Moneyball Game Show Host etc.

Tousif: Hi Mara, thanks for appearing in this interview. Could you tell us about yourself in brief?

Mara: So, I’m Mao, the host of MPL Philippines for the past two and a half years. I’ve been living in the Philippines for 13 years. Prior to that, I grew up in Toronto, Canada, and I’ve always wanted to be part of the Filipino culture. So it really gives me great pride and great joy to be able to represent the country, to be able to represent the Philippines in the international scene of MLBB.

Tousif: You have a long history of hosting various events, be it the Tokyo Olympics or the MPL Philippines. How did you get into the hosting scene?

Mara: Well, um, when I first started in the Philippines, one of my first jobs was as a model. And I talk a lot. I make sure I make friends with everybody. I wanna get to know the people around me. And one of ’em said, Hey, you know what? You talk a lot, you should audition. There’s a show coming up, you should audition for that as a host. So it was for a VJ. And when you say VJ, you associate it with music. Music, vj.

So I went for it. Little did I notice for sports and to read Tagalog, I had to speak Tagalog English, it’s a mixture. And I couldn’t speak Tagalog at that time. I couldn’t read Tagalog at that time, but I figured, you know what? Hey, why not? When an opportunity presents itself, regardless of how challenging it is, you go for it, you grab it, and you never know where it leads you.

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Image via Mara Aquino

And I’m so thankful because from there it led me to become a courtside reporter for the major basketball league in the Philippines called PBA, it’s equivalent to NBA. And I was a courtside reporter for that. After that, I was given a halftime game show. I love hosting game shows and I really hope I get to have one of them in the future. I get to have my own show game show in the future where I get to give away prizes and see people happy getting the prizes.

From there I hosted TV shows, I hosted for corporate events. But basically, that’s how it started. And then during the pandemic, I had no job because there were no corporate gigs, there were no TV shows. At that time I saw, now my friend Rock Art, he was casting and I realised they’re still on during the pandemic. I wanted to get into that. I made a wish that I was part of that because I had no job. And then a couple of months later, by the law of Attraction (I believe in the Law of Attraction) the job came to me. I got a call and I was asked to host Mobile Legends: Bang Bang. So it came from a vision and then it ended up happening.

Tousif: what are the best parts or perks of being a host for the MLBB esports scene?

Mara: For me, the best is being able to travel. Because of MLBB, I was able to go to Indonesia for the first time, Cambodia for the first time, and Malaysia. And I went to Malaysia like what, four times already? One for vacation, three for work. And I was able to travel because of MLBB. So the best part is being able to travel, being able to meet people from other cultures, being able to make friends with those people from other cultures, experiencing their food, experiencing their land, and having an influence there.

Mara AquinoMara Aquino
Image via Mara Aquino

So I will never forget the time that I was in Cambodia. I really didn’t think anybody knew me. So I went to Cambodia for MSC 2023. I didn’t know they knew me, but when I went there, I remember going on stage and everybody stood up and everybody started clapping and I was in shock. And I didn’t know that I had a certain influence in another country. So it blew my mind. And that is the best part, being able to touch and being able to inspire people that’s not just in your country, but in another country as well. So from there I was able to make friends with a lot of people. And to me, connecting with another person, that is one of the best things about living in life.

Tousif: How do you see women taking a lead in the MPLs, you, Clara, rose, Cheryl, etc, considering the esports casting scene is primarily dominated by males

Mara: I love that most of the hosts, or if not all, are women, ’cause it makes the woman more, it makes the woman stand out more, you know? And, I like that. And I think, I think Clara, Rose, Cheryl, they’re doing a great job and hopefully in the future, we’ll have more. I feel like when you have a female host, it sets a great example for the other women as well to try it out, to see that it’s possible. Because it starts from that. You see somebody and you go, oh, she can do it. I can do it too. So yeah, it’s great that Clara Rose and Cheryl are standing out right now.

MLBB MPL ID Host, MLBB Clara, Clara Interview, ML esports hostMLBB MPL ID Host, MLBB Clara, Clara Interview, ML esports host
Image via MOONTON Games

Tousif: What are your thoughts on the current MPL Philippines scene and how do you see it three years down the line?

Mara: My thoughts? Well, it’s all in stats. It’s all in the facts that the Philippines is the best. We’ve been winning internationally. MSC and the M Series, we’re just so talented, so hardworking, and, I’m just really proud that the Philippines is dominating MLBB. And three years down the line, it may change just because more and more Filipinos are becoming imports in other countries.

I feel like the industry is growing for Filipinos. It’s making, a huge difference in terms of career that now they can see that they don’t just have a career here in the Philippines. They can also go abroad, even the coaches. So I find that in terms of job opportunities, it’s incredible. It’s really incredible. But maybe in the future, other countries might dominate just because they’re learning from the imports and the coaches that are being sent over.

Tousif: What was your most memorable moment from the M5 World Championship as a host?

Mara: Ooh, okay, no doubt, it’s the M5 grand finals. There were so, so many things that happened. Number one, it reached game seven. The fact that it reached game seven, was already awesome in itself. I remember being backstage almost wanting to vomit. I was super, super excited. I was trembling in excitement just because in the beginning I thought, Indonesia got this. Oh, now the Philippines got this.

The fact that it reached game seven and the Philippines won on Philippine soil, that’s so memorable. But another thing that really hit me emotionally was Kairi and Coach and the rest of Onik losing. I mean, I’m just so proud of them to be able to make a difference. They are able to make a name for themselves becoming superstars.

AP.Bren is the champion of the Mobile Legends M5 World Championship coverAP.Bren is the champion of the Mobile Legends M5 World Championship cover
Image via MOONTON Games

They swept AP Bren earlier. And in the grand finals, everybody thought that was going to happen again. People were underestimating Bren, and you could see the disappointment in them. When I interviewed them in the grand finals, my heart was twisting, my heart was breaking. When I saw Kairi cry as a host, you’re happy when you announce the grand Champion, but also when you have to say goodbye and you have to announce the losing team that they have to get off the stage. That is so heartbreaking.

It’s probably the first time that I Wouldn’t mind if the Philippines lost, to be honest. Just because Onik was doing amazing. I was just so proud of what they’ve done for themselves. And when Kairi cried on stage, my heart was twisting. And after I announced the winners, I saw Coach in the corner. I remember going up to him and I hugged him. I said, coach next time. And I remember him saying, is there even going to be a next time? And that made my heart, oh my gosh. And then I looked in the room and I saw Kairi was still crying. This was about 40 minutes after I announced the Champion. He was still there with his head down in tears, blaming himself.

Kairi crying, kairi, Onic KairiKairi crying, kairi, Onic Kairi
Image via MOONTON Games

It was a rollercoaster of emotions. I was happy we won in our homeland. I was happy that it reached game seven. At the same time, seeing the losing team and, seeing their emotions made it all memorable. But yeah, hands down, this is the most memorable international MLBB hosting gig that I’ve done.

Tousif: If you could be a host for any other country’s MPL, which country would that be and why?

Mara: Perhaps in Indonesia, just because the crowd there is amazing. I remember going there and I was amazed that they had cheerleaders, they have like a marching band. The community is so big and passionate that it’s just, wow, it’s astonishing. I mean, Filipinos are very passionate, but I feel like Indonesia, they’re at the next level. So I would love to be hosting for MPL Indonesia, but if you were to talk about more of an English-speaking region, Singapore would be great.

Mara AquinoMara Aquino
Image via Mara Aquino

Tousif: If you could go back and correct a mistake you made in your esports casting career, what would that be?

Mara: Oh, when people always ask if you can go back in time, would you change it? I would always say, I would not change a thing. I would not change a thing. I would not correct anything. I would let the mistake happen because I think that mistakes are the number one teacher in life. It’s what makes you better in decision-making after you make the mistakes.

It’s the best way to grow. For me, if you’re not making a mistake, you’re not growing. I think the biggest growth that you could have is when you make a mistake, and then you learn from it. You develop and you transform because of it. So all the big transformations I’ve had in my life happened because of some choices that weren’t right, a mistake or a path that didn’t go too well. So I would not, I would not change a thing. All the mistakes that I made, it’s what made me smarter. Now it’s what makes me a better host now.

Tousif: What would be your advice for a female who is trying to enter the esports casting scene?

For the females that are trying to make it, go for it. That’s my advice. Just go for it. And just be yourself. Have your own style. Do not try to copy anyone else. Because the reason why somebody would get you is because of your uniqueness and because you bring something different to the table. If you are the same as someone else that’s already in there, they might not get you because they already have that someone. So don’t try to copy them. Just be the way you are and you’ll be surprised by how welcomed you can be by how people will appreciate you. So just go for it. Keep on practicing and make sure you always have a mentor. Mentors are always great.

So what I do is assign, I assign three people in certain parts of my life, whether it be love or career and such. So for my career, I assigned three friends, two of whom are producers. So the reason why I assigned those three people is because I want them to be able to guide me, and I want them to be the loudest voice that I’ll listen to for my career.

Somebody who knows something about that job, somebody who you can look up to for that job, that if they tell you, hey, you need to do this, or hey, you need to, change your look a little bit, you need to dress up like this a little bit more, or, you need to talk a little bit slower. You need to change the way you move your hands. Somebody who knows something in that industry. For me, there are two producers. The reason is that, when there are too many opinions going around, especially with social media, there are too many people telling you what to do. You need to know whose voice you should listen to. You need to know whose opinion really matters, and you need to know whose opinion you can hear and listen to.

But you brush it off so that way it doesn’t hit your confidence, it won’t affect your mood or your thinking. When you need a piece of advice, you have those three people to go to. Those are the people that will guide you, that will help shape you, that will help bring you up.

So again, my criteria for those three people that you’re going to choose is somebody who knows something in that industry. So for me, that’s been a major contributor to where I am now, assigning three people that will help me propel forward. I think that the last one, it’s not just for females, it’s for everyone.

What are your thoughts on this interview with MPL PH host Mara Aquino? Tell us in the comments below!

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