For Johnmar Villaluna, being an esports professional has always been his dream, even if it means having to endure being an exception in one of the most toxic masculine communities in the world.
Better known as “OhMyV33nus”, the 28-year-old captain of the top Mobile Legends Bang Bang team Blacklist International is part of the LGBTQ+ community. And proud of it.
Never mind that he gets taunted all the time, especially when his team loses. Never mind that being queer is tossed around as an insult. Never mind that he constantly has to fend off strange looks and pitying glances.
V33nus takes it all, with the goal of unshackling the narrow mind, correcting prejudiced misconceptions and promoting a more equal community, regardless of race, language, or sexual orientation. He does this all while becoming a champion in one of esports’ most competitive leagues.
His philosophy is simple: anyone can win. After all, he once said, “Gamers are gamers. Not gaymers, not girl gamers, etc. Anyone can be a gamer.”
The Life of the Mind
It all started in Internet cafes in the Philippines. Young Johnmar started out playing Ragnarok, World of Warcraft and Dota, with big dreams of making it as an esports professional. As a child, he would sometimes play for up to 12 hours a day.
But opportunities were few and far between – getting into professional esports is particularly difficult, especially in the Philippines. Over time, the embers of his once-bright hope started to die away. By the age of 25, an age which is considered old for esports, he relinquished his dream and decided to move to Japan to live with his family.
Life, however, always has a way. While he was waiting for his visa to Japan, his golden ticket finally came. He picked up an interest in MLBB and became an eager fan of ONIC Indonesia. Still, it wasn’t until he’d won a few matches that he realised that this was the opportunity he’d been waiting for. He found a group of friends and they started to play in small local competitions.
“When we won the first, second, third, [and] fourth tournaments… then we started dreaming,” he told SPIN.ph. He worked his way up and got the attention of the pro scene. Soon, he found himself playing for the team he admired: ONIC Philippines.
Unfortunately, his story took a devastating turn. V33nus was let go from ONIC Philippines after a loss where he was not allowed to play using an iPad. In November 2020, he and his partner Danerie James Del Rosario, better known as Wise, were dropped from the team together.
OhMyV33nus recalls this as one of his “lowest points”. This was especially difficult because V33nus had viewed ONIC as his permanent home.
But the redemption arc was only just beginning.
Road to Champions
Just two days later, V33nus and Wise were recruited by Blacklist International. This proved to be an astute move. As the captain of Blacklist, OhMyV33nus led the team to victory in MPL PH Seasons 7 and 8. He then sat Season 9 out but returned in 2022, when he was voted MVP of MPL PH Season 10.
With an impressive record and final score of 9-5, all those years of hard work are paying off. The story of his ‘redemption arc’ spread like wildfire throughout the esports scene, earning widespread praise for both him and Wise.
Wise and V33nus have been openly posting as a couple for quite some time now. While there is some confusion regarding their relationship status from time to time, ‘VeeWise’ support exploded when the 22-year-old called V33nus the love of his life, saying: [trans] “Vee changed me to become a good player, it’s like Vee taught me how to be a person, a good person.” Following this interview, “Wise” and “love of my life” trended on Twitter.
The couple fought their way to the team’s first championship in 2022, when Blacklist claimed M3. Led by the “Queen”, as V33nus is known to his adoring fans, the team also made it to the Grand Finals of M4, but they fell short after failing to match up to Echo Philippines’s tactics and strategy.
The Queen shared a long Facebook post following this loss, saying, “I’m super thankful to all the people who didn’t stop and still continue to trust in our abilities. Grace under defeat. With this, I will make sure that we will come back stronger than ever. And again, THIS IS STILL NOT THE LAST OF US.”
Even so, he is already a legend in the game for the work he puts in to hone his skills, as well as standing up for the values he believes in.
When he was on the receiving end of homophobia from viewers after a match, he penned a lengthy Facebook post condemning this behaviour.
“I will use any platform that I can to spread awareness about how homophobic slurs affect a member of [the] LGBTQ+ and how to turn that negativity into inspiration to keep moving forward. Let this be a healing movement not only limited to the LGBTQ+ community, but also to everyone.”
“Being able to represent the LGBTQ+ community in esports means that someone like me can be visible. I can raise awareness and be of help in changing the misconceptions and derogatory treatment of [the] LGBTQ+ in our gaming culture,” he told SPIN.ph.
Beyond condemning discrimination, he is also a firm advocate for promoting discipline and hard work in esports, believing that the industry has a role to play in guiding youth onto the right path.
“Compared to other countries, esports here [is] not that solid, so we need to focus first on how to discipline the pro players because we are the ones the youth look up to,” he said.
“We shouldn’t just rely on other people to show us how to be a good example, we should start with ourselves.”