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Popular sports in the Philippines

With the FIFA Football World Cup 2014 just recently concluded, it’s about time I blog about popular sports in the Philippines. Because one thing is for sure, it’s definitely not football. Very few people here cared about the football world cup that got more than half of the globe excited. Heck, nobody even knew who David Beckham was when he went to Tacloban to lend support for the victims of Typhoon Haiyan.

You can basically count the most popular sports in the Philippines down to two: basketball and boxing.

Basketball

There is a public basketball court in every city, every town, every village, every barrio. The village might only consist of a few huts and some stalls, but you can always count that there will be some sort of basketball court, usually found right in the center of that place. Often, those basketball courts also serve as a square for fiestas, town happenings, or market fairs.

The courts can be as simple as a dirt lot with a simple handmade/improvised hoop from recycled materials. Still, that doesn’t keep it from being the most popular and most visited place in town. The ubiquitousness of these basketball courts is the reason why you can see basketball being played at all hours of the day (except perhaps at noon) everywhere. True story, during Typhoon Glenda (July 2014), we decided to take some videos of the rough seas in San Remigio by scooter. In the pouring rain and strong winds we heard a voice shouting “Hi Annika!”, turns out to be two kids playing basketball on an empty lot, absolutely drenched, but they couldn’t care less.

Yet considering the smallish size of the average Filipino, it is impressive how this sport that requires height became so popular. It was the U.S. Americans that introduced this sport to the Philippines in the early 1900s when the Philippines was a colony.

So far, I’ve mainly seen boys playing. I don’t remember noticing any girls taking part in matches ever. The fascination for basketball does not only include playing on the courts, but also watching and following professional games on TV and online. The American NBA is the most popular in this matter. Whole towns, even the whole country, grind to a standstill when the NBA championships play.

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Boxing

It’s impossible to start writing about boxing in the Philippines without mentioning his name. He, who brings home pride, victory and success. He, who put the Philippines on the map when it comes to pro athletes. Of course I’m talking about Manny Pacquiao, Philippine’s most famous and popular boxer.

Even though boxing was very popular way before his success, the love of the sport has certainly increased exponentially ever since Pacquiao’s rise to global stardom. When he fights, the streets in the Philippines are empty because everyone is huddled in front of the TV. In small or rural towns all over the country, the local government sets up viewing areas (similar to Europe on big football world cup matches) just so the townsfolk could watch his fights.

Boxing is so prevalent here. Even Bogo City has a claim to boxing fame in that Gabriel “Flash” Elorde, the first Asian inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame, hails from here. Fighting sports and martial arts are widely practised in this country as they don’t require specialised equipments or space, hence, generations upon of generations of Filipinos have been practising these crafts for a very long time.

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So far, these are the two sports that I’ve seen that seems to make Filipinos very excited. I’m sure there are other equally popular sports in the Philippines, so I invite you dear readers to enlighten me. For the non-Filipino readers, what are the most popular sports in your home country?