Sports have undoubtedly evolved in the Philippines. From the ancient times when arnis was the main game to nowadays, when there’s an extensive range of games, the Philippines sports industry has come a long way.
Apart from being a source of entertainment, the sports sector is known to be a huge contributor to the country’s economy.
Below is a comprehensive guide on the ten most popular sports in the Philippines.
Basketball is undeniably one of the most popular sports globally, and the Philippines is no exception. In fact, several recent surveys have shown that it is the most popular sport in the country.
It is believed that the game was first introduced into the country by the American colonizers in 1898 as part of the changes made in the Philippines’ school system.
Many people wonder why basketball is a popular sport in the Philippines, given that the people don’t have the typical height this game requires. Since the game is cheaper than other games in terms of space, gear, and so on, many Filipinos have grown to love this sport.
There are several national sports associations that have worked to keep basketball alive in this country. One of them is the University Athletic Association of the Philippines (UAAP), which annually holds sports (including basketball) competitions between eight national university teams.
The other popular one is the Philippine Basketball Association, the first professional basketball league in Asia and the second oldest globally after the NBA.
It’s hard to mention the Philippines without boxing coming into the picture. This is mainly because of the legendary Manny Pacquiao, who has put the country in the global spotlight when it comes to boxing.
Before the country was colonized, Filipinos had their kind of boxing, known as bare-hand fighting or suntukan in Tagalog. It wasn’t until 1921 that the Philippines legalized the modern type of boxing.
Like basketball, many people are surprised why this sport has thrived in this country since it is a developing country. The success of boxing in the Philippines is mainly attributed to the people’s passion and overwhelming support for the game.
As expected, boxing has brought major accolades to the country. For starters, 45 of the world boxing champions are Philippine citizens or are of Filipino heritage. What’s more, many of the Olympics medals in this country are from boxing.
Another surprisingly popular sport in the Philippines is tennis. It is believed that the game was introduced to the country by American colonizers in 1913. It was one of the sports that the American teachers (otherwise known as the Thomasites) taught in Filipino schools during the colonial period.
The country didn’t come into the global tennis spotlight until 1926, when it began participating in the Davis cup. Since then, Filipinos have thrived in this sport, bringing the country several accolades.
Similar to other popular sports in the Philippines, there are several national sports associations that work to keep tennis alive in this country. One of them is the Philippine Tennis League, which holds several national competitions.
Then there’s the University Athletics Association of the Philippines (UAAP) and the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) holds tennis competitions between high schools and colleges across the country.
Football has quite a rich history in this country. Over a century ago, 15-year-old Paulino Alcántara Riestra became a striker for Barcelona, making him the first Filipino (and Asian in general) to play for a European football club. He also was Barcelona’s top scorer, scoring 357 goals, until Lionel Messi beat that record.
Unfortunately, football isn’t among the most popular sports in the Philippines,as most people believe. This is because it has not received as much attention as other popular sports such as boxing have. However, the country has been taking some significant steps to make it one of the most famous sports in the Philippines.
Billiards is also one of the few popular sports in the Philippines with a rich history. The game began gaining fame in the country after World War II when the US became its colonizer.
However, it wasn’t until 1999 that the country got its big break in regards to this game when the Philippines’ Efren Reyes beat Chang Hao-Ping of Taiwan at the World Pool Association (WPA) Nine-Ball Championships in Cardiff.
This victory is believed to have opened doors of opportunities for this game to thrive. Many sponsors came in to support the game; pool halls started being renovated, and even the Filipino government invested money into this game by supporting local billiards tournaments.
But, like many popular sports sectors in the country, the Philippine’s billiards sports sector has also experienced its fair share of challenges. For instance, most of the game’s top players opted not to compete in local tournaments. This eventually led to sponsors pulling away from financing these competitions, making the game fade away from the national sports sector.
Volleyball has for many years been one of the most popular sports in the Philippines for various reasons. For starters, the game has a long history in the country.
The Philippine volleyball history dates back to the early 1900s when the Physical Director of the Young Men’s Christian Association, Elwood S. Brown, introduced the game to the Filipinos. Since then, the game has thrived in many ways, earning it a spot among the most popular sports in the country.
Another major reason why this game is popular in the Philippines is its similarity to Sipa Takraw. Since the dynamics of these two sports are very similar, many Filipinos relate to volleyball. Like basketball, the game also doesn’t need much investment in equipment and space as people can play in their backyards, beaches, and any available open space.
What’s more, several Philippine Volleyball Leagues, such as Philippine Super Liga, Spiker Turf, and the Premier Volleyball League, are held regularly to promote the game.
Sipa Takraw is not only one of the most popular sports in the Philippines but is also considered one of the National Sports of the Philippines. This is mainly because its existence dates back to the 15th century, before Spanish colonization.
Initially, a kid’s game, Sipa Takraw, involved kicking around a ball over a net. Similar to volleyball, this sport’s primary goal is for the opposing teams to keep the ball in the air, and the team that lets it fall loses. However, with this game, players have to play with nothing else but their legs.
There are several versions of this game. Among them include the washer version, whereby the “ball” used to play is made of materials like rubber bands or a coin-like object covered with a cloth that is then tied with a rubber band. Then there’s the rattan ball version, whereby the “ball” used to play is made of rattan strips woven together to form a ball.
Many people assume that Sipa Takraw and sepak takraw are the same game. While they have a lot of similarities, these two sports have several differences in terms of the rules.
Arnis was declared the national sport of the Philippines in 2009, dethroning Sipa Takraw. It is also considered the national martial arts of the Philippines.
This national sport was invented by the indigenous populations in the country back in the 16th century. It involves weapon-based fighting with various weapons, such as knives, sticks, and other bladed weapons.
While arnis is a huge part of the Philippines’ identity as a country, it sadly isn’t one of the most popular sports in the Philippines (at least not the top 5 most popular sports in the country.) This is mainly because there’s no association or body to keep this sport alive. Another reason why this national sport isn’t as popular as expected is that it is not also well represented in the local media industry, which is a major disadvantage.
What’s more, there aren’t as many professional arnis trainers locally who can train Filipinos, especially the younger generation, on how to play this game.
Another one of the most popular sports in the Philippines is Filipino martial arts(FMA.) Like arnis, FMA is considered one of the traditional sports in the Philippines as the indigenous people in the country invented it.
What was initially a set of fighting techniques used by the indigenous Filipino communities to fight slowly became among the most popular sports in the Philippines.
One of the main reasons why Filipino martial arts became famous is because it was incorporated into several Hollywood action films. Renowned celebrities like Matt Damon and Denzel Washington have trained in FMA for roles in action movies.
Unfortunately, this sport has received more recognition in other countries, like the United States, than in the Philippines. However, FMA enthusiasts across the country are slowly developing ways to keep this sport alive.
Wrapping up this list of the top 10 sports in the Philippines is Sabong. This is one of the few cultural sports in the Philippines that has rapidly become a national obsession. While it might seem weird to some people, watching cocks fighting has long been a source of entertainment for many Filipinos. Similar to arnis, this sport dates back to the 1500s.
Typically, there are two types of sabong; the ungaffed one that doesn’t use a gaff on the fighting cocks and is usually safer since the cocks involved don’t harm each other. The other one is gaffed sabong, which involves hitching a gaff called “Tari” on the left leg of the fighting cocks.
Nowadays, this sport is being streamed online for people to watch it live and bet on the cocks they think will likely win. The online sabong industry has rapidly grown, with sources revealing that it has collected billions of pesos in the form of wagers in recent years.