While Ultimate programs are growing steadily in Manila and the watersport paradise of Boracay Island, the Visaya region (central Philippines) and Mindanao region (southern Philippines) are following close behind. Small to medium size cities such as Dumaguete, Davao, Iligan, Iloilo, and Cebu City can boast of almost 1,000 total active players with a handful of teams traveling to regional and national tournaments. There are discussions within the national organization, Philippine Ultimate Association, for more outreach programs and an eventual sectionals, regionals, and nationals play-off format to include all the teams of the Philippines.
Scott Berens and I spent a total of two months in the Visayas before and after Boracay Open, an amazing beach tournament previously described in The Huddle April Issue, 2009. We made Cebu City our home-base due to family connections and for its excellent location as a hub to the rest of the Visaya islands. While there we made contact with a relative who runs a community organization for the urban poor called Alay Kapwa. The members live as squatters in makeshift homes on empty lots between buildings and over water channels in very poor housing and sanitary conditions. Alay Kapwa provides the organization framework and monetary assistance for community run daycares, livelihood programs for the adults, and cultural and character building programs for the youth. We organized a series of clinics for middle-school aged Alay Kapwa members at one the few city parks, located just behind the first Spanish settlement in the Philippines, Fort San Pedro. Three of our teammates from Dragon Lovers (the US team that played in Boracay Open), Sarah Blyth, Kiran Thomas and local Cebu player Vicmar Tirambulo, helped run some of the clinics. Our strategy was to keep things simple and concise due to a slight language barrier and the fact that the kids had never even seen a disc before, much less the game of Ultimate.
The two hour clinics began with a “field clean up” warm-up in which each player ran around to pick up five pieces of trash. After dynamic stretching, basic drills included 30 seconds forehand/backhand completion contest and the box drill with emphasis on sharp cutting and timing. To teach basic vertical offensive we used the snake stack drill: The instructors moved the disc around the field making sure the stack adjusted, meanwhile, when a name was called the iso player would make a single or double cut into open space. We used the international youth favorite “go long for a huck” drill to bring up the energy and enthusiasm when necessary. After drills we introduced three new rules and setup a five team round robin of 4 v 4. Games were short to keep the kids engaged and ready, and we made sure to start each one with proper hand shakes and disc flip. Since many of the Alay Kapwa families live beneath the minimum income level necessary for proper and regular nutrition, we provided a hearty picnic lunch at the end of each clinic.
During the five-week period in which our clinics were held, Cebu City’s annual tournament Ultimo Abril took place. Twelve teams from the Visayas and Mindanao were in attendance, plus Roaches from Manila and Dragons B from Boracay. We invited the Alay Kapwa kids to watch the Saturday games so they could get a better idea of how Ultimate was played. This tournament was a well-timed learning opportunity for the young ones. In the finals, Boracay continued their winning streak (specifically against Scott and I) with a one point win over our team, the Cuernos Mountaineers from Dumaguete.
As luck would have it, before we left Cebu a very new team called Fasa gained regular access to coveted Cebu City field space. Fasa’s first tournament and first win was at Ultimo Abril. The team is organized and coached by Vicmar Tirambulo and Malcom Reroma and consists mainly of 12 to 17 year old high school kids. Since we left Cebu, five of the most interested and most talented players from the Alay Kapwa clinics are now regularly attending Fasa practices. There they will continue to develop their disc skills as well as have an opportunity to meet other young people from outside of the slum areas. I am confident that the challenges of sport and new friendships will provide much needed reprieve from the harsh realities of urban poverty and has opened the door to what good may come from the larger Ultimate community.
If you are interested in learning more about the Alay Kapwa youth and how you can help support their education please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Special thanks to Five Ultimate and Cultimate for donating discs for the Alay Kawpa clinics and the larger Visaya Ultimate community.