VOICE FROM THE SOUTH
By FR. EMETERIO BARCELON
The Southeast Asian Games is a wonderful reminder of the benefits of sports both in the physical world and in the spiritual world. Physical exercise is a necessity for healthy living. From the moment we wake, we need to do some stretching of our muscles. It may be only a ten minute routine but this is critical for health. And during the day at least some walking has to be done to keep us in good health. In fact, walking is probably the most important and healthiest form of exercise.
When we were young we did not realize how movement and games were important for our metabolism. We just ran and played. But as we got older it was better if our games were regulated. Sports has many lessons for life. In the school where I happened to go, the faculty made sure we were introduced to all kinds of sports: from basketball, to soccer, and from softball to boxing and track and field. Sports teaches us to follow regulations and to coordinate with other players. It also teaches us how to set objectives and review how well we performed and how we could do better next time. As the British say, the glories of the British Empire were learned in the playing fields of Eton.
In basketball we learn accuracy and speed. It is a game where the recording of results is evident. The low scoring in soccer hides the importance of effort and skills that are necessary to win in that game. The passing in soccer is difficult to record even though it requires a lot of skill to perform. Basketball rewards accuracy and skills at shooting. The guarding is just as important but often neglected. Teamwork is critical in basketball and soccer and in many other sports. There are other sports where teamwork is not necessary as in tennis, golf, and boxing. Individual skills are primarily honed in these sports. Tennis and golf can also be more easily indulged in as we age. I have witnessed people in their late eighties still enjoying both tennis and golf.
The popularity of volleyball in big city tournaments is a recent phenomenon. This has been especially true of women’s volleyball. But this game has been popular in the barrios over the years.
Doubles or three-player teams have become common in the provinces. Hiking is popular almost everywhere but it is refined in special clubs that take up this sports. Of course track and field is popular everywhere. And it brings out the special skills of the long-distance runner, the high jumper, and gymnast.
The most popular spectator sports in this country is not basketball. But it comes a close second to the most popular, which is cockfighting. It probably came to us from Mexico and has been popular in isolated mountain regions as well as in high-class communities. Just like the “toros” one has to have knowledge of technicalities to really enjoy the cockfighting. Its popularity has not waned over the years.
Basketball is not designed for Filipinos because height has an advantage in basketball and Filipinos are not normally tall. Now our college and professional teams often have imported tall players. Soccer would be a better game for us. What probably discouraged its popularity is the rainy season. Playing in the mud is not too practical. A second reason is that our players normally do not have the stamina to keep running for over an hour and a half. But we have produced some excellent players. The future is bright for soccer in the country.
Finally there is swimming where some of our athletes have excelled. But this has not been developed as it should be. This needs a lot of coaching and practice. Often our athletes do not have that luxury of having good coaches.