Sports fans often just want to catch a game, no matter where they are. If if involves something you can bounce, pass, shoot, kick, throw or catch, there's a chance you'll find people who want to watch it from the stands or on TV. It's no different in The Philippines.
When most people think of Pinoy sports, Manny Pacquiao comes to mind first. Pacquiao is a world champion boxer who also represents Sarangani province in the Philippine Congress. “Pac-Man” seems like one guy you don't want to argue with on the House floor.
Pacquiao is wildly popular at home and his sport has held a large presence in the country for decades. Three Filipinos currently world champions while 37 in all have held titles since 1923, and fighters from there are respected throughout the boxing world. Many people follow the “sweet science” in The Philippines, but it's not the most popular sport.
Many outsiders are surprised to learn that basketball is the favorite spectator sport in The Philippines. While Team Pilipinas has no medals to show for seven appearances in the Summer Olympics (the last in 1972) and producing no NBA players, although ex-Golden State guard Raymond Townsend's mother was a native of Batangas, basketball is very well-developed and supported among the Pinoy. The Manila-centered Philippines Basketball Association has ten pro teams with rosters dotted by imports, including ex-NBAer Renaldo Balkman, who became notorious last spring for choking a teammate. Unsurprisingly, he's now banned from the PBA. More than 21,000 fans packed Quezon City's Araneta Arena for last year's Game Seven of the Governor's Cup. The college game also has a strong following around the country, with another 20,000 on hand in Araneta Arena for the 2012 UAAP men's final. Women's basketball is played collegiately as well, but past attempts to establish a women's pro league have failed.
Heading outdoors, soccer is commonly played in The Philippines as it is everywhere else. The men's national team, known as the Azkals (or “Street Dogs”), has represented the country internationally since 1913. The Azkals include a number of foreign-born players with Filipino roots, but they've never qualified for the World Cup. Domestic pro soccer has lived a fitful existence over the years. The latest incarnation, the United Football League, began in 2009 and features 20 teams evenly split between two divisions. Matches are not that well-attended, but the AKTV network provides exposure in homes by televising two games per week.
Another sport played in the PI is baseball. San Francisco Giants star pitcher Tim Lincecum has Filipino grandparents, but the game itself has never been highly prominent in the islands despite a presence dating back to 1934, when 10,000-seat Rizal Baseball Stadium in Manila was opened. That year, no less than Lou Gehrig and Babe Ruth hit the first-ever homers at Rizal when barnstorming major leaguers played exhibition games there. The New York Yankees played games against Filipino teams at Rizal in 1954, and more recently an amateur league called Baseball Philippines played two competitions per year beginning in 2009, but discontinued after 2012. College baseball has been around since 1938, with Ataneo de Manila University winning their first national title this year.
College athletics in general have been a constant companion of Filipino fans for over ten decades with two organizations, the University Athletic Association of The Philippines and NCAA Philippines (not related to a similarly-named American organization), simultaneously overseeing a total of 18 universities playing over two dozen sports during the year.
One sport unique to The Philippines is a martial art known variously as eskrima, arnis and kali. Eskrima can involve fighting with rattan sticks, knives, swords, shields, whips (!) and good old-fashioned hand-to-hand combat. It originated as a form of warfare and, as you might guess, is not for the faint of heart. Eskrima, like karate and judo, is also a very effective means of self-defense and was designated the country's national martial art and sport in 2010.
While sports in The Philippines generally have neither the scope nor support you'll find in many other countries, if you want to watch someone bouncing, passing, shooting, kicking, throwing or catching a ball, you can still scratch your itch here. Pinoy teams won't play at the same level as in the USA, but you won't have to sell your children on the black market to afford tickets, either. As a fan myself, I think that's more than a fair enough trade-off.
Great article about sports in the Philippines, Bruce. Our 7 year old son is a basketball fanatic in both playing and watching the sport. He is a Miami Heat fan and is pulling for them winning 2 in a row to capture the NBA Title this week. He also follows the local PBA teams and they play a few games in Victorias every year, which is about one hour from our house.
I am a baseball fan and there are several professional baseball teams in the Philippines but none where we live.
~ Gary ~
Thanks, Gary. I’m sports director for a shortwave radio station in Miami, so I’ve been following the Heat a little closer than usual even though I actually live at the opposite end of the country from Florida.
I might do a more in-depth piece on the PBA in the future if you’d like. I used to know a guy who’d played for the Sonics the first year they went to the NBA finals in 1978 before going to play in The Philippines later in his career…I was at his going-away party the night before he left for Manila, in fact.
Peter Wild says
Can anyone who is an Aussie (queenslander)tell me if you can receive the state of origan games there on any channel.
When I was there all I got was Aussies rules on the Australian channel.
Is it possible to watch English Premier League Football (EPL) and European football, live on any TV stations in Philippines?
Steve Bentley says
David, the simple answer is ‘yes”. I am an LFC fan (I hope you are not a fan of Man U – only kidding).
Bein Sports is available in Manila only at the moment if you are a Sky Cable customer. It is an ‘add on’ channel and has ‘wall to wall’ coverage of English football. Bein has the sole rights from the Premier League to show here. There is football from other European leagues shown on other cable channels. I think Star Sports shows some.
There are other ways to get your fix (and mine too) such as IPTV subscriptions but that involves buying an additional set top box and streaming to your HDTV. Additionally there is free streaming such as Vipbox but the feed quality is poor and you need to run an ad blocker too.
BBC iPlayer carries MOTD but the BBC rights will not allow the iPlayer to work here because you will have a Philippines IP address on your computer or device. But it is possible to bypass that!
Hope that helps.
David B says
No you’re OK Im not Man U fan, I support my hometown team Tottenham Hotspur…lol
I believe Bein Sports have global rights for EPL, we use them here in Dubai.
So if I understand you correctly, no Bein Sports so no EPL outside of Manila, right?
Ive also tried the streaming options, but as you say, the quality is not good, but if its the only way?
Steve Bentley says
So happy you are a Spurs fan! Anything but a Manc lol!
Yes you understand correctly. EPL available on Bein as an add on if you are a Sky Cable customer but only in Metro Manila.
I have no idea when Bein will become available in other areas of the Phils. I emailed Sky Cable asking this very question. No reply – but this is the Philippines lol.
Yes Bein are Middle East based and hold the exclusive rights to broadcast EPL in many countries including the Philippines.
Hope that clarifies the position. YNWA 🙂
I consider myself an avid sports fan. If you are from the US you will not be able to get American Football. I have not been able to find baseball either. There are several Fox Sports Channels, but the above mentioned sports cannot be found. At least that has been my experience. If anyone knows an alternative I would appreciate that information. Like the article states you just have to get used to a different “type” of sports. Basketball is huge, and other sports that are popular on TV are golf, tennis, Grand Prix Racing, soccer, and volleyball. TV in general will require some adjustments, as much of the programming is late by maybe a year and very repetitive. I suggest that you come to the realization that you will have to find other forms of entertainment. At the very least you should downsize your expectations of finding good sports entertainment, and TV in general. It can be adjusted to, but if you are a sports junky, you are in trouble. Dale
David Fitts says
If you are into American Football and Baseball there are several ways of getting it here in the Philippines. When I had SkyCable they offered football on ASN. There is also a website (not sure if I can display it here) that carries a ton of varying sports for free – I was able to watch the World Series and NCAA Bowl Games this year. There is USTVNow website which carries US channels, 7 or 9 for free and a lot more for a fee. Also, I have learned of a great program/app called Kodi (or FreeTelly, which is Kodi in a customized form made for PC) which has not only movies and TV programs for free, but also has many sports add-ons. Keep in mind that due to the time difference, most American Football games come on very early morning (it’s tough waking at 1 or 2 am to watch the Patriots.