I went on a two-day trip to the province to visit some of my relatives and friends. It wasn’t a vacation, really, but a weekend trip that I tried to fit into my busy schedule. I had three bus rides total, each lasting about an hour and a half to get to my destination. There wasn’t a single ride where I didn’t see a few adults, teenagers, and even children playing basketball. At one point, I got off near a rice field surrounded by unpaved land. There were kids of all ages playing the sport on a makeshift basketball court—some in shoes, some in slippers, and some even barefoot.
Basketball is everywhere you look in the Philippines. It’s played on street corners, grass, the sand, and on any unpaved ground. From a basketball court to an open space, or even in people’s backyards—it’s played anywhere.
While soccer is the most popular sport in the world and football is in the US, basketball is the most popular and played sport among Filipinos. It fits the lives of teenagers well because it is simple to learn, but difficult to master. The strategic and dynamic nature of the game makes it appealing to both players and spectators, and Filipinos enjoy being kept on the edge of their seats by the unpredictable twists and turns of the game.
Accessibility is another factor. Basketball carries well across the country’s economic climate because it calls for little space, no maintenance, no expensive equipment, and there is no required age or number of players needed for a social game.
While I’m not a big fan of the sport, let alone have any skills, I do know how it’s played. It is unusual for a Filipino to be unfamiliar with basketball; it has become a part of our culture.
In a country with hundreds of dialects, different local and regional cultures, basketball has become one thing that connects Filipinos of all ages, social statuses, and ethnicities. It doesn’t matter who you are before you step on the court—what matters is your game.