Sports are an imperative part of the Filipinos’ lifestyle and are deep-rooted in their culture. From traditional games to western sports, the locals like to play many games, which reflects their cultural diversity.
There was a time when children in the Philippines used to play simple games due to a lack of exposure to professional sports. Games like Langit Lupa, Patintero, etc., helped them develop physical and mental skills to play professional sports. There has been a major shift now, and the Filipinos have immersed themselves completely in western sports. However, some traditional sports are quite popular in the country as well.
Here is a list of the five most popular sports in the Philippines:
Basketball is, hands down, the most popular sport in the Philippines. Unlike most countries around the world, where football is the clear favourite, basketball takes the lead in the Philippines by quite a margin.
Basketball was first introduced in the country during the American colonial times when foreigners used to play the game as a recreational activity. Since its introduction to the locals in 1910, the game’s popularity has continued to increase.
When the country gained independence in 1946, basketball flourished rapidly. That era is called the golden era of basketball in the Philippines, and the sport’s popularity entrenched so deep in its roots that it firmly established its status as the most loved sport in the country.
The sport is so widely popular in the country that it is home to Asia’s oldest basketball league, while the men’s national basketball team played for the first time in the Summer Olympics in 1936. Now, that is quite a history.
Presently, it is estimated that around 40 million Filipinos actively play basketball, while a survey revealed that 81% of the participants were ardent fans of the game. The Philippines Basketball Association and the NBA matches are the most watched sports events throughout the country.
The second sport on our list is football, a sport that is otherwise the most popular in the world. The advent of football in the Philippines can be traced back to the 1890s when the Philippines national team played its first matches against Japan and China. This was before World War II. A lot has changed since then, and today, the Philippines Football Federation administers the sport throughout the country.
In recent years, football has progressed in terms of popularity and received investment as well. In 2020, Qatar Airways became the official sponsor for the Philippines Football League. The development has led to an increase in the sport’s popularity and an improvement in its global ranking to 125th in the world; however, the national team was unable to qualify for the Qatar World Cup happening in November 2022.
The third most favourite sport in the Philippines is badminton. Badminton games can be played in the form of singles or doubles, whereby the game entails using a racquet to hit a shuttlecock over the net.
Badminton is usually considered a casual sport played outdoors in the backyard or beach. However, the game is also played formally on an indoor court. Filipinos love to play badminton as a recreational activity. At the same time, on the national level, the sport is regulated by the Philippines Badminton Association, which was established in 1952 after the country joined the International Badminton Federation in 1950.
Initially, the sport was not very popular in the country, but that all changed in the early 1980s when president Fidel V. Ramos sent a group of players to China for international training. The country participated in its first international event in 1981, the South East Asian Games, and later in the Thomas Cup in 1984.
Since then, there has been no looking back as badminton has become a household game and a favourite pastime, while the PBA continues to groom and train talent for international success and recognition.
The next popular sport on our list is boxing. It might surprise many, but the sport is extremely popular in the country, and the athletes have won major accolades in various events. The country is home to boxing legends, including Manny Pacquiao, Caferino Garcia, and Pancho Villa.
The list of talented boxers is never ending as the country continues to produce impressive boxing talent. To date, 8 out of 12 medals won at the Olympics have come from boxing, while overall Filipino boxers have championed 44 prominent world events. These athletes are an inspiration for many, particularly Manny Pacquiao, who is known for his achievements in the game and is also well-known for his philanthropic initiatives.
Sepak Takraw / Kick Volleyball
Sepak Takraw, also known as kick volleyball or Sipa, is a highly popular sport in the Philippines. Sepak Takraw is similar to volleyball and foot volley in terms of the game format. The game is played between two teams having two to four players. The players use rattan or plastic balls and can use their head, shoulder, chest, knees, and feet to touch the ball. The game is played on a court that is similar to a badminton court.
Sepak Takraw was initially known as Sepak Raga Jaring and first came to light in Penang in 1945. However, in 1960, officials from Myanmar, Singapore, Malaysia, and Thailand got together to determine a universal name for the game and set some standard rules for it. Today, the sport is regulated by the Sepak Takraw federation, which was established in 1988.