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Filipino Ethnic Game


Sipa is a Tagalog term which means "kick." It is likewise the name of an indigenous game which involves the use of the feet-in other words, a kicking game-as well as a be-holed, hollow ball woven from rattan strips whose circumference cannot be less than 30 cms. nor more than 34 cms. and weighing not less than 162.80 grams nor more than 168.75 grams. If a semi-boots-type shoes- or any shoes cut high for that matter- is considered idead for the game, it is because kicking the sipa ball with the bare feet could not but usher extreme pain to the ankle bones. Looking at how the game is played seems to be quite easy, until one tries it and find it quite hard.

Sipa is played either by singles or doubles. The court on which it is played on is similar to a tennis court in the sense that it has a rectangular shape, played either by singles or doubles, and is demarcated at the middle by a net.

The objective of the game is to send the ball over to the opponent's court and hope the latter will not be able to return it. When this happens, it merits a point in one's favor. One has to try to return the balf back to the opponent for as long as the latfer can do the same, if one expects to prevail.

The invention of the sipa is attributed to the Muslims and this is nowhere better evidenced than in the Maranaw version of it, the so-called manggis and the takiran, whose descriptions emphasize their accentuation of grace and poise.This claim is, however, disputed by the fact that in the so-called bibohan, the Tagalogs have their own counterpart of sipa.

What the Muslims introduced, however, was a crude, outlandish version. with no set rules and just plain aimless kicking at the ball, keeping it floating in the air for as long as one can. It were the Americans who gave it class, status and respectability, if due recognition, when they injected rules to govern it.

Sipa enjoyed its heyday during the Commonwealth era of President Manuel Quezon when each district of Manila had sipa teams and tournaments were conducted regularly. These tournaments boasted of a festive atmosphere as, to make it all the more livelier, brass bands as well as muses graced it.

Even then, sipa was not considered anything but a man's sport. Nearly all its habitues were men and nary a woman. It was not fashionable then for women to intrude into men's preoccupations. It is only at present that sipa is dissipating its image of purely man's sport as it enjoys a renaissance that sees some women take to it.

The war ebbed sipa's popularity and not even its end would instigate a restoration. During the Liberation, the people's preoccupation was confined to re-building whatever property of theirs has not been damaged by the general havoc.

Credit should be extended to the firemen of the San Lazaro fire station for the post-war restoration of sipa, slow though it may be. They are at it whenever their hoses did not covet their time and energy. The court beside their station kept the game kicking all these years.

Text from: Anima, Nid. (1977). Filipino ethnic games. Quezon City: Omar Pub.

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