ULTIMATE Frisbee is slowly but surely making its presence felt in the Philippines.
Despite being a relatively new sport in the country, Filipino players have already made their mark internationally with local team Boracay Dragons finishing second in the World Beach Ultimate Championships for two consecutive seasons, in Brazil (2007) and Italy (2011).
The Philippines is also making waves in the grass category, topping the Singapore Ultimate Open 2012, and placing seventh out of 15 countries in the 2012 World Ultimate and Guts Championship in Osaka earlier this year.
The game has steadily gained a following in the country since it was introduced to Filipinos by foreign tourists in Boracay back in 2002. Now there are several local teams and tournaments year round. The Philippine Ultimate Association has also been put up to run the sport's affairs.
What makes Ultimate Frisbee unique is that there are no referees and players police themselves, following what they call the 'spirit of the game' which expects competitors to respect one another and play by the rules.
Wendell Simbulan, one of the leading proponents of the sport in the country, said being skilled or being the highest pointer doesn’t automatically make one an Ultimate player.
“An Ultimate player abides by the rules even if there are no referees or people in charge. There should be no cheating, no bad calls, no trash-talking — fair play rules the game,” he said.
Two international tournaments mark the Ultimate Frisbee calendar in the Philippines - the Manila Spirits (grass) held every November, and the Boracay Ultimate Open (beach) during the summer, which both draw entries from different parts of the globe.
Some of the most popular competitions in the country are the Ultimate Shindig held in Dumaguete every August, the Daba-Dabaw Ultimate Frisbee Tournament in Davao, and the Ultimo Abril in Cebu every summer. Well-attended tournaments are also held in Subic, Pampanga, Laguna, Cebu, Iligan, Iloilo, Bacolod, Dipolog, Cagayan de Oro, and Bukidnon throughout the year.
“Ultimate Frisbee in the Philippines is growing and evolving so fast to the point that players really travel to attend provincial tournaments. There are so many people who get hooked, so if you’re into Ultimate Frisbee, you’ll be spoiled for choice in the Philippines alone," said Simbulan.
"We already have the most number of tournaments and the number of athletes continues to increase. In Manila alone, there are more or less 100 clubs and counting,” he added.
"We want the Philippines to be the Ultimate Frisbee center in Asia."