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The presence of different types of games in the Philippines reflects the active and sporty lifestyle of the Filipinos. Among the more popular Filipino games are jai alai, cockfighting and basketball.

Jai Alai

Jai alai, a game from the Basque area of Spain was introduced in the Philippines over 100 years ago. It was believed that the Mayan Indians invented this game which was then imported into Spain by returning colonists. Even in Manila, the Basques still make up the majority of the players (pelotaris). Since this strenuous game is played several nights a week, it is hardly surprising that the players are incredibly fit young men in their early 20s or 30s.

Jai alai, a version of the Spanish handball (pelota) played between pairs of players is one of the most popular national sports. The basic idea of the game is for the server, armed with a cesta (wicker basket) tied to the right hand, to hurl the hard-rubber ball against the granite wall. The ball must land back in what is known as fair territory. The opponent must then catch the ball in one motion and hurl it once more. When a player fails to return a service, either by missing the ball entirely or mistakenly hurling it into the wrong zone, points are scored.

It is the shattering speed at which the ball is hurled and returned that makes the game so exciting. Traveling at speeds of up to 240km an hour or 150 mph, the ball becomes almost a deadly missile. That is why the players now put on helmets to protect themselves. Besides the helmet, players also don traditional colored shirts.

This spectator sport begins every afternoon with 14 games for each session and a 20-minute break in between each game. Spectators at this game are usually very noisy. This is not an unusual sight because betting is involved and everyone will cry out in support for their team.


Although cockfighting is illegal in most countries, nevertheless, it is considered the king of sports in the Philippines. Since this sport is so popular, almost all the towns in the country have a cock pit (sabungan). One can expect to see excited and boisterous crowds at the galleries around the central pits on every Sunday or public holiday.

There are many fights per day, resulting in thousands of pesos changing hands at each fight. The proper fight begins after the referee has unsheathed the razor-sharp spur attached to both cocks' right legs and allowed each fighter a sharp peck at the opponent's neck. After being led into a fighting mood, the cocks are then let loose from opposite ends of the arena to a fight of death. During the fight, the combatants do a swift combination of clawing, pecking and stabbing with their miniature scimitars. The defeated fighter will scurry to one end of the arena and crumples into a heap. This marks the end of the game, as the winner is ready for the next match.


Basketball is one of the most popular national sports in the Philippines. Although Filipinos are slightly at a disadvantage in terms of height, nonetheless, they are among the best basketball players in the world. The popularity of this national passion is marked by year-round amateur competitions, school championships, provincial meets, professional as well as international tournaments.

The love for this game is evident as every town plaza has a basketball court alongside the town hall and church. Even from an early age, boys play this game using a makeshift basket.

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