The sport of figure skating demands not a hardwood floor nor a grass field; it survives in icy plains, challenging the sport’s sustainability against the backdrop of the Philippines’ hot and humid weather.
With professional figure skating—a craft that can only thrive in sub-zero temperatures—there is still much to be done to keep the local community from melting. In drawing out their dreams with their skates, Filipino figure skaters have to do much more than just bend, spin, and jump to keep themselves on the ice.
On thin ice
Joel Minas, a former member of the Philippine National Figure Skating Team in the sport for 17 years, has watched the local skating community through the years. “It’s a niche activity because we live in a tropical country,” Minas points out. As a prodigy in the skating world, he participated in local competitions and represented the Philippines in international outings. However, after his first year of college, Joel had to make a career-defining choice: skating or schooling.
Joel, who was attending San Beda College Alabang, had difficulties going back and forth to his training rink in SM Mall of Asia. “It’s a long commute,” he remarks. “It’s not like [in] other countries where the skating rink and the school are in the same vicinity.” Eventually, Joel had to sacrifice his professional skating career to focus
on his studies.
He now works part-time as a skating coach, making up for the significant lack of coaches found in the country, saying, “I think there [are] less than 10 coaches here in the Philippines [who] can teach at a competitive level, [know] ISU (International Skating Union) guidelines and requirements, and [have] exposure to training abroad that can be applied here in our local scene.”
Aside from the lack of coaches, the local skating community is minute. Minas chalks this up to the high cost of pursuing the sport. “Expenses can rack up from coaching, to equipment, [to] ice time, costumes, choreography, [and] training abroad; it could get very expensive, and not a lot of people can afford it,” he stresses. Two-time Olympian Michael Christian Martinez himself has had to resort to fundraising to prep for his upcoming bid for
the 2022 Winter Olympics.
Additionally, all skating rinks in the Philippines are housed within recreational facilities like shopping malls, making it difficult for skaters to get ice time during the pandemic. “There has been no ice from March until now,” he explains.
Still, pandemic or not, Philippine rinks have yet to house the necessities to make it big in the international scene. “We don’t have the facilities yet, in-house, to produce an Olympic athlete,” Minas elaborates. Ultimately, he laments that the lack of support and facilities for Filipino skaters forces them “to go abroad [and] get training to become competitive.”
Sofia Guidote, a professional skater and Disney on Ice star, had a similar experience. While Guidote began skating and training in the Philippines, she eventually had to go abroad to further her career. She cites the lack of financial support, proper training facilities, and good coaches as hindrancesin developing aspiring Filipino skaters.
Even with access to the training programs and facilities available abroad, the challenge of being a Filipino skater does not end there. “Unfortunately, Filipino skaters do not have a good reputation internationally,” she reveals.
Alisson Perticheto, the 2014 Philippine national champion, shares similar sentiments. “The Philippines is not known to be a figure skating sport unlike Russia or other northern countries, mainly because the environmental situation isn’t the most practical,” she says. Despite this, Filipino skaters aim to break the prevailing mindset of international judges that the country is lagging in the sport.
Wanting to raise the Philippine flag higher on the ice, Perticheto has her sights on becoming the first Filipino female skater to represent the country at the Olympics. Despite a leg injury limiting her from participating in the World Championships in Stockholm, Sweden, this does not stop her from dreaming of making it big in the upcoming Olympics. “It is also my goal to show the Filipinos that skating can be an important sport,” she adds.
As a piece of advice, Minas hopes aspiring skaters remember that they don’t need to push themselves to aim for the competitive level. “There are two branches of figure skating:one’s the recreational side, and one’s the competitive side,” he explains, reminding skaters that success and fulfillment in skating do not come solely in the form of trophies and Olympic medals.
As a new day dawns, these three skaters clamor for the same things–better skating facilities, financial assistance, and above all, government support. The Philippine figure skating scene has grown exponentially in
recent years, and Perticheto proudly declares that “we have a good team of talented young skaters [who] can one day reach the international level as well.”
Although the climate in the Philippines may not be ideal for skating, it need not be the end of local skaters’ dreams. It is the country’s weather that gives more reasons for local skaters to be proud of their heritage—as they have triumphed despite the many hurdles of the sport in the country. “If you find the sport beautiful, which I think it is, then please go ahead and give it a try,” Joel concludes. “I’ll be looking forward to seeing you in the rink, then.”