Skateboarding for Jun Celso is as automatic as his bodily functions: breathing, sweating, dreaming.
To him, as well as his other skate mates at Parang Playground in Marikina, skating is more than just a sport. It’s a lifestyle, a way of living. The sound of the wheels hitting hard on the floor, trucks grinding against railings, and boards thudding on the ground—all these are music to the ears of skateboarders.
“Ito na ang lifestyle ko simula pa noon. Nagkaroon na ako ng anak pero ito pa rin yung gusto ko,” Celso said.
Jun started skating in 1995, a time when the sport was already enjoying popularity in the West. Like his other friends who influenced him, he instantly fell in love with the game. After getting his very first board, he felt the urge to ride regularly.
“Ang tagpuan namin dati sa SM West tuwing Saturday ng 6 AM sa parking area, sa labas lang para maglaro. Pagdating ng 10 AM, bukasan na ng food court, bababa na yung mga skater para kumain, magpahinga, magpalamig. Pagkatapos, diretso kami ng Galeria, kasi sa ilalim pwede pang maglaro dati. Pag gabi na, sa Ayala naman kami titira,” Jun recalls.
When they noticed that more and more skaters joined their Saturday sessions, they were pressed to make their group more organized and connected to each other. Thus, PhilSkate was born, one of (if not) the oldest skating communities in the country. With its sole purpose is to connect the skaters around the country, PhilSkate bridged skaters together.
“Kaya namin tinayo yung PhilSkate para magkaroon ng koneksyon yung mga skaters, para alam kung kailan maglalaro pati para magkasabihan kung sinong nagbebenta ng mga gamit kasi pahirapan ang pagkuha ng gamit dati; wala kasing naglalabas,” Celso said. According to him, only a few sellers along Recto and an outdoor store called High Adventure at Robinsons Galleria back then were the only shops distributing skateboarding parts and accessories. In addition to those shops, friends from the United States bringing home the latest gear also became suppliers of skateboards and parts.
However, even after 12 years has passed and many skaters went and came back, the problems that were present during the creation of Philskate still pester today’s skaters: Lack of quality skate parks, run-ins with police enforcers, and prejudice from the public. Despite the challenges they face, their feral impulse to push the board remains unstoppable.
To address the issues faced by skaters around the globe and to show the people what skateboarding really is about, the International Association of Skateboarding Companies launched Go Skateboarding Day in 2003. Since then every 21st of June, skaters all over the world leave whatever they’re doing just to push their decks. More than an excuse to skate the day away, Go Skateboarding Day is a reminder that like other sports, skateboarding also needs to be taken seriously.
In the biggest Go Skateboarding Day event in the country organized by Vans, a popular shoe brand, the World Trade Center was filled with hundreds of skaters eager to ride their boards on a skate park installed inside. Prizefighters, enthusiasts, and even spectators all gathered in the name of skate, where riders grind on rails and fly through obstacles.
Ansey Flores, one of the best skateboarders produced by the country, is impressed by the dedication of today’s generation of skaters to the sport. Despite growing up in a country where skateboarding is still considered a cliquish sport, Ansey became one of the few Filipinos who made it to the international scene.
“Ngayon, malaki na talaga yung eksena ng skating. Ang nakakatuwa ngayon yung mga bata dahil mas magagaling na sila. Hindi katulad dati, mahirap. Kapag nakita mo, hirap na hirap yung mga batang bumili ng gamit pero ngayon, marami nang sumusuporta,” Flores said.
Skating professionally for more than a decade, Ansey acknowledged that skateboarding communities continue to grow, albeit slower compared to their neighbors. To him, a devoted family championing the welfare of skaters will produce a new breed of skaters ready to roll to the international scene.
Ansey has been joining competitions in 2001, where he would contend with other local skaters in the country. However, his biggest break came when he won the ESPN-owned Asian X-Games qualifiers in 2001. With the said victory, he claimed the right to represent the country in the international skating scene. He won his first Asian X-Games medal in 2003 in Kuala Lumpur. Since then, Ansey gained recognition as a great skateboarder and earned multiply endorsements.
But Ansey knew that their community’s support would not be enough to create globally-competitive skaters. The government, he insisted, will play a big role in honing the next great Filipino skater, a role which it hasn’t played yet.
“Malaki ang maitutulong ng gobyerno sa amin. Kulang tayo ng skate parks, wala tayong mga skate facilities, kahit mga skate plaza wala. Kahit saan pumunta, binabawalan na sila kasi nasisira daw yung mga hagdan o gutter. Pag may skate park, mas maganda ang tsansa [na manalo] sa ibang bansa kasi mas makakapag-practice ng maayos. Hindi gaya kapag nasa kalsada ka, papaalisin ka, babawalan ka. Kung praktisadong-praktisado ka, may laban ka sa ibang bansa,” he said.
The best skating facility in the country, so far, is located in Camarines Sur, where Ansey became the supervisor of the park. But even with the absence of the much-needed support from the government, he believed that this will not stop skaters from riding to their dreams.
“Hindi nila kami mapipigilan,” he said.
When sundown enveloped the sky with darkness, a group of skaters broke away from the herd at the World Trade Center and went to their comfort zone. Their spot: Bonifacio Shrine. They asked the police to let them skate there just for the night. Fortunately, the cops agreed, who only asked them not to litter the shrine.
“Sinara nila sa mga skaters tong lugar last year. Nilagyan pa nga nila ng karatula na bawal mag-skateboarding dito pero nawala din. Hanggang ngayon bawal pa din naman, pero nakikiusap na lang kami,” the skaters said.
Jason, who prefers to be called Jamela, has been skating there with his friends for quite some time, long enough to have a lot of run-ins with local enforcers. According to him, some members of the police force always had bad blood against them.
“Maraming beses na. Yung iba, kukunin nila yung board. Yung iba naman, maayos kasi pagsasabihan ka. Pero yung iba, bigla-bigla na lang kukunin yung board. Pero minsan yung iba, hindi mga pulis kundi mga ordinaryong tao lang yung sisita sa amin. Iniisip din namin kung bakit,” Jamela said.
However, the skaters are not the lone ones occupying Bonifacio Shrine at night. A group of bikers also use the grounds for mastering their tricks, and illegal settlers also found solace there. Among the three groups, skaters are the only ones asked to leave.
“Sabi nila kasi may mga ID daw yung mga bikers na pinapayagan silang maglaro doon. Doon kami nagtataka kasi kami bawal pero sila pwede tapos minsan makikita mo na may mga dumi pa doon. Hindi naman kami magkakalat ng mga ganun,” he said, hinting that the illegal settlers are the ones defiling the place. Aside from the usual garbage, human manure also pollutes the shrine, a filthy act that Jamela says skaters will never do.
Skaters on Anda Street in Intramuros have managed to find an abandoned area with smooth floors. They funded the construction of some obstacles there and street artists bombed the area with colorful graffiti. Suddenly, the barangay captain decided to make a basketball court, saying that it is for the “good of the majority.” Powerless, the skaters could not do anything but comply.
Even if the world thinks that they are unkempt, riffraff, and renegade, skaters like Jamela owe a lot to the sport not just because it kept him out delinquency but it also influenced his outlook in life.
Jamela adds, “Natutunan ko na hindi lang siya puro tricks. Natututo din akong makisama sa ibang tao. Dati kasi, wala akong hilig sa pakikisama sa tao kasi nahihiya ako. Kapag naglalaro ka, dapat matuto kang makisama sa iba, hindi yung nakikipaglaro ka pero iba yung ugali mo sa kanila. Huwag mong iiwas yung sarili mo kasi pag kasama mo sila, masaya eh. Marami kang pwedeng matututunan sa kanila, hindi lang sa tricks pati na rin sa pag-uugali.”
If the shrine of Bonifacio embodies the Filipino hero’s struggle for freedom, then why shouldn’t these young skateboarders fight for their right to skate? Bonifacio was killed by his own countrymen, but should they wait for their dreams to be killed by their own?