While everyone is thinking about the Super Bowl today, let me introduce you to a traditional, native Philippine sport. It’s not basketball which most Filipinos consider the national sport since it is played every day across the country, on the streets, in gyms, at schools and everywhere else in the Philippines.
The sport “Sipa” which literally means kick or to kick is a home-grown national sport. Historically, Sipa is considered the Philippine national and traditional native sport which predates the Spanish rule going back to the 15th century. Both boys and girls play this sport. A single person can play sipa by himself or herself but there are moves to standardize the game with rules and teams.
In formal games, a rattan ball is used, but when Filipino kids play at home or in schools they use either a big bunch of rubber bands knotted together or a small metal disk that has a fluffy tail of shredded plastic.
Traditionally, boys kick in front of the body while girls modestly kick behind the body. Skillful players can kick it any number of ways. When played informally among friends, the game is to see who can kick the item the most consecutive number of times. That involves stamina!
There are different variations of Sipa that are commonly practiced.
Washer Version – It is mainly a children’s game where the object being played is made of lead washer, coin-like object covered with cloth tied with a rubber band or simply a big bunch of rubber bands knotted together. Years ago, children would improvise using native materials due to limited resources of toys and lack of money. The objective is to keep kicking the ball without it touching the ground.
Rattan Ball Version – Sipa is also a simple ball game where the ball for sipa is made of rattan strips interwoven to form a ball. It’s hollow inside and is about 4 inches in diameter. The ball is kicked backwards and forwards and kept going continuously. It cannot be touched with any part of the body except knees, legs and feet. In this case, the rattan ball can touch the ground.
Simplified – Played with equal number of players on each team between 1 to 4. Game play involves keeping the ball above the ground. The two teams play against each other until a set number of penalty points (such as the ball bouncing twice on the ground) is reached by one of the teams.
There is also a court version in which a rectangle is marked in grids. Grids denote zones, and dictate where players stand, and how points are allotted based on where the ball lands in the court. This game requires much coordination.
Modern day version are made of feather light balls similar to those used at badminton. The sipa is thrown upwards for the player toss using only the legs, particularly the area from the foot up to just above the knee. The player must prevent the Sipa touching the ground by hitting it several times. Each hit is counted, the player kicking the Sipa most wins the game. If the ball touches the ground, one point is awarded to the opposing team.
The game “Sipa Lambatan”, is played by teams, indoors or outdoors, on a court that is about the size of a tennis court. The teams consist of one, two or four players in each side. The aim of the game is to kick a sipa ball back and forth over a net in the middle of the court. The sport requires speed, agility and ball control. In this play variant, Sipa is allowed to touch the ground.
The more professional variant of Sipa is known as Sepak Takraw, an Indonesian/Malaysian game played by clubs of The Philippine Amateur Takraw Association (PASTA) which recently joined the Super Series, Kings Cup World Championship and SEA Games. This is a team sport played with a net but that is not how Filipino children traditionally play it.
Sepak Takraw, a serious sport; Source: Philippine Amateur Sepak Takraw Association (PASTA)
I remember playing the game by myself or with my brothers when I was young and bored. It was a lot of fun and a good way of using all those energies. It’s a great exercise and needs concentration.