A Filipino sports day - friendly competition, good food, fun and laughter

Sharing food, fun and games for all ages, cheering and good-natured jeering and plenty of laughter - it was an old-fashioned sports day, Filipino style.

Complete with opening ceremonies, the singing of the national anthems of Canada and the Philippines, pre-games entertainment and a huge potluck lunch, the Unity Community Centre hosted about 150 people, Aug. 23. The Unity Filipino community was joined by families from Wilkie, Neilburg and Plenty, as well as by invited "Canadian" friends.

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Sports events started with tug of war, first between children, then teens and finally the adults. Loud, enthusiastic cheering from teammates and the audience filled the arena with shouts and laughter. Whether professional sports team fans might outdo the Filipinos in celebration after a victory is doubtful.

Each tug of war was a best-of-three series and participants were counted before the whistle was blown to ensure teams were equally matched; however when team members saw the kids on their team being tugged ever closer to the centre line, many couldn't resist jumping in and helping. Of course, adults on the other team quickly responded by also grabbing the rope. It was all in fun but it took several tries before the 10 versus 10 children's match was properly concluded.

So many people wanted to take part that MC Tess Demafelix and tug of war adjudicator Archie Sumaya increased the numbers to 15 per side when it was time for the adults' event.

Sack race relays followed, again with all ages taking part. No child who tripped and fell was left to struggle up on their own as someone would quickly rush in to pick them up and set them on their feet. The adults were challenged with a second relay, where two people in a double sack had to hop in unison down the course, around the standing sentry and back to the starting line.

A long row of tables heavily laden with food became the next attraction. Potluck offerings were many, with both Canadian and Filipino dishes on offer -everything from pizza to a taro leaf stir-fry, cupcakes to a special rice pudding cooked and served in banana leaves.

A traditional game from the Philippines followed the lunch break. Lines were drawn on the arena floor with chalk to make a court of two rows of three large squares. Patintero is a form of tag, played in teams and across the court. The "it" team has to keep their feet on the lines which mark the court while the runners try to get across the three squares and back to the start.

Although friendly, the competition was also serious with a referee blowing his whistle when someone "scored" or upon an infraction of the rules. Victory celebrations were just as joyous as those following the tug of war.

Other games, including basketball, filled out the afternoon. Prior to everyone's arrival, organizers had marked the arena floor with masking tape, creating a full basketball court, including keys in front of the two portable hoops that had been brought in.

Red T-shirts and yellow T-shirts, both with "Unity Sask, Pinoy, Sportsfest 2014" on the front and a stylized combination of symbols from the Philippines and Canadian flags on the back, were worn by the many members of the "Red Team" and the "Yellow Team."

The Red Team and the Yellow Team both won and lost throughout the day, but everyone - participants, their supporters, the organizers, spectators and guests - went home tired, happy and well-fed.

Some of the Unity Filipino families had originally planned to get together for a potluck lunch one day before the kids went back to school. When some of the children asked if they could play games after lunch, the plans expanded and the full-fledged sports day was organized, even down to decorating the Unity Community Centre, setting up a stage backed by a colourful arch of red and yellow balloons and the Canadian and Filipino flags.

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