New park gives Manila skaters a quarter pipe of their own
MANILA, Philippines - It started with a dream. Skateboarding, which has fought a losing battle with basketball for public space to practice on, had languished for years as a counter-culture without a home court.
With a dearth of ear-marked facilities to roll at, skateboarders in the Philippines took to malls and other commercial establishments to practice their tricks, only to find themselves locked in constant clashes with security guards and police officers.
"Cops, security guards and skaters are like oil and water; they don't really mix," said Mark Bandigan, a Davao native and founder of the WeLegendary skate shop in Quezon City.
When real estate giant Ayala Land approached Bandigan and partner with the idea of constructing a skatepark for the displaced skaters of Metro Manila, a major step was taken towards affording the culture the acceptance it had fought so long for.
The dream finally came true on Saturday, March 15 with the grand opening of the Mountain Dew Skate Park at Circuit Makati, marking a landmark moment for skateboarding in the Philippines. It's hailed as the first urban skate park in the country and aims to host skateboarding competitions and general free skate.
"I've been waiting for this for 16 years now," said Bandigan, now the park’s administrator. "A legit skatepark in the Philippines is finally built. We're just doing the grand opening with all of the cats. It's something historic for skateboarding in the Philippines.
Located on the Pasig River, the skatepark isn't particularly big at roughly 1,000 square meters, nor is it advanced in difficulty, but is fitted with most standard obstacles: a bowl, several rails to grind, stairs to ollie over, plus the park's centerpiece, a quarter pipe, a rarity in the Philippines.
"This actually went through a lot of revisions. It’s a really small space and I know there’s a lot of beginners so I wanted to a have lot moe flat ground so it’s kind of safe," said FLUX Design Lab's Nico Puertollano, who designed the park.
"One thing that I really wanted to put in was that quarter pipe because that thing doesn’t really exist here, so at least having one that’s primitive, people can just practice how to drop in."
(RELATED: Freedom, solidarity at Go Skateboarding Day)
The park is open from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. from Monday through Thursday, 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. on Friday, 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. on Saturday and 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Sunday. Entrance fees vary from 50 to 100 pesos for three hour sessions, depending on the day and time.
Skateboarding is its own reward
Puertollano, who grew up in New York's Alphabet City, learned to skate at iconic skate spots throughout Brooklyn and Manhattan's Battery Park, where much of the inspiration for the park came from.
When Puertollano came to the Philippines in 2004, he found a vibrant skateboarding community that had more West coast than East coast influences.
Skateboarding still lags behind as a lucrative career, however. The grand opening featured best trick and best run competitions where the prizes ranged from just 5000 pesos to a set of day-old wheels. No one seemed to mind, however. Skateboarding, like good literature, is its own reward.
"Always remember, the skateboarders make skateboarding happen,” said Bandigan.
Raise your game
Despite having a insufficient skateboarding infrastructure to facilitate growth, the Philippines has managed to make its mark on skateboarding.
Willy Santos, a native of Subic Bay, was called "one of the best street skaters during the dark early 90′s" by Thrasher Magazine and had a Vans sneaker named after him in 1997. Aldrin Garcia, a Filipino-American from San Diego, CA, holds the Guinness World Record for highest ollie — with a 45-inch measure — in 2011.
The top domestic skater now is probably Ansey Flores, a native of Quezon City who has medaled at the Asian X-Games. Having adequate facilities will also raise the game of local skaters and open doors for today's practitioners, says Bandigan.
"I would say we’re there but I think we need more experience," said Bandigan of the skill level of Filipino skating. "When you say competition, we’re talking about ramps we’re not familiar with, rails we’re not familiar with because we’re basically just what we have here locally.
"There’s a development process and I think we can do it, there’s good skaters here who can go with the top skaters in the U.S. With this skatepark, I think that development we will feel in the next couple of months and years."
Skateboarding can be a precarious pastime in the Philippines. Aside from police and security guards, skaters have to dodge traffic, stray dogs and environmental hazards in preferred spots like Quezon City's Timog Avenue, Manila's Intramuros and Taguig's Bonifacio Global City.
Now with their own designated spot, heaven is a quarter pipe for Filipino skaters.
"I remember when we had the soft open of the skate park, one of the high-ranking officials from Ayala told us 'You got your spot now, be safe and stay out of the streets,'" said Bandigan. - Rappler.com
Ryan Songalia is the sports editor of Rappler, a member of the Boxing Writers Association of America (BWAA) and a contributor to The Ring magazine. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. An archive of his work can be found at ryansongalia.com. Follow him on Twitter: @RyanSongalia.