The Filipinos in Neepawa are getting more interested in ice skating.
There were a number of parents who enrolled their children into the CanSkate programs that the Yellowhead Centre offered last year.
And this year, more parents have inquired about how they can get into the program. Many of the Filipino boys are curious to learn the game of hockey, while the little girls are enthused about the thought of getting to prance around the ice rink in tutus.
Some say that besides swimming, ice skating is one of the best exercises, especially for kids who have asthma and allergies.
In the Philippines, although we do not have snow, we have malls that have ice skating facilities.
The “SM Supermalls” owned by a Chinese-Filipino named Henry Sy. He is the pioneer in the construction and commercialization of the largest malls in the Philippines.
On Sept. 4, 1992, the first public ice skating rink in the country was opened. Its size is 849 square meters. Only two of their malls, namely the SM Southmall (located at the southern part of Manila) and SM Megamall (located at the northern part) had ice rinks at that time.
Today, the largest ice rink in the Philippines is at the SM Mall of Asia which measures 61 by 30 metres. It is said to be the biggest in Southeast Asia.
Back then, ice skating was an unfamiliar recreational activity which really captured the Filipinos' curiosity. The “frozen court” that we all used to see only in movies or television became a reality.
As a child, I looked forward to watching the Olympic figure skating competitions on television every year. Dorothy Hamill was my idol.
In our country, ice skating is considered to be a sport only for the “elite”. The equipment required to make this a sport or hobby is way too expensive for people from a developing country.
Formal lessons are offered at the rink but can be very pricey depending on the duration each lesson.
Despite the financial requirements of the sport, the parents of the aspiring skaters support their children by enduring this monetary challenge to encourage their love and passion for the sport.
The mall formed a home hockey team called the “Manila Ice Vixens” in 2004. The Manila Ice Hockey League was formed in 2009.
Later on, the “Manila Hawks” and “Manila Predators” were also formed because of the growing appreciation for this extreme and unique sport.
The Predators won the championship in the “Asian Men's 'B' Division” in Mega Ice Hockey in 2011, which is the largest amateur ice hockey tournament in Asia.
We have our own share of talented figure skaters as well.
Michael Martinez, 15 years old, won fourth place in International Skating Union Junior Grand Prix held at Lake Placid in the United States of America last year. He was ranked WORLD 10 by the ISU.
In 2012, he got 5th place at Junior Worlds. This was considered unprecedented as he came from a country with no snow.
Chris Caluza finished 21st at Worlds. He is the first Filipino to make the free skate at a major ISU Championship outside of Junior Worlds and Four Continents.
A lot of young Filipino Neepawans look forward to watching hockey games at the local rink. We are slowly opening our minds to the sport that Canada loves.
The coach of the Neepawa Natives, Mr. Dwayne Kirkup, and assistant coach, Cam Tibbett, have expressed their interest in introducing hockey to the Filipino community. They are looking into opening the rink for those who want to learn how the game is played.
Meanwhile, the registration for ice skating lessons started last week until the end of October. A lot of the Filipino moms have enrolled their children to the program.
The Yellowhead Centre announced that the public skating started last Sept. 30, which might give us adults a chance to have a feel of this fun recreational activity.
Although it may take a while before we Filipinos can learn how to ice skate, it is definitely a challenge we want to take on. After all, learning the game is one thing, but trying to run across a giant ice rink on blades instead of rollers will be a feat we are very curious to know.