As a sport, figure skating has always gotten the cold shoulder from Filipinos. Not since Michael Christian Martinez became the first South East Asian skater to make the Olympics, an ice rink was where little girls lived out a recreational phase and first-date couples could flirtatiously collapse into each other.
After Sochi, consider the ice broken. From packed rinks to EDSA billboards, skating has entered a new realm of cool. It’s also encouraged a youth movement led by some of Martinez’s contemporaries—tweens and teens who’ve represented our country internationally yet with little recognition.
Despite the government’s snub in funding and the grueling training for a little-celebrated sport, these kids have stuck by their skates, hit the ice, and pounded their chests with Pinoy pride.
As a day-after nod to our Philippine independence, B/BLOG captured the coolest examples of interminable Filipino spirit.
Cheska Reyes, 17
Blades of Glory: “My biggest highlight was the Asian Junior Figure Skating Championship in Hong Kong in 2012. I remember I had a really bad practice the day before and I was so, so scared, I wet myself. I didn’t even realize until I was done. I remember I went out there and I skated perfectly and when I got out, I couldn’t even believe what I just did. And my coach ran to me and said, ‘Oh my God, bakla, I believe in you now!’ And then they put the medal on me and I was like, ‘I want to feel like this for the rest of my life.’ We’re going back to the Asian Juniors in October.”
First Slice of Ice: “I tried skating before through the free skating coupons that SM has. They give you every time you purchase. That’s how I tried it but I wasn’t into it and I fell 10 times so it kind of discouraged me. When I was 11, one of my friends brought us to the rink for her birthday and we skated and I realized out of all of my friends, I was the only one who could stand up. I was like, ‘Why did I ever hate this so much? Why did I stop? It’s so much fun. Oh my God, I don’t want to go.’”
Skating’s New Cool: “God bless Michael [Christian Martinez]. Oh my God, yes. First of all at school, my classmates were aware I was a skater but they didn’t really care. They knew I went to practice after school every day but now it’s like, ‘Hey Cheska, what are you working on? Hey Cheska, do you know Michael? Hey Cheska, can you get us an autograph?’ People now, they give us support, sponsorships—they actually care about us. The government doesn’t really care but at least the public does for the first time in our lives. It feels like the Philippines is finally behind us.”
Slipping Toward Success: “I started a lot later than these kids. 11? That’s really old. So I had to work my butt off to get to where they were—and that took a very long time. At first I skated once a week, then it became twice, then it became three times a week, then four, and now it’s five.
My artistry, I think, is my best trait. Technicality, I know I’m not going to be the best but if I can look into the audience or look at the judges and make them feel something, that’s what I strive for.”
Misha Fabian, 15
Blades of Glory: At the Asian Junior Figure Skating Challenge in Hong Kong, placed 2nd in Basic Novice Division and 3rd in Single Performance Novice Division. At DreamProgram in Korea, placed 2nd in the Girls Intermediate Level.
First Slice of Ice: “It started when I was six year’s old. It was a skating-themed birthday party of a preschool classmate. When I first stepped on the ice, it sounds cheesy but I felt like that’s what I want to do for the rest of my life—to skate.”
Slipping Toward Success: “After doing recreational skating for almost four years, I decided to try out competitive figure skating. My first competitive figure skating event was the Asian Junior Figure Skating Challenge in Hong Kong two years ago. I didn’t do so well and was the last in the overall ranking in my division. It was a painful learning experience and an eye opener, which made me strive to improve my skating skills.
I don’t do it for the audience. It gets nakakatamad in the sense na what you do is repetitive. Syempre you try a new move and you fail at it, then you fall, and fall again. It’s nakakatamad in that sense but the joy that comes when you land an element or are able to do something, it’s indescribable. It’s the best feeling ever.”
New Move Landed: Double Lutz, “One of the hardest jumps in skating. We have single jumps, double jumps, triple jumps that I completed. All the double jumps except for the double axel. They’re not keen yet or consistent but I was able to land them already.”
Gaby Panlilio, 10
Blades of Glory: “First was the IceWorld in USA—I got two golds, two silvers, and one bronze.”
First Slice of Ice: “I started skating five years ago, one summer when I was really bored at home and I was looking for a sport. I tried it and it’s kind of hard at the start.”
Skating’s New Cool: “Skating now is a lot better but sometimes it’s hard because there are so many people suddenly on the rink. It’s become really popular, this year lang.”
Ice-spiration: “I like skating to popular songs. Like Taylor Swift, Justin Bieber, like that. I look up to Julia Lipnitskaia from Russia. She’s so good—I really want to copy her. Her jumps are so beautiful.”
Favorite Move: “The loop jump is really hard but I really practice so I can achieve that jump. I train every day after school.”
Skye Chua, 10
Blades of Glory: Member of the Philippine Figure Skating Team. “I’m competing at the Asian Juniors in October. Until then, I’ll keep on playing music every morning and working on my program, while listening to my coach’s pointers.”
Skating’s New Cool: “When I saw [Michael Christian Martinez’s] videos, I felt I want to skate more. I want to be more like him.”
Favorite Move: “Sometimes I’m excited about the spins and jumps. In my mind I just keep on thinking I will land the jump and complete the revolutions needed for the spins.”
Jules Vince Alpe, 15
Blades of Glory: “I’ve competed in Hong Kong, Thailand, and Indonesia. I won champion in Thailand in 2008, then was back-to-back champion in Hong Kong. Ang sa akin lang, ang goal ko is maka-perform sa Olympics.”
First Slice of Ice: “Sa SM Southmall, dun ako first tumapak sa ice. Interested ako ‘cause of the jumps and spins—they were so cool. After that, it’s on me. Si Michael Christian Martinez, nakakasama kong mag-practice ‘pag umuuwi siya. Siya yung kasabay kong magsimula pero mas-nauna siya sa akin. Southmall ‘din kami nag-start.”
Idols on Ice: Evgeny Pluschenko “and Michael Martinez, of course.”
Skating’s New Cool: “Super enganyo. Nung nakapag-compete na [si Michael Christian Martinez], maraming chances na para mag-support sa sport namin., ‘saka para na rin sa mga ibang athletes.”
Slipping Toward Success: “Mahirap din kasi—actually, yung gastos sa amin, sa parents namin. ‘Pag pumupuntang abroad for competitions. I hope to compete sa Taiwan this August pero hindi pa ako sure kasi kulang pa sa income. Merong association pero hindi ko alam kung nagbibigay sila.”
New move landed: “I’m working on triples—jumps na maraming ikot—for the upcoming competition in Taiwan.”
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