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Philippines Hopes for Growth of Wrestling

5 November 2013 4 Comments

The positive attention that wrestling received after it was initially removed from the Olympics was phenomenal.  An internet campaign was quickly established to coordinate and inform wrestling fans across the globe about the fight to reestablish the sport within the Olympics.

During this time, news articles from major newspapers around the world not only published stories about well established wrestling countries like the US, Russia, and Iran; but they dug deep into their own local culture and wrote about the increased attention in their own traditional forms of the sport.  Stories about Kushti popped up in major newspapers in Pakistan and India. Likewise, Sumo became a headline in newspapers from Japan, Egypt, and the US.

A third positive has come about the “Save Olympic Wrestling” campaign.  We now have renewed attention given to wrestling from countries that have not been associated with Olympic success.  The “We Can Fine Wrestling Success Too!” call to action has been growing.


Wrestlers within the Philippines are a perfect example. Within a recent article published in “The Manila Times,” author James Mendoza discusses the push to make the sport more attainable within the Philippines and the challenges wrestlers from the country need to overcome to become successful on the world stage.

… the Philippines’ highest achievement in an international wrestling event came about in the 1954 Asian Games in Manila when three Filipino competitors won a bronze and two silver medals. He mentioned a number of factors hampering the development of the sport, among them lack of promotion, training, equipment, pool of wrestlers and exposure to challenging sparring partners. “In other countries they don’t have a problem. The US has over 200,000 in their pool and Iran has over 300,000,” he said. “Here I think we are about 500.”

One way to improve their success has been to encourage their best wrestlers to train abroad.  However, as local wrestling coach Karlo Sevilla states, “Morale is high, but when we send them to other countries, they realize how much far behind we are.”

Could revitalizing traditional wrestling within the Philippines help become the catalyst for Olympic success?

Dumog wrestling

According to Sevilla, “We have scattered areas with wrestling traditions, there are quite a few.” These areas include the provinces of Antique and Iloilo with dumog, Ifugao with boltong, and Laguna with buno, which are often displayed during town fiestas.

“Our international organization promotes traditional wrestling. That’s what we really want,” Sevilla said. But he also sees these locales as potential breeding grounds for Olympic athletes. It is only a matter of making these people who already know wrestling to appreciate the sport.”

Proof of his thesis is Jason Balabal, a full-blooded Ifugao and the country’s main prospect for 84kg Greco-Roman wrestling in the Southeast Asian Games in Myanmar. “He grew up playing boltong,” Sevilla said. “There was a time when most of our wrestlers are from Iloilo where dumog is a tradition.”

Searching for partners:

According to Savilla, awareness of authentic sport wrestling among Filipinos only happened in the late 1990s owing to the popularity of mixed-martial arts (MMA). “I’ve met many who appreciated wrestling because of MMA. We had interested athletes, but many of them are just there to cross-train. They didn’t have the Olympic dream.”

Compared to other sports like boxing or tae kwon do, wrestling has no major and long-term partner, according to Sevilla. “This will change given we’ve proven our youth is very dedicated and sincere in helping our sport”. He said they hope to woo and win the support of private corporations, whose funding can help them send more delegates in international tournaments in 2014.


The next generation of wrestlers:

Sevilla said that to find an Olympian, they search among children, specifically high school students. His optimism stems from the inclusion of wrestling in the 2014 Palarong Pambansa (National Games) in Dumaguete City, where it will be staged as a demonstration sport. “We’ll take off from there,” he said.

Sevilla encourages private and public high schools to establish a wrestling program to prepare for the intense inter-region competition in Palarong Pambansa. According to him, it is possible for child athletes who will grow up competing in the Philippine Sports Commission’s Batang Pinoy sports program and Palarong Pambansa to qualify, or even win a medal, in future Olympic Games. “We still need a little more time, but maybe in 2024 it is more realistic.”


To read the entire article: http://manilatimes.net/philippine-wrestling-grapples-with-woes/49959/


  • Karlo Sevilla said:

    Thank you very much for this article! Our response from the Wrestling Association of the Philippines (WAP, as posted on our Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/philippinewrestling):

    “Thanks to Wrestling Roots for featuring Philippine wrestling! And yes, we believe that “revitalizing traditional wrestling” here could help us get closer to our Olympic dream. And that we can gather select young practitioners of our traditional wrestling forms who could transfer their skills and sportive passion to Olympic-style wrestling. But our traditional wrestling forms should be robustly sustain their practice, and it’s good that they remain popular during festivities in their respective locales.’

    “An important factor to consider is promoting our traditional wrestling forms further; not only among their local practitioners, supporters and immediate communities, but to a wider audience nationally and internationally. Then, more support — financial and otherwise — would be forthcoming. And more youth from these traditional wrestling hotbeds would be encouraged to participate, who in turn could be potential recruits to Olympic wrestling.’

    “The province of Ifugao, home of “bultong,” boasts of the internationally-renowned Banaue Rice Terraces. Antique province of “dumog” is not lacking in scenic beaches. And bultong has been played at the foot of the Banaue Rice Terraces; likewise, dumog has been contested as beach wrestling.’

    “There is a largely untapped sports tourism industry goldmine in Philippine traditional wrestling. So, calling the Department of Tourism, the concerned local government units, and…we in the Wrestling Association of the Philippines. ;)

  • Mark Lovejoy said:

    Thanks so much for your comment Karlo!

    Please keep us updated on the growth of traditional wrestling in the Philippines and as you prepare for Rio, Tokyo, and beyond.

    Warmest regards,

  • Mark Lovejoy said:

    To help with the relief efforts in the Philippines after this weekend’s devastating typhoon, the World Food Programme has created a website to help:


  • Wrestling Equipment said:

    Thank you for these howling words of support. I ne’er wrestled, however each my brothers did and a few of my favorite sports within the athletic contest Ar those I ne’er see on TV: sport, field events, and wrestling. I saw your ribbon winning row (tape-delay is best than ne’er seeing it) and danced around in my lounge. I will see golf or basketball on TV concerning any weekend of the year, however wherever else am i able to see fencing, or discus, or rowing, or wrestling? Well, I will see Harvard-Yale on my native stream, however nothing quite like Olympic-level competition.

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