I’m always wandering around. My go-to answer to the question asa man ka? (where are you going?) is nisuroy-suroy lang ko (I’m just wandering around). Almost two months ago I was exploring Biliran’s Capital, Naval, and came across the large field next to Naval State University. I peaked my head in after some negotiating with the security guards (as in America I am still constantly getting kicked out of places that seem like people should be allowed in) and spotted a group with a frisbee. They were booted up and some were wearing matching uniforms. An ultimate team? within 10km of my site placement? OH MY GULAY! The next day was Sunday and once again I hopped upon my trusty (rusty) bike and made the trip to Naval. Scouting trip # 2 went smoothly, though I once again had to negotiate with the security guard. I think they are just surprised that I try and speak Cebuano. Result…the players were at it again! After a bit of self-conscious hovering I asked the them if they played every weekend and if anyone could show up to play. Yes and yes. Starting the following week, Saturday and Sunday afternoons became time for practice with the Ambush.
I think at first they were unsure about me (the first day I wore running shoes and cargo shorts) but eventually they seemed happy enough to field another player. After a couple of practices I started getting questions about whether or not I could join their upcoming tournament. Fast forward a handful of weeks and most of the Ambush, myself included, are stuffed inside a Grand Tours bus at 4am on the way to Tacloban to play in Sunday Ultimate Til Sundown 4. After a quick breakfast trip to McDonalds (I had a breakfast sandwich that was placed between two pancakes…um, I just wanted to see what it was all about), we headed to the “granstand” near Eastern Visaya State University and Leyte Normal University. The grandstand has obviously seen some typhoons, much like the rest of Tacloban. The bowl-stadium in Tacloban keeps its charm despite a dramatically damaged roof and dilapidated appearance. I liked it. Teams from Maasin (Southern Leyte), Cebu, Eastern Samar, Ormoc, and Tacloban were all there, 15 teams for the two-day tournament. A lot of the teams stayed in the science wing of Leyte Normal University, and from my perspective the organization and space allotted for teams at the university was great. Kudos!
It’s actually been quite a while since I played ultimate consistently, probably since my 2nd or 3rd year of undergrad which is about five or six years ago at this point. I may have lost a step or two, my feet might not be as quick, and I am pretty sure my knees acknowledge that they’ve been through 7 or 8 ultramarathons already, but I still like to go deep for discs and I’m not afraid of working to get back for defense. We play with two or three women at a time (the women on our team kick butt!) and we rock the most colorful and busy cartoon-doodle shirts possible. Personally, I’m still getting used to looking over only to see our handler flick his eyes down the field or give a slight nod in that universal expression that we all learned from somewhere that means “go deep”.
A hear a lot of “huck Dov!” and though I missed some here and there, I think I’ve found a little spot on the Ambush as being the team’s retriever. The nickname “huck puppy” for some reason came to me while going deep on the first day of the tournament, but I dare not share this with anyone…there are better nicknames, like Kuya Bear, that I’d rather encourage.
For me the takeaways are plentiful, as they always seem to be in this beautiful country. Like with so many activities here, I was the only non-Filipino (as far as I could tell), which makes blending in difficult. It also creates a lot of opportunities to meet people and make friends.
Below, I’ve listed a handful of these thoughts/takeaways because I am very fond of lists. When you are learning and absorbing so much all the time, it feels important to visually see things written out.
- Filipinos really really like dancing. Also, I may have been in a dance-off surrounded by a big circle and I may have chosen to shimmy. Like I said, opportunities arise to make friends.
- After throwing discs for the last ten years, my first time participating in organized ultimate was at a tournament in the Philippines during Peace Corps…very strange.
- I need to bring a hat on trips. Always.
- Sometimes your items die here…see photo.
- The ultimate scene is alive and well here in the Eastern Visayas.
- The Biliran Ambush are quite a cool group of individuals, and as a team they (we?) have the potential to get good and show that little island provinces can rock the boat a bit.
I’m absolutely thrilled to have been accepted as a player by the Ambush and as a friend by the folks that show up every weekend. It’s good to flick passes and run after discs again, and it’s even better to make the kind of friends that are willing to dive through the mud during rainstorms.
here’s to more of all of it this year,