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The team cheerers

13 February 2017

They are part of the team during celebrations ...

By Emz Frial

.... and during battles.
Many overseas Filipino workers spend their days off in different ways. While many are contented with spending nearly the whole day sitting in the park and chatting with friends, others get their kick from gambling, volunteering for all sorts of community activities, or joining contests including beauty pageants. To each his or her own, so they say.

Far from the madding crowd, there are other OFWs who find enjoyment in watching their fellow Filipinos play competitive softball and/or football, all for the country’s glory.

The games are played in places far away from Central, and often, are also not easily accessible. Despite this, the hardy bunch would persistently gather on the field to cheer on their favorite team, whatever the day, in hot weather or in cold. And like good sports themselves, they would linger long after the games end, win or lose. They are there largely to show support, so if the team loses, they are part of that, too.

Not only do they trade a precious part of their weekly rest day to lend support, they also allot a big part of their spending money on transportation and food that they share with the players and fellow cheerers.

Among them is Olive Frial Pabito, who has been watching the games of her favorite softball team, Fate, regularly for the past four years. She says the games could bring out the best and the worst in a player.

“I love watching softball especially when my team becomes very aggressive, because then they show they have done their best to win,” says Pabito. “You not only get to understand the game, you also learn a lot of lessons and techniques from how the players try to score a win.”

She says another revelation to her is the way players and the people watching around her react to certain situations during a game. Pabito says their reactions show the kind of person that they are, like whether they easily lose their temper, or conversely, they are able to handle sticky situations in a calm manner.

The action on the field also stimulates her.

“I love seeing players being able to dive and come up with ball thrown on the run with pinpoint accuracy, or power slap the ball down the line,” she says, excitement written all over her face.
But there is another reason why she has decided to stay close to the pitch.

“I hate being in a crowded area, so I prefer to stay in the field with the team I really admire,” she says.

“I also chose to watch softball rather than any other game or activity because it energizes me”.
Another regular is Chielo Sale, who likewise never misses a game of Fate.

 “I started watching softball when my partner joined in 2014. I love everything about the game,” Sale says.

Xieng Madino is another familiar face in the circuit. But unlike Pabito and Sale, Madino used to be a Fate player herself. She says she asked to be allowed to rest for at least one season because she didn’t feel she was in a good condition. She says she always had a headache every time she played.
“But I am still part of the team. I love my team, my heart belongs to Fate,” she declares. To show her continuing commitment, Xieng makes it a point to always be around to cheer the team on when they compete.

It is a view echoed by the other regulars, such as Cherry Faustino, Maria Gracia, Yani Yang, MJ Japitana, Lala, Abby, Marivic Sitchon and many others, including this writer.

We are all avid supporters of both the Fate and Sluggers, another all-Filipina team that is a regular competitor in the annual Hong Kong Women’s Baseball tournament.

We find it great that we could inspire the players to do their best to win in every game. It is gratifying to see them become energized when they see people shouting and cheering for them.

For many of us who have been on the circuit for years, Sundays would be incomplete if we failed to watch a game. In fact, we go even when the players are just practicing for a game.

There is a sense of fulfillment in watching the team play, more so if they win.

The easy camaraderie that has been formed from watching the games has developed into a sort of kinship that we now regard each other as members of our Hong Kong family.

This unofficial cheering squad troops to the different playing fields of Kowloon about twice a month during the playing season. Sometimes, Fate would play in the morning, and after taking a lunch break, the entire team of players and supporters would move on to where Sluggers is playing to watch and cheer them on.

The playing season runs from October to July for both sports, although if there had been cancellations because of bad weather, the games are extended to September.

But even when there are no games, the group tends to stick together. Sometimes, they would go to the beach to swim, eat and party; at other times, they go for a hike up the mountains. At other times, they simply hang out together.

Sport watching is what fulfills this group, and for as long as Fate and Sluggers are out there on the field, one can be sure they would always be there with the teams, watching, cheering, and having fun.

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