jai alai in manila

Referee’s decision is final: jai alai in Quezon City

A pelotari during a tournament

A pelotari during a tournament

Jai alai is still being played in the country. In fact, it is not only in Cebu but there is an established amateur group in Metro Manila, specifically in Project 8, Quezon City, home of the Manila Amateur Jai-alai Association (MAJA). Arnaldo also posted about another group in Manila.

Jai alai has always been a part of my childhood in Cebu, in the form of masaio, that illegal numbers game whose winning numbers are derived from this game. Bets are waged everyday and the winners are drawn just a few meters at the back of our house. When I looked for photo stories to do for my ACFJ course, I never hesitated to do this one as it’s now something of a novelty and what was once a very popular game in the 60’s-70’s, more popular with the professional basketball circuit, is now relegated to a small fronton or cancha in Project 8 where enthusiasts and amateurs keep the game alive.

Players preparing before a game.

Players preparing before a game.

It’s really a thrill to watch, what with the pelota zooming very fast while the pelotaris (players) try to catch it with their cesta. The one in Project 8 usually have daily practices and a tournament every December. The players also compete internationally. Last year, there was a visiting Spanish delegation as part of the international playoffs, a jai alai Olympics played by the countries where this is popular: US, Spain, France, Mexico, other Latin American countries and of course, the Philippines. Unfortunately, while we have a good talent pool, one was even drafted in Florida to play there, there is no such government support.

For travelers, the Project 8 fronton is a rather interesting place to go to and watch this once popular sport. If you have the guts to play it, the MAJA members are very happy to oblige.

Estan Cabigas is freelance photographer, blogger and writer based in Makati City, the Philippines. A true blue Cebuano, he makes stunning images and meaningful photo stories. His work has been published in local and international publications including National Geographic Magazine, Geo (Germany), Sunday Times Magazine (London) and other publications.

He is also a peripatetic traveler and has traveled to all 81 Philippines provinces.

I’m open for work, collaborations and inquiries, including hotel, restaurant and site features and reviews.

9 Comments

  1. Erik Lacson
    October 26, 2009 @ 17:05

    Nice story!

  2. The Islander
    October 26, 2009 @ 21:49

    now i missed my father. we used to listen over the radio this jai alai game to determine what is the winning number for the Last 3 (Suertres) bet. that was 8 years ago when he was alive.

  3. Pelota, pelotari, cesta: Jai alai is still alive in Cebu | langyaw
    October 26, 2009 @ 22:06

    […] Today, the fronton in Cebu City is a shadow of its former self. Leaking roofs rusting screens and broken wood flooring is ever present but these never dampen the competitive spirit of the former players and enthusiasts who still meet every week to flung that pelota for an afternoon of camaraderie and fun. Othen than Cebu, there is also the cancha in Quezon City. […]

  4. backpacking philippines
    October 27, 2009 @ 7:30

    nice one, estan!

    where exactly in QC is the fronton? it’s quite near my place 😛

  5. estan
    October 27, 2009 @ 7:52

    jun, sikat jud ni sa mga katigulangan 🙂

    bai, lapit lang to sa Mindanao Avenue. I forgot the street e. Road 20 ata?

    erik, thanx pre 🙂

  6. Lawstude
    November 2, 2009 @ 11:03

    if my memory serves me right, dati pinapakita pa yan sa tv eh pero i guess its popularity waned because of technology.

  7. estan
    November 2, 2009 @ 11:57

    oman, the game was banned by the government since may game fixing daw.

  8. miguel
    February 18, 2010 @ 9:59

    Hello estan I admire your work on jai alai,I live here in the united states where jai alai is popular although here were i live connecticut the jai alai that were here have closed down.I hear that in the phillipines you have an amateur school there.My question is where exactly could i find it because Im planning a vacation there in march and being a jai alai fan for years i would like to visit the court. thanks miguel,,,ingat!

  9. myk
    May 21, 2010 @ 0:53

    sir, pwede po bang makahingi nang contact ng mga taga MAJA? matagal na po kasi akong iteresado maglaro pero hindi lang makahanap ng contacts.
    i would really appreciate it if you could help me out. thanks.

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