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.
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.