ST. PAUL – Cross-cultural communication is an important aspect to the Filipinos living in St. Paul to interact with the local community. The St. Paul Filipino Community Sports League brought to Canada a format of community sports league prominent in the Philippines, and organizers are encouraging and inviting the local communities to engage with their passion for sports.
Alex Mari and Freddy Amigo, who are among the organizers of the St. Paul Filipino Community Sports League, said that cross-cultural exchange and interaction is important to the Filipinos living in Canada.
“It’s very important because for us, as immigrants in Canada, we need to see ourselves as part of the community,” said Mari. “And at the same time, we have our responsibility to interact with (non-Filipinos) as well.”
“We need to be able to communicate and show our culture and also to adapt the cultures we have here in Canada,” Mari added, explaining how the Filipinos in the community wish to showcase their love for sports and how they do it. “We also have to adapt how other cultures do their sports, right?”
In the Philippines, most barangays have their own community sports leagues. Barangays are the smallest administrative division in the country, and there are multiple barangays in a city or municipality.
Similarly, in addition to other local government units, there are multiple cities within a province. Likewise, the Philippines is divided into multiple regions composed of provinces.
Basketball is among the most popular sports in the Philippines, and most cities have their own community basketball leagues. Each barangay within a city has their own teams that compete for local tournaments like a Mayor’s Cup, according to Mari.
Despite the barangay leagues being separate from professional leagues, Mari said each game is almost always packed with supporters and spectators.
Formation of the St. Paul Filipino Community Sports League
In August 2021, the St. Paul Filipino Community Sports League was founded by Jheng Mari, who is Alex Mari’s wife. The league follows a similar format to barangay leagues.
However, according to Alex, rather than barangays, Filipinos living in St. Paul formed their own teams based on where they work.
The first season of the league then had teams composed of Filipinos who worked in workplaces that include Burger Baron, A&W, or KFC. There was also a team that was formed based on where they lived back in the Philippines like the Northern Group team.
According to Alex, the first season of the league, which ran for a couple of months, was made simply to have fun and for Filipinos living in St. Paul to socialize with each other. He said that while the first season was met with many challenges, it wrapped up with success.
Some of those challenges included budgets and finding venues to play sports, especially due to the unpredictable weather conditions in Canada. They are also now working on registering the organization as a non-profit.
Due to the success of the first season and the interest it garnered, the community sports league’s second season expanded in 2022. The league expanded to having teams that had players who were non-Filipinos, including a basketball team with two players from the Saddle Lake Cree Nation, for example.
The second season ran from May 22 to July 3, and included basketball, volleyball, and badminton.
According to organizers, both the first and second season received support from the local community, which included Racette Junior High School and a number of local businesses.
Amigo said a local trucking company, CRJ Trucking, sponsored their own basketball team for the second season. That team also both included Filipino and non-Filipino players. “Actually, their supervisors and the boss also joined,” added Amigo with a cheerful laugh.
The second season recently concluded with success. The league featured approximately 300 attendees made up of both spectators and players of all ages. The St. Paul Filipino Community Sports League said it is looking forward to a third season, and they are encouraging more of the local community to join.
Organizers are also looking forward to finding the best players to represent St. Paul in a provincial Filipino basketball tournament hosted by Jekasa International, a sporting apparel manufacturer. The league said the Filipino community sports leagues across the province will attend.