WAKE up the neighborhood and spread the word: pole dancing is now a nationally-recognized sport.
Movie-TV star Ciara Sotto and friends couldn't be happier.
The Philippine Pole and Aerial Sports Association (PPASA), which she co-founded with good friend Ayjell Acejas, is now officially recognized by the Philippine Olympic Committee (POC) as the country's newest national sports association.
PPASA is also recognized by the International Pole Sports Federation (IPSF).
Now, Sotto is taking the next big step: bring pole and aerial sports closer to the people.
“It's done. Pole dancing and other aerial sports, also known as PPASA, is now recognized by the POC," said Sotto during the 7th "Usapang Sports on Air" by the Tabloids Organization in Philippine Sports ( TOPS) via Zoom last Thursday.
“It is truly a great blessing from God that the POC is finally recognizing us," added Sotto during the weekly public service program sponsored by the Philippine Sports Commission (PSC) and Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (PAGCOR).
“Now, we want to reach out and bring the sport closer to the people. It is not just another recreational activity but a legitimate sport where Filipinos can excel.
Sotto, the 40-year-old daughter of former national bowling champion and now Senate President Tito Sotto and actress Helen Gamboa, compared pole dancing to gymnastics where Caloy Yulo is a world champion.
“Ever since I watched pole competitions abroad, I felt the urge to promote it as a sport since I believe the Filipinos can excel in it even in the international stage," explained Sotto, who learned the sport during one of her visits to Las Vegas in 2009.
"It is slightly similar to gymnastics with a touch of circus with some acrobatic stunts.In gymnastics, the athlete performs physical exercises based on balance, strength, flexibility, agility and endurance. It's almost the same in pole dancing and aerial sports," said Sotto, who even promoted the sport in one of her appearances in the popular noontime show Eat Bulaga where she was a mainstay from 2005-2012.
She admitted her parents were initially hesitant to allow her to pursue pole dancing because it is a difficult sport, but later allowed her to pursue it.
"My Dad was very helpful, even asking his lawyer-friends to help us when we applied for recognition to the POC," recalled Sotto.
The POC granted the recognition to the PPASA last Aug. 10 or two years after it was established.
The PPASA hopes the POC recognition would open the doors for the association to represent the country in the Olympics, Asian Games, Southeast Asian Games and other multi-event competitions.
“We also encourage persons with disabilities to join since there are events in international pole dancing tournaments allotted for them."
Acejas, who was also present during the two-hour session shown live on Facebook and YouTube, said the PPASA is now reaching out to other similar groups to put up a united front and encourage more people to try the sport.
“The pole and aerial sports community is still growing. Right now, there are about 15-20 pole studios in the Philippine alone. Sa Metro Manila, pinaka-madami. We also have studios in Cebu, Davao and even Boracay. We’re still trying to tap other areas, but most of our programs will now be after the pandemic,” said Acejas.
Acejas said the PPASA is also looking at the possibility of working with the Department of Education (DepEd) and local government units to promote the sport among the youth.
“We really want to spread awareness about our sports. Kung papayagan nila (DepEd) na maging part ito ng PE classes, it’s OK. We want to train young athletes. We haven’t talked to them, but we’re really looking into the possibility."
“Pole dancing could also be a part of physical education. It improves brain coordination, strengthens the body and reduces stress and anxiety. It is good for the health,” added Acejas, who teaches pole dancing to kids as young as five years old.
“It’s better to start them (children) early habang malambot pa ang mga buto. Nakasusunod naman sila sa mga instructions.”
Both Sotto and Acejas said proper guidance and supervision by experts are needed before beginners can try the sport at home.
“Right now, we’re doing zoom classes online for intermdiate students because of the pandemic. It’s a dangerous sport, so we’re very careful in conducting online pole dancing classes. I would not recomment for beginners to try it out alone, na walang teachers,” explained Sotto.
Asked about the availability of equipment for use of pole dancers, Acejas said they are now looking for partners which can manufacture locally-produced and cheaper stainless steel poles that are at par with the international standards of 42.5 to 45 mm diameter.
“Right now, the ones we use come from China and the United States. That’s why it’s a bit expensive. We’re talking to people who can provide us with safe and not expensive apparatus for our members who can’t afford imported products,” explained Acejas.