Pétanque’s rebirth
THE GAME OF MY LIFE - Bill Velasco (The Philippine Star) - August 10, 2019 - 12:00am

There will be 530 events in the upcoming Philippine Southeast Asian Games. Four of them will be in the sport of pétanque: men’s and women’s doubles, and men’s and women’s triples. And unlike in past years, the country has a reasonable shot at medals.

What is pétanque? Pétanque is a French outdoor bowls game, related to similar sports like bocce and lawn balls. First played in Provence it features a small white wooden ball – or jack – at one end of the playing field. The aim is to toss your ball so it lands or rolls as close to the jack as possible. And if an opponent’s ball is in the way, you may knock them out of place with your own.

Unlike those sports, though, it is played on gravel, the ball is metal instead of wood, and you throw the ball underhanded.

In 2011, this writer joined the Philippine pétanque team to the Southeast Asian Games in Indonesia. Almost entirely from Pampanga, the squad was composed of the only seven people who played the game, based at Angeles Country Club. Despite the odds and playing against formidable opponents that included Brunei royalty, the team came within one match of a medal. Since then, the sport has been propagated throughout central Luzon and has been reorganized.

Today, the Philippine Pétanque Clubs Association athletes are currently in full preparation for the SEA Games.

“We plan to participate in overseas training camps and competitions to help our athletes gain enough experience for this biennial event,” says Lulet Gonzales-Tiston, President of Philippine Pétanque Clubs Association. “We are grateful to the Philippine Sports Commission for their full support to our program.”

The Philippine Pétanque Clubs Association is a member of the Federation Internationale de Pétanque et Jeu Provencal (FIPJP) and Asian Boules Sports Confederation (ABSC) and is applying for membership in the Philippine Olympic Committee. For the SEA Games, Philippine Pétanque Clubs Association has full control of the technical organization for the sport under chair Mr. Jeffrey Pagaduan.

The advantages of pétanque for the youth are many. It’s a non-contact sport, develops eye-hand coordination, can be played anywhere (like a parking lot), and only requires the investment of a ball measured to fit the athlete’s hand.

The long-term dream of the late former pétanque leader Rey Pineda was to have the sport played in all schools nationwide. Anybody can play the sport, and learn it fast. As with many bowl games, it takes consistency and concentration, not size and athletic ability.

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