Sipa is the National Sport of the Philippines. It usually involves two players attempting to keep a small ball, a metal washer, or a cluster of rubber bands in the air by kicking, effectively juggling with their feet.
Sipa is the Filipino word for “kick”, which illustrates the manner in which the game is played.
The Ball or Pató
Similar to Sepak Takraw, Sipa originally uses a rattan ball. The spherical-shaped ball or pató is made of woven strips of rattan of about 2 to 3 millimeters thick. The strips are woven in such a manner that holes are placed symmetrically around the ball. The entire ball has a diameter of 9 to 10 centimeters and only weighs around 200 grams so that it can lightly bounce like a tennis ball. This sipa ball is commonly used in more formal sipa tournaments
Other variations of the sipa ball includes that made of tingga or washer – a thin round metal with a small hole at the middle used to secure roof nails. Placed in its hole are strands of packaging straw, or colorful threads, which direct the sipa to fall with its flat-side first. The straws also help the motion of the washer while still in mid-air. This type, on the other hand, is often used in sipa game played in streets.
The objective of the game is to kick the sipa ball as many times as the player can without it falling on the ground. The player needs to kick the ball in such a manner that it will be difficult for the opponent to return the ball, or in a way in which the opponent will have a high probability of committing errors. The last kick requires a certain height, that is, up in the air, above the head of other participants and the “it.”
Before the game starts, the players decide the turns of the game through manuhán. The two opposing players (may also be the team leader of a group of two or four players) toss coins – whoever gets tail plays first (may vary depending on the preference of the players). Aside from toss-coin, players also use jack-en-poy (rock-paper-scissors) to decide the turns of the game.
The players stand approximately 8 to 9 meters apart. The “it” throws the ball to the player who receives it with his foot and kicks it back to the opponent. The game goes on with the players fancily kicks the ball to make it harder for their opponent to receive and return it. The rule of the game is to keep the ball in the air only through kicking – no body parts other than the legs must touch the ball.
Points are counted against a player or team. If one commits an error, the point is on him and serves as a demerit. The player or team who accumulated 11, 15 or 21 points (as agreed upon) losses.
There is a simpler set of rules for the game meant for street play. The way of determining the “it” of the game is by counting, meaning, each players is to kick the sipa as many times as he can. Whoever gets the lowest count is the “it”. Being the “it” means he needs to catch the sipa upon the last kick of the player, and kick it as many times as desired by the previous player to save him from being the it all throughout the game.
The “it” throws the sipa to the first player, who then starts kicking it until the count reaches the agreed number. He then kicks it as hard as he can, and as high as possible, while the “it” tries to save the sipa from dropping to the ground. The “it”, who now holds the sipa has to kick it as many times as told by the previous player. If the count is reached and the next player was not able to catch the sipa, the latter will then be the “it.” Unlike in the traditional version, this more popular version of sipa allows the use of palm, elbow and knee so long as the sipa does not hit the ground.
Scoring in this version is different from that using rattan. Here, the error committed by a player or a team is equivalent to a point or so to the opposing player or team. The player or team with the highest score wins.
- Bilangan – is a version of the game played by points. A 15-meter by 9-meter rectangular court is drawn on the ground. Each short sides is divided to four equal parts, and both length sides are given a half-meter allowance for “neutral zones. This version uses rattan ball and the objective is similar to version one except in the manner of scoring. A team acquires a point when it has made two consecutive “good balls” (when a ball is received and returned by a player to another player of the opposing team). Composed of two teams having four male players each, four other people are needed in the game to serve as: referee (who will decide if a kick is a good or dead ball, and shall enforce the rules of the game); scorer (who will tally the points and errors made); and two linesmen (who shall monitor if the ball touches the line).
- Lambatan – is a version similar to Bilangan except that the court does not necessarily need to be divided into four equal parts at both short ends and a net is stretched at the middle of it. The “captain-ball” stands 7 meters from the net and his teammates scatter themselves in their territory on one side of the net. The objective is the same but players have to kick the ball as hard as they can for it to pass above the net. One is considered a “good ball” if: the ball is passed over the net and fell on the opponent's court; a net ball is kicked by the other team; the ball fell within the line; and a ball misplaced by the other team.
- Mudansa – is more of an exhibition game than a competition. Skilled sipa players exhibit fancy tricks and styles in kicking the ball. Usually, a mudansa game is played after a sipa game is over where the best and skilled players of the team entertain the crowd with their unique and amazing kicking styles.
- Lopez, Mellie Leandicho. A Study of Philippine Games. University of the Philippines Press: Quezon City, 2001.