A few weeks ago, I found myself at the fencing hall at the PhilSports Complex (more commonly known as the ULTRA) with some of my teammates from Ateneo’s fencing team. Every month, lots of different people meet up at the fencing hall to compete with one another in an open tournament, the results of which would be the basis for updating the record of rankings. While it was not my first time to be with the team at ULTRA, it was my first time to actually participate in the event.
Almost everyone at the venue was a participant. There were a few exceptions here and there, including, but not limited to, family members, team coaches and officials who presided over the matches. One thing I noticed is the fact that it was normally the independent fencers who had family members with them. Those who were part of a team didn’t usually have family members there to watch them, save perhaps to drop them off and pick them up. To me, this is a sign that shows the importance of support (such as moral support) in a person’s psychology. I personally believe that knowing someone is rooting for you can drastically boost your confidence, which effectively boosts your performance. Not only that, being able to talk to someone about what happened seems to be an effective release of stress and provides a better avenue for learning. Those who were part of teams already had a source of this support in the form of their teammates and coaches, so it wasn’t a necessity to have family come over to the event. Those who didn’t have teammates asked perhaps family or friends to be their fallback.
If you walked into the fencing hall in the middle of the event, the first thing you’d notice is the “marked territory”. Though it isn’t really officially required, different teams from different schools tend to congregate at their usual spots and seem immiscible with the other schools. You’d find Ateneo’s team by the door, La Salle’s team on the same half of the hall, but on the other side of the door, FEU’s team by one of the corners, UE’s team on one of the longer walls, UST’s team on the other side of the hall and so on. Some people interact with their friends from other schools once in a while, but that’s about it. When it comes down to it, every group is like a single, unbreakable block. Even in the sports arena, cliquish ideals are still prominent, just like how some of us students tend to stick with our blockmates, or some other group of friends, rather than mingle around.
We were asked to write our names down on the sign-up sheets before the tournament began. Many people asked their friends to write their names down on their behalf despite the fact that they themselves were right beside said friend, next in line to write their names down. This caused some confusion because some of the names were entered twice or even thrice. This is actually something I see every time I see a sign-up sheet. That “pakisulat naman yung pangalan ko” mentality that most of us have. Whenever we get the chance, we ask other people to do simple things that we ourselves could have just as easily done. This just shows how much importance we people give to convenience and to what I would like to call “pseudo-convenience”. Does it really save you that much energy to wait an extra 5 seconds before writing your own name down? No, not really. But in the time and age where lines are scorned and waiting is viewed with contempt, people will take any shortcut they can get, even if that means “taking advantage” of others when we can. By “saving” 5 seconds of our life, we technically spend someone else’s 5 seconds and add the risk some chaos we could have avoided if each of us just wrote our own names down.
Despite being relatively new, I could already tell who the big shots were. It seemed to me that everyone already had a list of people who were sure to qualify and that the first round of eliminations, if not for its effect on ladder placement, was just a formality. These experienced veterans commanded respect and even fear, especially for the first timers. You see, newbies like me were fresh meat for the other, more advanced players to feast on. As we got segregated into pools, there was a general atmosphere of “sizing up the competition”. I felt like everyone was making a list of people they would most likely beat, people who they’d probably struggle against and people who will absolutely floor them. Usually the newcomers, like myself, are added to the first list. It really creates a very tense atmosphere, especially when one doesn’t live up to one’s own expectations. For example, fencers who lost when they felt absolutely sure that they’d beat their opponent tend to feel frustrated with themselves. (I think the Filipino word gigil best describes what came over them.) Reactions like “Ha?! Natalo ni _____ si _____?” were quite common. In a way, I can say that even in the sports arena, there is a hierarchy. A hierarchy that is self-made by every player and is used as a gauge for oneself and others. I feel like there is concept of equality here as well. Sure, they may be players who seem at par with one another, but some way or another one person eventually gets the edge, wins and moves up in the hierarchy.
Basically, what I saw back there wasn’t much different from what we see everyday. Sure, the fencers have swords and masks and all that, but what happens in the fencing hall still is a mirror of our society. Heck, I could’ve gone to an org-sponsored quiz bee at Escaler Hall and seen the same thing.
Tim Racho 113223