BRIDGE may really be one of the least popular sports among the Filipinos, especially the youth.
But it could also be one of the sports where the Filipinos can truly excel.
Ask Philippine Tournament Bridge Association (PTBA) president Winston Arpon.
“Like in chess and other mind games, Filipinos can excel in the game of bridge. It is not as popular as chess in the Philippines, but it is a trick-taking card game using a standard 52-card deck,” said Arpon during the “Usapang Sports on Air” by the Tabloids Organization in Philippine Sports (TOPS) via Zoom last Jan. 14
“It is played by millions of people around the world — clubs, tournaments and homes — especially by seniors. And now even online,” added Arpon during the weekly public service program sponsored by the Philippine Sports Commission, Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (PAGCOR) and Games and Amusements Board (GAB).
“As everybody knows, bridge is classified as a mind game. The only mind game that is included in the World Championships and the Asian Games is chess. Fortunately, two or three years ago, there was a decision made to include bridge as one of the mind games in the Asian Games and the SEA Games,” claimed Arpon, a former Navy officer at the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP).
Arpon said the Filipinos have already shown their talents in bridge when they ruled the Southeast Asian bridge tournament in Kuala Lumpur two years ago.
Arpon said the expected rise in popularity of bridge, especially among the youth, is greatly helped by the decision of the Philippine Olympic Committee (POC), headed by President Rep. Abraham “Bambol” Tolentino, to recognize the PTBA as a full-time member.
The PTBA is also recognized by the World Bridge Federation, Asia Pacific and other related organizations.
“The PTBA was only an associate member of the POC until last year. We have to spend for everything. We were never a part of the Philippine team under the PSC and POC. We never got incentives from the government,” recalled the Barugo, Leyte-born Arpon.
“But now we’re a regular member thanks to the current President (Bambol Tolentino) and Chairman (Steve Hontiveros). Nakapasok na po kami sa kusina at kung meron mang ibinibigay na mga pagkain, makasama na rin kami.
A Civil Engineering graduate at University of San Carlos, Arpon said the first and most important task for the PTBA is to encourage the youth to play bridge.
“Traditionally, the members of the association are mostly seniors. But the requirement of the game is open for all categories like women and the youth of all ages. Madami kasing kabataan naglaro na ng pusoy dos instead of bridge. The challenge is for us to bring the youth back to the game,” claimed Arpon.
He said the PTBA is hoping to continue its grassroots programs in barangays, similar to the ones they started at the University of the Philippines and other colleges.
“There are differences in opinions whether to start in elementary or high school or college. But bridge is really a fun kind of game rather than a serious one.”
Arpon cited Singapore as a good example.
“In Singapore, the bridge association is run by their young people. The seniors only serve as their tutors and advisers. It’s not an easy thing to do here in our country. But we really need to get the youth involved because they are the future of bridge and it is I think in any sports,” claimed Arpon.
Asked further about the number of bridge practitioners in the country, Arpon admited “the numbers are not very encouraging right now.”
“Unfortunately, it is a small number. There are about 120 passionate members, all seniors. That’s why I always say that the future of bridge rests on the young people. The main idea is to convince them to play the game. We have to make it more competitive, especially now that it is already a sport in the Olympics and the Asian Games.”
Added Arpon: “So far, we have not gotten the response that we thought we should get but I was hoping that a source of inspiration could be that they can now win a medal and earn enough money for their effort for representing the country.”
“But it will take some time. I know most young people go into more physical sports rather than mind games. I served the Navy for 36 years and most of us want physical action.”
“There was a good war movie in the 70s — ‘Bridge Too Far.’ Maybe we should use that as our slogan now. We’re miles away from making bridge a popular sport among Filipinos, but we’re slowly getting there with the help of our friends.”
Arpon was joined in the two-hour session shown on Facebook and YouTube by PBA legend Ramon Fernandez of the Philippine Sports Commission (PSC), sports patron Jeremy Go of Go for Gold and cycling champion Ronnel Hualda. With reports from Gab Ferreras