IN PHOTOS: A look at the Metro Manila skateboard scene

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A skateboarder hops over 11 boards. They call this the long jump and whoever gets the farthest jump gets a prize — a pair of Vans shoes which they all pitch in for. Photo by JILSON TIU

Roaming around Metro Manila, there is always some kind of sport being played, be it basketball, volleyball, or even streetball — despite the lack of pedestrian infrastructures and the dangers of playing on the road.

On the dilapidated Zamora Bridge in Pandacan, Manila, pedestrians jog, walk their dogs and cycle. But one (previously invisible) activity that’s been thriving lately is street skateboarding.

Passing by the bridge, it’s now common to see skateboarders ollieing over gutters and board sliding over rails. There, I met the Pandacan Skate Crew and Santamassacre groups. They skate almost every day after work. Some of them are as young as eight years old and others are in their mid-30s. They bring their own makeshift rails and ramps. The place may be near their alma mater in Pandacan or under the Skyway Stage 3 where all the streets are closed because of the construction.

The skate scene is not only in Pandacan, but also in Taguig, Makati, and Laguna. Most of the people I talked to are new to skating, having met each other during the pandemic and started the sport because school was out. But the solid groups are in Pandacan, as they’ve been skating on the Zamora Bridge even before the pandemic.

Once the bridge renovation is completed, the skate scene and the so-called “pedestrian bridge” will be closed. Despite the demand for more pedestrian-focused infrastructures and leisure spaces like skate parks, the number of spaces are not always accessible.

I became interested in this scene as a long time X Games fan who, growing up, had never seen a Filipino compete in this sport. It’s progressive that skateboarding is now in the Olympics but there is a long way to go, as we need more pedestrian parks and skate parks in the city for this sport to grow here in the country.

A member of one of the groups piles over skateboards for the long jump. Whoever bails (a term skateboarders use when they do not land the jump) must pile his/her board, adding the length of the deck to jump over. Photo by JILSON TIU

A street sign incorporated into a street art piece. This bridge in Pandacan, called Zamora Bridge, is being renovated, prohibiting cars from passing by. The bridge is now being used by pedestrians as a place to exercise and skate. Photo by JILSON TIU

A member of the Pandacan Skate Crew covers his shoes with a glue gun stick, melted by a lighter to fix his shoes before grinding on the makeshift rails. Photo by JILSON TIU

One place in Makati where skaters can skate freely and hangout is in Circuit Skate Park. They pay ₱100 to skate for the whole day. There are very few skate parks in Metro Manila, and most of the time a lot of skaters would rather skate for free on the streets. Photo by JILSON TIU

A skater jumps over a traffic cone. It’s the most common obstacle to jump over and also soft to land on if they bail. Photo by JILSON TIU

An afternoon with skaters in Makati. These kids prefer to skate here in the park, rather than in the streets. It makes sense because it’s safer, and has built-in ramps and obstacles to practice on, compared to the Pandacan Bridge where they make their own ramps. Photo by JILSON TIU

Lazaro, a member of Santamassacre, jumps over two boards in Pandacan, Zamora Bridge. He formed Santamassacre during the pandemic, along with co-skaters he befriended along the road. Photo by JILSON TIU

An anonymous skater poses for a photo, imitating the 2Pac image on his shirt. These boys skate over gutters and bomb the downhill under the new BGC Ortigas Link Bridge between Taguig and Makati, which was previously closed because of construction. The bridge is now open. Photo by JILSON TIU

This group of skaters doesn’t have a name, but say that they started during the pandemic, when they had no classes. Photo by JILSON TIU

A member of a Pandacan Skate Crew hops over a makeshift ramp, covered with political stickers. These ramps were made by their “kuyas” in skate and the founders of the group, who are now in their mid-30s to early 40s. Photo by JILSON TIU

Skater Miguel rests on the floor at Circuit after performing multiple jumps. Photo by JILSON TIU