In 1979, the president of Dive Asia, a dive shop in Manila, read an article about underwater hockey in a World Underwater Federation (CMAS) magazine. She wrote for some information, and received a copy of the rules along with some diagrams and pictures of the equipment. The first game was held in 1980 in the shop’s pool. It found some die-hards in a dive club at the University of the Philippines, known as the U.P. Divers. Games were held in all sorts of pools, regardless of the uneven depth, or shape. The sometime lack of equipment did not impede their enjoyment of the sport, and rubber flip flops, a tin can and some divers’ weight belts took the place of hockey sticks, the puck and a couple of goals.
The players were fortunate enough to find a regular venue at a local sports club. The Quezon City Sports Club swimming pool would be occupied by underwater hockey players every Tuesday night from 1984 to 1997, mainly because the university students did not have any classes scheduled on Wednesdays. Another dive shop, Aquaventure Phil., helped out with some equipment. In 1990, the players finally incorporated and the Philippine Underwater Hockey Club was born. Since then it has evolved into the country’s National Sports Association for underwater hockey and is now known as the Philippine Underwater Hockey Confederation. It is fully recognized by the Philippine Sports Commission.
Awareness of the sport increased as the media picked up on its existence. Playing times expanded to 2-3 sessions a week. The PUHC held tournaments, exhibits, clinics, seminars and demonstrations in several schools, as well as in various trade and sports shows. Exposure was not limited to Metro Manila, as slowly the sport was introduced in other provinces.
Games were played in places like Cebu and Quezon. In October 1998, the first PUHC Affiliate was recognized. The Bacolod Underwater Hockey Team was inducted into the PUHC, just prior to the holding of the first Philippine National Championships in Underwater Hockey. The Angeles City Underwater Hockey Association was organized in September 1999. And the first game of the Davao Underwater Hockey Club was held in November 2002. After almost a decade (2010), hockey clubs were finally formed. These are the Polo Puck Pirates (3P), Underwater Hockey Bootcamp (UBC), and Citadel Underwater Hockey Club (CUHC). And in 2014, the youngest club, Puerto Princesa Proud Peacocks (4P).
Enthusiasm for underwater hockey inevitably brought the PUHC to a point where it entered into international competition for the first time in 1995, at the Pacific Coast Championships in Vancouver, Canada. There, the Filipinos were honored with the Carl Judd Sportsmanship Award. Instead of being discouraged with not having been able to win any games against the more formidable North Americans, this initial Philippine contingent of 22 players was successful in its primary aim of quickly picking up the skills, knowledge and equipment required to compete on an international level. In point of fact, the Philippines returned the following year to have its Mixed Division entry streak to a remarkable Fourth Place finish amidst a dozen other teams at the 1996 PCCs in Fremont, California. And as if to prove it was no fluke, the 1997 PCCs in Hawaii resulted in the Philippine Mixed Team advancing yet to Second Place, thus far the only team to come out of Asia.
But the players have for many years held this dream of participating in the World Championships — the ‘Olympics’ of underwater hockey. In June of 1998, to coincide with the exact date by which the Philippines celebrated its centennial, the dream came true. In spite of being undermanned, the Men’s and Women’s Teams excitedly shared the pool with the best of the best from 14 countries all over the globe. The Philippine Men’s Team came out ahead of all the newly participating men’s teams, and the Philippine Women’s Team was distinguished with the inaugural Fair Play Award and given a standing ovation for being the cleanest players on record.
The PUHC has since then participated in the 2000 PCCs, bringing along a second Mixed Team composed of new blood – the latest addition to their roster of players – for their own initiation into the multinational underwater hockey arena. In this event, they were the recipients of the Carl Judd Sportsmanship Award. During other years, some Filipino players individually joined the PCCs as part of a team composed of other players from different countries. One of them has even gained recognition on two occasions. Alex Colet, considered the PUHC’s best player, has already won 2 gold medals: the first as a member of the team that won first place in the Elite Division in 1999, and the second as part of the team that topped the Open Elite Division in 2002.
The Philippine Underwater Hockey Confederation continues to try and raise the level of the sport in the country. And with the growing underwater hockey fanatics in the country, the PUHC has again been able to send representatives to the Asian Championships, 2004 World Championship in New Zealand, and 2013 World Championship in Hungary.
The PUHC has also been a member of the Confédération Mondiale des Activités Subaquatiques (World Underwater Federation) for several years now. It welcomes communication with its Asian neighbors, offers assistance in popularizing underwater hockey in their countries, and in exploring the possibility of regional tournaments. Hopefully someday anyone can find a game almost anywhere nationwide, as well as anywhere in Asia.