Victoria Higgins caught up with the Philippines Women’s team, who are attending their first Worlds, as part of the effort to get to know the new teams here in London. She took a close look at what this seminal tournament means for the Filipino women (the Binibinis), who debut in St. Albans as the 20th seed of 26 teams.
There has been much hype and hubbub over the introduction of the Indian Women’s team to the international theatre, but they are not the only Women’s team that is making their first appearance at the World Ultimate and Guts Championship this year. The exponential growth of women’s Ultimate in recent years has also paved the road to the biggest stage in Ultimate for the Philippines, Hong Kong, Spain, Belgium and South Africa.
In their first game on Sunday, they fell to Italy 15 – 9 after a scrappy match filled with clever flick breaks snuck through a much taller Italian cup and several unfortunate drops in or near the endzone. Although the Italian Women managed to extend their lead by capitalising on execution errors on the part of the Filipino women, the Binibinis may have been the superior team strategically.
Facing a loose zone defence, they were able to find space by patiently moving the disc to more profitable field positions and working it down the break side. On defence, they forced turns by setting a tight four-person cup and compelling the Italian handlers to loft throws that the small but mighty Princess Trinidad (#1) often snatched from the clutches of taller players. Yet with dominant teams like Colombia, Australia, and Russia towering above them in pool D and following a layout-induced left pinky finger dislocation for Scandal’s Kristin Franke (#8), they have an ever harder path ahead.
But make no mistake; the Binibinis are not just here to be here. They are here to compete. “I’m not promising anyone or our nation that we’re going to come home with a medal, but hopefully if we do things right—what we practiced and trained for—we can win some points and perhaps some games as well,” captain Nina Buenaflor (#9) said. And they have certainly put in the hours, practising once a week since February and then twice a week starting in May. For many of the players, that commitment was on top of twice weekly practices for their Mixed club teams, which is the division that receives the most focus in the Philippines.
Indeed, much of what motivated the Binibinis to gather and fund a trip to Worlds was their desire to carve out a space for Filipino women’s Ultimate, both on an international and a domestic level. “Let’s face it: it is easier to give the disc to men because they are bigger and faster. If we just keep playing Mixed, it will be harder for women to develop their own space,” Buenaflor admits. With a fire in their bellies, the Filipino women tracked down multiple sponsors and elicited financial support from the Ultimate community in the Philippines. “Every time you go out onto the field,” Buenaflor reminds her players, “you are playing for everyone back home. You are doing something bigger than yourselves.”
So in the days to come, listen for cries of “Laban Binibinis!” on the sidelines and look for Filipino bodies in the air and on the ground. The clever and quick Binibinis have come to Worlds to fight—for themselves, for their country, and for the future of women’s Ultimate.