The 38th Annual Friendship Games will kick off on Oct. 14 at California State University, Fullerton.
According to their website, the Friendship Games is the “largest student-run Pilipinx American event in the nation.” This year the games will feature 34 organizations from college campuses throughout California, with over 2,600 people expected to participate in the games. They will play five different field relay races, such as the Alpine Green, which is a relay race with eight people on two sets of wooden skis.
There will also be performances, such as traditional Filipinx dances, with a fusion of both modern and traditional dance styles throughout.
During the events, schools will compete for who has the most Spirit, Pride, Unity, and Friendship (SPUF).
The Friendship Games website states, “[SPUF] is a form of celebration derived from many indigenous tribes that are a part of the Philippines. Such tribes would use chant-like expressions to communicate with one another.”
Along with the chants of SPUF, there is a traditional gift exchange that takes place among attendees “so that they can share their spirit, pride, unity, and friendship with everyone.”
Among the thousands of participants will be 92 members of USF’s Filipinix American student organization, Kasamahan.
SPUF is one of the key group components of the Friendship Games, and is made up of customized skits, and songs.
Janelle Olano, a sophomore nursing major, is making her second appearance at the Friendship Games this year. “[SPUF] is what typically we would consider to be like the four main overarching pillars of Friendship Games,” she said.
“I think Filipino culture is so special and so community driven, and I think SPUF definitely reflects that…I truly felt that energy on the field that first time last year. It was such a unique experience, such a high energy experience, just getting to swap it out with all the other schools. And you really do feel so connected even though you’ve never met these schools. You’ve never met most of these people,” Olano said.
For sophomore nursing major Francie Paguirigan, this will be her first trip to the Friendship Games. She said she has found inspiration in “SPUF-ing.”
“I didn’t know what SPUF was. I didn’t know that it had a meaning,” said Paguirigan. “I didn’t know [what it stood for] until recently, like very recently… It’s so nice to see everyone chanting along with each other and they seem so happy. Like, I wanted to be them and I am one of them. And so it just feels really nice just to see everyone in unity.”
The act of SPUF-ing is led by a group of people called “SPUF Masters,” who create and organize the variety of chants that are a part of SPUF.
Malia Cruz, one of Kasamahan’s four SPUF Masters, said, “The significance [SPUF] holds is like having that competitive component, but also reminding each other it’s all friendly. We’re all part of the same community. We’re doing this for fun.”
“Being in an environment of 2,600 people is a lot,” Cruz, who is a senior nursing major, said.“I [went] to Friendship Games last year. And it was difficult in the sense of having to keep up the energy for so many hours, right? But that’s also a good thing. And Friendship Games is like you’re leaning on one another.”
Kasamahan has the saying “Isang Bagsak,” which means “If one falls, we all fall.” This chant has been a point of reference for channeling the energy for SPUF-ing.
Junior environmental science major Jennavie Villatuya said, “There is a sense, especially with SPUF, that a lot of people in Kasamahan and just in general feel like they don’t really have a voice — but when everyone’s next to you, everyone’s hyped, everyone’s cheering with you, your voice gets louder, we do so much better in unity than we do apart.”
This year, Kasamahan will be producing a four-part docuseries detailing the road to the Friendship Games. The docuseries will dive into the history of the games, Kasamahan’s preparation to compete, and a special episode on the “magic of SPUF.”
Timothy Basa is a junior nursing major and the historian for Kasamahan. Basa is the creator of the docuseries and looks to document the experience of the Friendship Games for those who can’t attend.
“Originally, I made this docuseries about Friendship Games, because last year when I joined Kasamahan for the first time, Friendship Games was what really made me step out of my comfort zone,” Basa said. “And because of that, I wanted to dedicate a whole series to the event that really made me step out and become who I really am right now.”
All four episodes of the docuseries are available to watch on Kasamahan’s Instagram. They will be looking to win the games and get the illustrious eight-foot-tall Friendship Games first place trophy and bring it to the Hilltop.