Every Tuesday and Friday on a grassy lot behind the University of the Philippines’ (UP) Albert Hall in Diliman, Quezon City, enthusiasts are shooting arrows at a circular straw target from different distances.
Rather than hitting the bull’s eye and running up points as in competitive archery, they are focused on perfecting the athletic art in terms of breathing, stance, wind reading, finger release and arrow clusters.
Many are archeology professors and students who decided to take up the activity late last year as a hobby.
“I’m more into the art of archery rather than the competition,” said Armand Mijares, 56, who teaches archeology at UP Diliman and is a cofounder of the Pamana (Heritage) Archery Club.
Theirs is different from other archery clubs that are “highly competitive” and usually train for tournaments, he said.
A renewed interest in archery, one of the oldest forms of sport arts, has been observed, especially among young girls in the United States, following the popular series “The Hunger Games” featuring the bow-wielding heroine Katniss Everdeen.
In the Philippines, a number of indoor shooting ranges and archery clubs have emerged in recent years. The sport gave the country its first gold medal and recurve title for the women’s team over top-seed Vietnam in the 31st Southeast Asian Games in Hanoi last May.
Since the Covid-19 lockdown and the boom of e-commerce, what used to be hard-to-find and pricey archery gear has become more accessible to enthusiasts.
But not much is known about the history of archery in the Philippines, said Mijares, whose field of study is early human migration in Southeast Asia. The earliest record of archery was traced to the Aeta and Agta indigenous peoples, who used the bow and arrow for hunting.
Even then, “we don’t know when [it] started. There are limited studies on archery,” Mijares said.
The Aeta, much like American Indians, use the pinch draw, or the technique of squeezing the end of the arrow with the fingers to hit the target at a close distance of 10 meters.
Other techniques are the Chinese thumb release or the more common Mediterranean, which uses three fingers in pulling the string. Mijares said the three-finger draw is also known as the “Robin Hood style.”
Mijares is also studying hunting-gathering activities during the late Pleistocene and early Holocene periods, and is confident that his interest in archery can help him “understand [the then prevailing] lifestyle.”
When CoverStory recently visited Pamana’s shooting range—which also serves as grazing area for a tethered ewe and her young though they are not game targets—Mijares showed a collection of recurve bows of varying lengths and weights.
May-i Guia Padilla, 41, another Pamana member, said some of them joined the group with little formal training in archery. But they continue to work on a perfect form—the proper stance, grip, and release of arrows—as they move farther from the target from six m to 15-20 m and adjust arrow trajectory.
“I’ve always liked archery. There’s something cool about the sport,” said Padilla, a digital technology expert and film professor at the UP Film Institute. His wife, Ara, is also a Pamana member and works at the UP archaeological studies program.
Bert Madrigal, a national coach and Pamana member working in UP Diliman’s College of Human Kinetics, is helping develop the club’s repertoire of archery skills.
The association also plans to install moving targets.
“It feels good to hit the [target’s] center, but not necessarily [for us], “ Mijares said. “We are after perfecting the form. Once you get the form, you have to practice and hone the skill,” he said.