Everyone is all too familiar with the quarantine crazes, and they just keep on coming.
After roller-skating made its rounds on TikTok, thousands of Filipinos began to adopt the hobby as well.
The Skatebomb Girls, one of the first roller-skating squads in Metro Manila, is a group of women who skate, dance and learn tricks together, all in colorful outfits. Comprised of eight members—Saku, Shara, Ari, Mica, Polly, Raqs, Ayumi and Steffi—they “roll on the streets of Manila,” showing that it’s never too late to learn something new and have fun with it, especially when your friends are by your side.
The group garnered attention on TikTok and Instagram not only for their skating skills, but also for the bright and bubbly energy they bring wherever they go. In an interview with Lifestyle, the women of Skatebomb talk about their destined friendship, experiences skating in busy Metro Manila, and what the hobby means to them in the pandemic.
Organized ‘roll out’
Though the group seems to be lifelong friends, they met only during lockdown in early 2020. They all joined an online skating Facebook community called Everywhere We Skate PH (EWSPH), which organized a “rollout” for skaters from different cities of Metro Manila. The eight future members of Skatebomb were the only ones who arrived at one of the rollouts, and the rest is history.
Despite their differences in age and background, they have been friends ever since, skating together on weekends, quarantine protocols permitting. “It was ‘meant to be’ talaga,” Saku said.
As their friendship strengthened, so did their collective look. Shara said that because of their shared love for cute clothes, they have outfit themes whenever they skate—one week it may be cow print-patterned shorts and the next, Powerpuff Girls shirts.
For the Skatebomb Girls, roller-skating is not just a sport, but something that is bigger than them. “[What I like most about roller skating] is the sense of belonging,” Steffi shared. “When roller-skating [became popular], I found a sense of motivation. May drive na ako to actually [have] fun and be like a kid again, and a lot of it comes from these girls.”
Ari agreed, saying, “I would have stopped roller skating if I hadn’t met [Skatebomb].”
As work and home life have converged into one space in the lockdown, skating has become a literal breath of fresh air for many. With the helpful and welcoming skating community, particularly in EWSPH, it is no wonder the sport spread like wildfire.
Though skating might look like the perfect hobby in the lockdown, the Skatebomb Girls have encountered some problems behind the scenes. Considering that Metro Manila is car-centered in design, it was expected that some difficulties may arise. Public skate spaces come few and far between in the Philippines. Raqs said that other than uneven roads and safety concerns, their group is often warned by security guards to stay off the bike lane when skating, but are also reprimanded when they skate on the sidewalk. “Kapag hindi standard ’yung [rules], saan kami lulugar?” The members said they do not mind if they are not allowed to skate in some areas, they just want the rules to be consistent. They note that they always make sure to respect the space and those around them.
“We hope that people see us not as a threat, but just [as friends] vibing, skating, looking cute,” said Saku. They hope more spaces that can accommodate skating will open to encourage others to join the sport.
The women have also experienced sexism. People have a perception of the Skatebomb Girls as just pa-cute women, but in reality, they are a fierce group that loves park skating and wants to venture into aggressive skating. “Other male-dominated skating communities believe that rollerskating is just pambabae,” Mica explained.
Breaking the stereotype
Polly said they wanted to break this stereotype. “There’s nothing wrong with being pa-cute, but there’s this stigma that if you look cute, doon ka lang. You can [be] both [cute and a good skater].”
Skatebomb does not tolerate such sexist remarks, especially when they are together. Shara explained that she experiences catcalling when skating, but when they are together as a group, they feel comfortable and confident enough to challenge the cat-caller. “We’re not scared to dress cute because we have each other’s backs.”
In cities built only for automobiles, skaters across the country are now urging cities to accommodate alternative forms of transportation. The Skatebomb Girls hope that as the popularity of skating rises in the Philippines, so does the support and encouragement within the community and from public spaces.
Skatebomb does not only embody the joy of roller skating, but makes a statement of women empowerment just by challenging sexism and skating in the clothes they want to wear. The group also shows that you can still return to your childhood hobbies and have fun, even as an adult.
Though they battle misogynistic remarks and face other barriers, they never fail to cruise the streets in style. What feels most special about the group is how their vibrant friendship and love for skating shine through in their videos.
When asked to describe the Skatebomb Girls, Polly said it best: “We’re not trying to hide [who we are] or be someone else. We’re authentic and we just want to have fun.”