Locals filled up Clearspring Middle School’s blue and yellow bleachers for South East Manitoba Filipino Association Basketball’s new seasons opening ceremony. SEMFA is a non-profit organization that welcomes immigrants from the Philippines into the city of Steinbach. Their goal is to be able to create unity and community between Filipino-Canadians who have decided to live in the area.
“There’s a lot of fellowship and friendship amongst each other and it makes them really feel like they’re a part of the community,” said Kelvin Goertzen, the Minister of Education for the province of Manitoba.
The ceremony kicked off with live music from a local band, team introductions, and sponsor appreciation. In past years, the league only had a veterans' division. But with the program rapidly growing, this year SEMFA added two new divisions: a junior division for kids aged 14 and under and a seniors’ division for players ages 15 to 34. Around 200 players are involved in the league this year.
Six games were lined up for a chilly but sunny Saturday afternoon. The veterans’ division started off the games, putting on a show for those in attendance. Funk’s Toyota and Century 21 played a tight game with Toyota taking the win by one. They kept everyone on the edge of their seats. The junior division provided more excitement. Watching kids heave the ball from deep and block each other’s shots got the crowd jumping and excited. Even in the intense atmosphere, laughter and fist bumps were shared on the court.
Older kids from the junior division took on a leadership role, helping out their coaches and setting an example for the younger kids.
“My role as being one of the more experienced juniors in the league is to welcome, guide, and teach the newer kids into the basketball environment,” said 14-year old Rovic Duaqui, who has been playing basketball since he was eight years old.
On the day of the opening ceremony, ticket draws were held for raffle prizes. All proceeds were donated to Bethesda Regional Health Centre’s Cancer Care Program. The Cancer Care Program was chosen because the Filipino community has lost some memorable people who made an impact to cancer. A total of $800 was raised.
Non-perishable items were also donated to the local food bank, South East Helping Hands, in efforts to give back to the community.
“I appreciate everything about the league, the laughs, the competition, the players,” said Duaqui. “Everyone knows each other and it’s crazy because on the court it’s a battle, but off the court it’s all love. That’s what makes it really different.”
Photo credit: Jawien Altre and SEMFA Basketball