A kid with a slingshot aiming at a bird is just one of the images that come to mind when people talk about the “tirador.” It’s one of those trusty childhood toys Filipino kids played with before they were introduced to matchbox cars and Barbies. Like tumbang preso, materials are free and easily gathered from household items and the nearby tree.
Unfortunately, that was before my time. I never played with slingshots or even tin cans. So I was quite intrigued when I was assigned to do a story on the Philippine Slingshot Federation, a group of “tirador” enthusiasts who want slingshooting to be recognized as a sport in the Philippines.
After a brief introduction online, they gathered a small number of their members and met with us at the Marikina River Parks. There they set up a makeshift shooting range using what looked like a clothes rack and a piece of cloth to catch their orange rubber targets and steel balls.
One of their founding members, Rembrandt del Monte, showed me his custom slingshot made from beautifully crafted wood. Apparently, he and other founding members have been creating bespoked tiradors for fellow enthusiasts. I am quite impressed with the quality and design of the slingshots, which I think are definitely world-class. They said it’s hard to keep up with the demand (and I’m guessing it’s even harder now that more people are signing up for membership after watching our report for Bandila). I hope they can find a way to make more and eventually export them.
Talking to and watching Rembrandt and the other members made me realize that slingshooting is indeed a sport. Looking at them shoot is like watching archers. There are different techniques and different kinds of slingshots. It’s not just child’s play. And the targets are no joke. At one point, Rembrandt showed off his skills by hitting a very thin strand of uncooked spaghetti pasta. You wouldn’t want to be on the receiving end of those steel balls, which can puncture a tin can (their favourite target because of the visible damage and the sound it makes).
Watch my report below to see how cool the sport is. More than that, it has brought together people from all walks of life and of different ages. Members can’t help but smile when I ask them how they feel when they play. It’s a joy that transports them back to their childhood (minus the birds since the group do not advocate using live targets) and it’s been a way for them to bond with their children.
A good point raised by the group is that slingshooting is quite affordable when compared to other shooting sports like archery and target shooting. A professionally-made slingshot with a hundred or so steel balls will set you back by less than a thousand pesos. But I have seen in the Philippine Slingshot Federation’s Facebook group how members are making their own slingshots from the classic y-shaped branches of sturdy trees. Marbles can be used instead of steel balls although members prefer the metal balls for various reasons.
After several interviews, we asked a couple of boys playing in the park to join us. None of them have every used a tirador so they were quite excited when the members started teaching them how to use a slingshot. I’m hoping that the idea of slingshooting as a sport will catch on. It’s definitely good for kids to practice their motor skills and for adults to regain their youth by trying out the sport.
As for me, I have long avoided any sport that involves balls (and other flying objects) because of my poor eyesight and eye-hand coordination (I did try to handle a slingshot but wasn’t confident enough to shoot a target). I might have a better chance shooting stars in my sleep.
More power to the Philippine Slingshot Federation!