Want to skate like Michael Martinez? Prepare to spend

By Karen Flores, ABS-CBNnews.com

Posted at Mar 05 2014 10:32 AM | Updated as of Mar 05 2014 11:51 PM

The newest skating rink in Manila is located at the SM Mega Fashion Hall in Mandaluyong City. Photo by Karen Flores, ABS-CBNnews.com

MANILA – It seems that the success of Olympic figure skater Michael Martinez is trickling down to skating rinks in the country, with more people expressing interest in learning about the sport this summer.

Al Mariñas, one of the Filipino coaches who first taught Martinez how to skate, made this observation as he and his colleagues have been getting more students shortly after his ward’s stint at the Winter Olympics in Russia.

Mariñas said he currently handles 15 students at the newly launched ice skating rink at the SM Mega Fashion Hall in Mandaluyong City, with the number continuing to rise.

The peak season for ice skating in the country usually starts on the second week of March as students go on vacation and ends on the first week of June, when school starts.

“Puro one-on-one [ang tinuturuan ko]. Tapos ngayon may mga dumadagdag because of Michael Martinez. Parang maraming nagta-try ng ice skating at nage-enroll. So nadadagdagan kami ng estudyante. And it’s good for the business,” he told ABS-CBNnews.com.

Since it is a tropical country, the Philippines is not gifted with natural ice skating rinks. To date, only three indoor spaces dedicated to the activity can be found in Manila, and all these are operated by SM malls.

Mega Fashion Hall and SM Mall of Asia in Pasay City have Olympic-sized ice skating rinks, while the one at SM Southmall is ideal for recreational ice skaters.

According to SM Skating Rink senior manager Raymund Retumban, the indoor spaces for ice skating were suggested by no less than SM founder Henry Sy Sr. in 1992.

“It was actually unplanned because as you have noticed, the skating rink at SM Megamall, which was built 22 years ago, has a pillar in the middle. It’s a sudden plan, a suggestion by Tatang (Sy), who wanted to have an ice skating rink at SM Megamall,” Retumban recalled.

When asked why he thinks the other malls have not followed suit, Retumban said: “It takes a lot to maintain an indoor skating rink… It requires a lot of resources, equipment and energy, and not everyone has that.”

Paying the price

Those who want to try their hand at moving on ice may avail of a “day pass” at SM Skating Rink which is priced at P300 for weekdays, and P390 for weekends. The amount only covers skate rental and does not include coaches’ fees, which means they get to learn ice skating on their own.

Those who get a day pass may use one of these ice skates. Photo by Karen Flores, ABS-CBNnews.com

For a basic skating lesson, which consists of six 30-minute sessions spread over two weeks, prepare to shell out P2,500 to more than P3,000. Here, coaches teach their students about skating principles as well as a handful of techniques.

At the end of the program is a test, with certificates given to those who pass.

“You can actually fail the test which is conducted by a different coach,” Retumban said. “It’s a practical test. But most of them pass.”

Beyond the basic lessons are the freestyle sessions, which are usually taken by those who want to compete in figure skating competitions such as Martinez. According to Retumban, one to two years' worth of training can cost as much as P75,000 a month.

“Some even defer their studies or shift to home school to train,” Retumban said. “They have skating lessons four times a week, then they practice on their own, so they get a day pass.”

Since training can burn a hole in one’s pocket, Mariñas admitted that some of his former students have given up on their dream of becoming competitive figure skaters because of lack of financial support.

“Hopefully ‘yung pagiging uso ng ice skating ngayon hindi siya ‘yung hype lang,” he said. “Ang hirap kasi rito, ‘yung financial eh, ‘yun ang nagiging problema eh. Kasi ‘yung previous years meron akong mga skater na talagang promising at talented, pero because of lack of financial support hindi na natutuloy.”

Six freestyle sessions with one coach at SM Skating Rink costs around P4,300, said Mariñas, noting that the amount can easily go up as some students hire more than one coach.

“Meron akong isang student, she has six coaches. So that’s P4,300 per coach,” he said. “Aside from me na general, meron pa siyang spinning coach, jump coach, sa edges and footwork, sa choreography at off-ice and gymnastics.”

Trainings abroad, he added, are a totally different story.

“Kapag sa abroad ka nagte-train, ang coach ay $100 to $150 per hour. Eh kung sa isang araw, ilan ang coach mo? So ang gastos talaga,” said Mariñas, who shared that he used to accompany Martinez to his training sessions in other countries.

Despite these challenges, however, Mariñas is optimistic that more Filipinos can make it big when it comes to figure skating, citing Martinez as an example.

He also hopes that scholarships will soon be offered to deserving figure skaters, adding that private companies and wealthy individuals can do their share in supporting local talent.

“Sana makakuha sila ng mga sponsors,” he ended.