Flag Football Flourishes in Cebu A Booming Phenomenon

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As the sun rises over Cebu City in the Philippines, a new sport is capturing the hearts and minds of its citizens: flag football. A booming sport that has been gradually gaining recognition among Cebuanos, flag football is a less physical variant of American football, characterized by the use of flags instead of physical tackles. On August 10, 2023, during an interview for CDN Digital’s Sportstalk episode, some of the city’s most notable players, including John Carmel Esquierdo, a veteran player since 2012 and the current commissioner at the Cebu Flag Football League (CFFL), explained how this emerging sport operates.

Esquierdo, who owns two teams in the league, the RAMS and Cebu Niños, explains that while flag football follows the same rules as American football, it lacks the physicality of the latter. Instead of helmets and pads and the tackling of players, flag football involves players trying to take the flag from the ball carrier. The sport, which is now being played in schools across the city, involves teams of seven to nine players. Esquierdo reminisces about his grade school years when flag football was just beginning to flourish, admitting that he had no idea what he was getting into when he first started playing.

Flag Football Gains Traction in Cebu City

Cebu City, a bustling metropolis in the Philippines, is embracing the rising popularity of flag football, a less physically intense variant of American football. In an interview with CDN Digital’s Sportstalk episode on August 10, 2023, several key players shed light on the sport’s unique features and its growing acceptance among Cebuanos.

Understanding Flag Football

John Carmel Esquierdo, a veteran player since 2012 and the current commissioner at Cebu Flag Football League (CFFL), offers a simple explanation of flag football. Unlike its American counterpart, flag football lacks the physicality, with no helmets, pads, or player tackling. Instead, players are given flags, and the objective is to take the flag from the ball carrier. Notably, the sport accommodates Cebuanos’ love for a little physical contact with slightly tweaked rules. Flag football teams typically consist of 9 players, although 8 or 7-player teams are also common.

From Skepticism to Love for the Game

Esquierdo shares his initial skepticism when he first started playing, admitting he had no clue what he was getting into. However, over time, he fell in love with the game due to its emphasis on camaraderie. He stresses the importance of consistency in team practices and the need for full commitment to the sport.

Women in Flag Football

Katrina San Ramon, another flag football veteran player since 2013, shares her experience in the sport. Despite flag football being predominantly male, she emphasizes the sport’s inclusivity for women. San Ramon poignantly remarks, "You don’t see people looking down at women playing the sport, actually a lot of the players would look up to the women who play the sport."

Opportunities for Beginners

Rookie player Hilde Rosales, who discovered flag football through a friend’s Instagram story, encourages other beginners to explore the sport. Rosales, who plays for Benny’s Bulls, Chargers, and Cebu Niños, was awarded as the best cornerback for the Rookie Cup recently. The CFFL encourages anyone interested in learning more about the sport to reach out and assures a friendly community ready to welcome them.

Upcoming Events

For those interested in witnessing the sport in action, CFFL is organizing a two-day women’s competition on September 16 and 17 at Dynamic Herb Sports Incorporated at Cebu South Coastal Road. A competition for men is also planned for October, with dates yet to be confirmed.


Flag football’s rising popularity in Cebu City is a testament to the sport’s inclusive nature and its appeal to people seeking a less physically intense game. As more Cebuanos embrace the sport, flag football has the potential to become a staple in local sporting events. The experiences of Esquierdo, San Ramon, and Rosales highlight the sport’s appeal, from its emphasis on teamwork to its inclusivity for women. The upcoming competitions are a perfect opportunity for the uninitiated to immerse themselves in the exciting world of flag football.

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