Being recognized by the Philippine Olympic Committee as a member national sports association will go a long way to boosting the profile of pole dancing, said long-time practitioner Ciara Sotto.
"We've been wanting the whole Philippines to recognize and join and respect the sport that we love and very passionate about," Sotto said in an interview on "Sports on Air" recently.
She is the president of the Philippine Pole and Aerial Sports Association.
"We want to share it's not just with women and men, too."
Pole dance combines dance and acrobatics centered on a vertical pole. This performance art has recently gained popularity as a mainstream form of fitness, practiced by many enthusiasts at gyms and dedicated dance studios.
PPASA also covers aerial dancing, which involves acrobatic moves that incorporates apparatus attached to the ceiling.
"Hindi siya bastos, kasi art nga siya and sport," said Sotto, who picked up the sport years ago while staying in the US.
"Hindi ako tatagal doon kung walang endurance, o strength training na nangyari . . . We wouldn't be able to stay inverted if we didn't train for it, like any other sport."
Sotto said she tried pole dancing in 2009 to keep her weight in check while preparing for a musical production in Las Vegas.
"I came across a studio near the condo where I was staying, sabi ko ito na lang talaga. I hate going to the gym talaga, I don't do treadmill," Sotto said, acknowledging that her father, Senate President Vicente "Tito" Sotto III, was skeptical initially.
"At first medyo iffy siya, but I guess he got used to it.
"They never stopped me naman from teaching and sharing my talent with others, they're very supportive and now they're very happy na narecognize ang sport."
For her part, PPASA vice president Ayjell Acejas said pole dancing requires more than just being sexy while standing beside a pole.
"Just like any other sport, you have to train to progress. You train your muscle, you train your endurance to be able lift your whole body. With aerial mas mahirap siya compared sa pole kasi the whole time you're up in the air, sa pole 'pag napagod ka you can go down in a routine," Acejas said.
There was even a time when she did pole dancing while pregnant, proving how fit she is, but she acknowledged it's not something she would recommend.
Sotto said it took them 2 years to get the PPASA recognized by the POC.
"I guess nakita naman nila it's really a sport . . . Physically, mentally it's really challenging especially beginners, even us instructors it's still challenging for us," she said.
With this development, Sotto's group said it could get financial support from the government for athletes competing abroad.
The recognition also means a big push for the International Pole Sports Federation, which is working to get into the Olympics.
"They need at least 40 member countries bago ma-recognize ang sport sa Olympics," she said.
Acejas said pole dancing can really be addictive for fitness enthusiasts because of challenging routines.
"You do one trick, tapos hindi mo pa siya ma nail on that day. Tomorrow babalik ka ulit to do it again, and finally you look pretty doing the trick, then you come back again to learn new tricks," she said.
Sotto agreed, adding that accomplishing tricks can do wonders to one's confidence.
"It's very empowering you'll be surprised. Like me, I'm scared of heights but then when I'm pole dancing I forget that really I'm top already ang taas na pala ng inakyat ko... it feels that you've conquered something that not not an ordinary girl or human being could," she said.
But to reach that point, an enthusiast will have to do something first.
"Respect the sport, respect the pole," she said.
(For more sports coverage, visit the ABS-CBN Sports website).