Jason Paolo Telles is a PhD candidate at the School of Media, Film and Journalism, Faculty of Arts, Monash University, Australia. His research interests are critical media histories, ecomedia, sports communication, and indigenous media. He is a co-editor of Environment, Media, and Popular Culture in Southeast Asia (Springer 2022) and editor of the forthcoming anthology Indigenous Media and Popular Culture in the Philippines (Palgrave MacMillan). He is the founder of the Southeast Asian Media Studies Association, an international community of academics actively committed to the study of the media of Southeast Asian nations and peoples. E-mail: jason.telles@monash.edu


Displacement of Nature and Indigenous People in the 39th SEA Games in the Philippines: Towards an Ecocriticism of Sport Mega-Events

Abstract: Sport mega-events are significant international events that attract a multitude of participants and audiences worldwide. Such events cause significant negative environmental impacts. This paper argues that the hosting of sport mega-events and their environmental impacts reflect a host country’s hegemonic view of, and relationship with nature and its indigenous people (IP). It focuses on the case of the 39th Southeast Asian (SEA) Games hosted by the Philippines in 2019, which aimed to sanitize the country’s reputation and showcase the Philippines’ hospitality and vibrant culture to a global audience. However, the construction of the athletics stadium in Tarlac caused the displacement of nature and the Aeta indigenous people from their ancestral lands. Using an ecocritical lens, the paper analyzes the narratives and images produced by Philippine media and official government documents shaping the discourses surrounding the SEA Games. It argues that the displacement of nature and the Aetas reflects the country’s exploitative approach to nature and its IP. This approach reflects a worldview that privileges the needs and interests of dominant groups while marginalizing and erasing other/othered voices and experiences. This study foregrounds the interconnections between sport mega-events, nature, and indigenous people, highlighting the need for a critical rethinking of the ways in which these events are conceptualized, planned, and executed. A critical ecocriticism of sport mega-events can provide a framework for analyzing the complex interplay between nature, culture, and sport, offering a more holistic and inclusive approach to the planning and execution of sport mega-events.
Keywords: SEA Games, Philippines, indigenous people, displacement, sports