MaryAnne Aquino Torres Uyemura was the first female member on the Pepsi Skateboard team in the Philippines from the ages of nine to eleven in the years 1978-1980. She was living in Manila and instantly fell in love with skateboarding.
MaryAnne wrote, “I have an older brother who borrowed a skateboard, and he showed me how to tic tac. Eventually I got into it more than he did. I have two best buddy guy friends who were skateboarding with me… we wanted to be a great trio that toured around Manila to skateboard. We were equally challenged with the tricks we saw in Skateboarder magazine and made sure we did all the freestyle tricks. From 360 degree turns to skateboarding with double decks, high jumping and making our own ramps. All of the above helped me get in Pepsi.” MaryAnne had to audition to be part of the team, and while she was the first girl to join, eventually two other girls became part of the crew.
Pepsi built a skateboard park in Greenhills – the first of its kind. MaryAnne liked the challenge of being on the team and practising on the ramps, both half pipe and quarter pipes. It was a pretty special opportunity going on tour to perform skate clinics and demonstrations at schools in front of loads of spectators, and even receiving team uniforms.
There’s a great photo of the group under the sign, “Have a Pepsi Day!” with MaryAnne singled out at the bottom with the mob of boys above. She said, “I basically toured for Pepsi at the age of 10, maybe I was even 9… I was really very good in freestyle.”
In an article within the TV Times called, “A Sport for the Young and the Daring” (1978), it’s explained how, “the momentum that skateboarding has gained in the Philippines has been due largely to the rivalry between Pepsi Cola and Coca Cola. At the height of their publicity battles last year, the two bottling companies recruited skateboard teams for their promotional campaigns. Coca Cola imported the four-man Canadian skateboard team while Pepsi brought in a Clark Air Base selection.” MaryAnne remembered skating with foreigners from Clark Air Base located on Luzon Island where there was an International School, alongside the Greenhills skater crew.
Skateboarding was a savvy strategy, and Pepsi took it a step further. “Encouraged by the crowd’s enthusiasm during the exhibition, Pepsi organized a local skateboard team in September last year and a Pepsi Skateboard Club in November. The members of the Club were given 15-20% discount on skateboards and gear from outlets… free clinics and further training and free use of skateboard ramps set up by Pepsi.” MaryAnne remembered that the price of a pro skateboard like Sims, Alva, Kryptonics was 1,500 pesos, but the generic set-ups for the kids were only 150 pesos. Apparently, membership at their club surpassed 500 after only a few months and it was estimated that 100,000 people of various ages had witnessed their demos.
MaryAnne was named in the TV Times article and there were times when she stepped out of class there would be kids asking for her autograph. “I had fans.”
In roller-skating there was a popular trick called the “Butterfly” and MaryAnne, along with her neighbourhood buddies, Ricky and Allan converted it to skateboarding as a contribution to the repertoire of tricks the Pepsi team performed. She also mentioned the popularity of the gorilla grip, (before the ollie had been invented) by clinging to your board in bare feet and popping to see who could go the highest.
MaryAnne even got to skate with 1970s child star and skateboard legend Leif Garrett in the Philippines while he was promoting his movie, The Skateboarder. The was likely around December 1979 when he performed a concert in Manila. MaryAnne remembers that the team convinced him to wear their Pepsi uniform.
MaryAnne now lives in Los Angeles and is in her mid-fifties – “I don’t skateboard anymore, but I taught my younger boy and I gave him all skateboards from the era like Alva, Gordon & Smith.” Because of skateboarding, this belief that the impossible was possible was an attitude that MaryAnne carried with her all throughout her life. “Nothing is impossible, just try and try until you succeed.”
It was so wonderful to chat with you MaryAnne – the first female sponsored skateboarder of the Philippines!
Photos: Angelito Silos, Caloy Pangilinan, Vincent Victor
- Uyemura, MaryAnne. Personal interview. February 1, 2023.