The Philippines finally opened the gates to the 30th SouthEast Asian (SEA) Games last Saturday, November 30. Amid the chatter of discordant dissent, the country steps forward as hosts to thousands of athletes and fans for 11 days of exciting sports action in different venues all over the country. With the theme: “We Win As One”, the country puts on display the diversity and unity of the southeast Asian community of nations, and tries to erase the image of years of sports decadence and dishonor, with a goal of winning more than a hundred gold medals for this edition of the regional games.
The grand opening ceremony was held at the huge Philippine Arena in Bocaue, Bulacan. It was graced by no less than President Rodrigo Duterte, with the Sultan of Brunei, His Majesty Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah as special guest. And despite some negativity and uncalled-for remarks – local and foreign – the event opener was a smashing success; with a bevy of stars lending their hands to spice up the festivities. Some of the musical artists who performed before the jampacked crowd at the Arena were Jed Madela, the TNT Boys, Christian Bautista, Aicelle Santos, Inigo Pascual, Elmo Magalona, KZ Tandingan, Lani Misalucha and Apl.de.ap. And did they wow the crowd!!!
All contingents were given a generous cheer by the appreciative crowd as they entered. But the fans went absolutely wild when the Philippine athletes trooped on stage to the tune of the old-hit ‘Manila’. The hometown crowd just sang and danced along to the tune, rocking the stadium alive. Even President Duterte was seen on the big screen clapping his hands and dancing ever-so- gingerly to the beat. Sen Bato de la Rosa and Sports Adviser Dennis Uy danced merrily at the back of the President, further revving up the crowd.
So dazzling was the song-and-dance extravaganza that many athletes left inspired and hyped up for their games in the days ahead. Indeed, it was a good send-off for our Filipino athletes as they prepare to do battle in the next few days.
Today, Sunday December 1, the clash of regional sports heroes will commence in sports arenas in Metro Manila, Subic, Clark, Binan and Tagaytay. The first event to score a gold medal this Sunday will be triathlon, and Filipino triathletes are favored to give the rest of our contingent a good headstart and another inspiration for the days to come.
But this SEA Games extravaganza has not been without some heartaches as well. As the Games neared, there were still a lot of loose ends, and the unfinished construction and activities remained a big concern. The country had taken on the task of hosting the Games at short notice, taking over from Brunei, which had begged off for logistical reasons. It took a heroic effort from the Philippine Sports Commission (PSC) to bail out the Philippine SEA Games Organizing Committee (PHISGOC). But in the end, all went well. And this was proven with the pomp, the magnificence, the splendor on display in the opening ceremonies.
Today, the Games begin. Let us go to the gym and cheer for the home team. Let us cheer for all the participants and show our visitors the great hospitality we have always been known for. Let’s celebrate the oneness. Let’s carry our pride and nationalism up our sleeves. Let’s go, Philippines!!! We win as one!!!
Featured photo courtesy of Inquirer.net. Other pics courtesy of ABS-CBN News, CNN Philippines, Xinhuanet.com, The Summit Express, CNA, Business Mirror, The Strait Times.