"For now, Cayetano will get a temporary relief from any inquiry so as not to distract Filipino athletes from focusing on their performance."
After initial lapses in transportation, accommodations and food service, host Philippines redeemed itself in a world class opening ceremony of the 30th Southeast Asian Games. Starting with the singing of the Philippine national anthem by song diva Lani Misalucha inside the cavernous Philippine Arena which can hold a 54,000 crowd capacity, we knew we were in for an evening of enthralling songs and dance numbers from the country’s top entertainers.
Christian Bautista, Jed Madela and Robert Sena entertained the locals and foreign delegates with the best in Filipino talent. The various athletic delegations marched on the wide stage of the Iglesia ni Cristo venue in Sta. Maria, Bulacan, the first time athletic delegations did so indoor.
Filipino boxing icon Manny Pacquiao lit the SEA Games Torch from the bottom of the P50-million cauldron Organizing Chairman Alan Peter Cayetano commissioned. President Rodrigo Duterte insisted there’s no hint of corruption in Cayetano’s expensive cauldron.
The official barong tagalog designed by Francis Libiran was strikingly elegant with its red and blue collar and sun burst embroidery from the shoulder to the left breast part.
In an early surge of medal harvest, the Philippines dominated many of the events like 3x 3 men’s and women’s basketball, gymnastics, arnis, and of course women’s weightlifting topped by Olympic silver medalist Hidilyn Diaz. Her biggest dream is to win for the Philippines its first Olympic gold medal in the event.
We cannot give the total number of medal haul the Philippines took as it is still a work in progress. So far, the country has won 30 medals in gold, silver and bronze in the first two days of competition. But expect the other countries like Vietnam, Thailand and Indonesia to catch up in other events where they excel. Typhoon “Tisoy,” however, forced the shelving of some of the events scheduled in the next two days.
I expect the Philippines to win the men’s basketball championship given that powerhouse South Korea, China and Taiwan are not included in this exclusively Southeast Asian athletic competition.
Some of the other events will be held in Bulacan, Subic, Pampanga, La Union and Laguna. Motorists should take note of the traffic flow in these areas as they would be surely tight. Last minute repairs and renovation at the historic Rizal Memorial sports complex are still being done. Other basketball competitions will be held at the Mall of Asia Arena and Araneta Coliseum.
While President Rodrigo Duterte believes in the honesty of Cayetano as far as the Games expenses are concerned, the House will still hold an inquiry on Speaker Cayetano’s fund disbursements for the regional event.
For now, Cayetano will get a temporary relief from any inquiry so as not to distract Filipino athletes from focusing on their performance and come out overall winner. Vietnam, which emerged victorious from two major wars against the French and the Americans, looms as the next Asian sports powerhouse particularly in track and field competitions.
Will the Philippines regain its top place in medal standings? That depends on a well-rounded athletic program in schools in Metro Manila and the provinces plus training under skilled local and foreign coaches.
Other countries in the region draw from the experience of foreign coaches to develop their athletes’ competitiveness.
The Philippines is too concentrated on basketball when we can excel in other events where height is not a factor like football, tennis and boxing where athletes fight according to weight categories.
It would be a resurgence of athletic prowess if we can come up again with names like Lydia de Vega in track, and Rafael Nepomuceno and Bong Coo in bowling.
Fencing and arnis are two other events Filipinos have a chance of winning gold medals. Thailand and Vietnam would be strong rivals in this competition.