BOCAUE, Bulacan — The 30th Southeast Asian Games unfolded Saturday to elaborate opening rites before a sea of humanity inside the cavernous 55,000 seat Philippine Arena and millions more worldwide tuned-in to their television sets or are live streaming on social media.
As expected, no other than President Rodrigo Duterte declared the much-anticipated SEA Games open.
And as promised, the opening rites did not fail to deliver and impress the whole world. A bad weather forecast also shied away.
The opening rites showcased a performance that highlighted the beauty of a “united” Philippines and featured a strong thematic thread of inclusivity, from complex warrior dances to the many struggles of the host country’s marginalized sector.
Aside from that, the audience also witnessed the parade of around 8,750 athletes from Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Thailand, Timor Leste, Singapore, and Vietnam.
What also brought the house down, was the lighting of the controversial cauldron by Filipino boxing champions Emmanuel Pacquiao and Nesthy Petecio at the New Clark City.
This is the fourth time the Philippines is hosting the SEA Games for the fourth time. It also served as host in 1981,1991, and 2005 in which the country emerged overall champion.
A total of 19,767 police officers and government personnel have been deployed to ensure the country’s smooth hosting of the prestigious sports event.
The 30th SEA Games will take place from November 30 to December 11 at the newly-built New Clark City Sports Hub in Capas, Tarlac; Subic, Zambales; Laguna; Batangas; Tagaytay; Imus, Cavite; and the newly-renovated Rizal Memorial Sports Complex in Metro Manila.
A total of 530 gold medals will be at stake in 56 sports in the regional sports meet.
The Philippines will have the biggest delegation in the 30th edition of SEA Games, fielding 1,115 athletes and 753 coaches and officials with a hope to land in the top three among the 11 participating nations.
The President has sought the granting of additional incentives to Filipino athletes who will win medals in the 30th SEA Games on top of the cash bonanza provided by law, in a bid to encourage them to compete well.
House Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano, chair of the Philippine Southeast Asian Games Organizing Committee, announced on Friday the free public viewing for the majority of the SEA Games sports events, except basketball, volleyball, and football.
Asia’s Nightingale Lani Misalucha led the singing of the Philippine National Anthem, followed by a four-part production, complete with song and dance numbers performed by Filipino celebrities.
Filipino-American rapper Allan Pineda Lindo, popularly known as apl.de.ap, along with musical artists Christian Bautista, Aicelle Santos, Jed Madela, KZ Tandingan, Robert Seña, Ana Fegi, Iñigo Pascual, Elmo Magalona, and the TNT Boys performed a medley of songs, including the 2018 SEA Games theme song, “We Win as One.”
And it could have been a perfect national performance had not Broadway star Lea Salonga, the voice behind the SEA Games official theme song, opted to miss the event owing to an alleged Sweeny Todd performance abroad.
Dancers from the Ramon Obusan Folkloric Group, as well as student performers from different colleges and universities nationwide, also entertained the crowd. (IAMIGO/CNS)