A post SEA Games reckoning
INTROSPECTIVE - Tony F. Katigbak (The Philippine Star) - December 3, 2019 - 12:00am

The Philippines hosting the Sea Games for 2019 has certainly been one intriguing story. It could be the plotline for a movie quite honestly. From the moment we agreed to this huge undertaking to all the pre-plans made to many of them falling through to athletes sleeping on the floor and so much more, it has all the stuff of an exciting drama.

It was quite unfortunate that that was how it all began. But despite the hiccups and the snafus (some of which were quite a big deal), what mattered the most and what still matters the most as the games continue is that we unite as one in support of our Filipino athletes. This is a very big deal for them and we need to show them our support.

That was one of the stronger sentiments on social media in the past several days and thankfully it’s a more positive one. There has been enough of a spotlight on all the things that were mishandled and could have been done better and its time to focus on what really matters – the games. Our over 1,400 strong contingent of athletes has worked to get here and they should be our focus.

And after a very strong SEA Games opening ceremonies it seems as if, for the most part, the tide of sentiment has turned. People felt the Filipino spirit and pride in our athletes and our country surged. Indeed, it was a feast for the eyes and the ears and we couldn’t help but feel “proud to be Filipino.” So it’s that feeling we should hold on to in the coming days and as we cheer on our Filipino athletes.

I am very happy that we have been collecting several gold, silver, and bronze medals already in the past few days. Inspiring wins like those in gymnastics, wushu, and our first-ever gold in arnis make me extremely proud of what these hardworking athletes have already achieved and excited to see them achieve more.

Despite everything that has happened in the past several days, at the very least they kept their heads focused on what really mattered – the win. As the rest of the games unfold, let’s be sure to give them the support they so richly deserve.

And it’s not just the athletes actually that deserve a round of applause. Ever since some of the mishaps of the SEA Games started getting widespread attention in the news and on social media, many Filipinos in the government and even private sector have stepped up to lend a helping hand in any way they can. This outpouring of support is incredible and just goes to show that we definitely can work together and if we do, there is nothing we can’t achieve. “We win as one” indeed!

So hats off to the Filipinos who chose to look past all the bad press pervading their newsfeeds and do something about it. And at the same time – hats off to the workers who are making it happen day in and day out for these games, our athletes, and our country. There are so many people working behind the scenes and around the clock to make sure things keep going. To the construction workers, the hotel staff, the cooks, the dishwashers, and everyone else – we are all in this together.

However, that doesn’t mean there should not be a reckoning when the games are done. There were still several glaring mishaps and these should not be swept under the rug just because we were able to pull it off. It’s still important that the money is properly accounted for and that those who made errors are held accountable.

This is when the complaints become proactive. It’s not just about spewing vitriol on social media or sharing “clickbait” headlines meant to lure you in with just the right wording on the last “fail”. It’s really about finding solutions, ways to make things happen, and about holding people accountable.

Even President Duterte said he wanted to look closer at the SEA Games mishandling of certain events. He publicly apologized to the countries whose teams were made to wait for hours, sleep on the floor, and eat meals that were well below their nutritional requirements. He said that there is going to be accountability and from his tone, it appears as though heads will roll. We need to make sure these are the right heads.

We all know how easily blame is passed on in the Philippines and if anyone should have to answer for these issues it should be the person at the very top. It doesn’t matter if you say you delegated tasks to others and they are the ones that made mistakes – you were still responsible for them and that makes you liable.

We shouldn’t question just the middlemen or the workers this time around, but the ones who were really in charge. They should have remained on top of things, despite funneling responsibilities off to different teams. I can only hope that is what happens – if it happens. Another thing we are known to do in the Philippines – quickly forget. Hopefully not this time.

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