Pinoys in Barong draw attention in Rio flag-raising rites
Abac Cordero (The Philippine Star) - August 4, 2016 - 12:00am

RIO DE JANEIRO – The Filipinos stood tall in their native “barong.”

While delegates from four other nations came to the flag-raising ceremony in track suits and shorts, the Filipinos were dressed to kill, arriving at the Olympic Plaza in their national costume.

Immediately, the Pinoys made heads turn.

Delegates from other countries kept asking about their “barong,” telling the Filipinos, from the officials to the athletes, how pleasing they were. One asked where he could get one.

The formal flag-raising inside the Athletes Village are done in batches, and the Filipinos were grouped Tuesday with delegates from Japan, Panama, Denmark and Antigua and Barbuda.

The mayor of the Athletes Village, two-time Olympic medalist Janeth Arcain of Brazil, welcomed the delegates as dancers in leafy costumes provided the festive atmosphere.

Arcain, who won Olympic medals in women’s basketball, said the Olympics “is all about fair play” and said the delegates should consider Brazil their home.

“Our home is your home,” she said.

One by one, the flags were raised and the national anthems played. The Philippines was third in line after Panama and Denmark.

The flag of the International Olympic Committee was also raised during the one-hour event that took place under a cool Brazilian weather.

Arcain spoke about the importance of sports, and how “it brings people together.”

As the Philippine national anthem was played, the athletes, led by weightlifter Hidilyn Diaz and Marestella Torres, who are both in their third straight Olympics, and the officials, headed by chef-de-mission Jose Romasanta and Julian Camacho, held their hands to their chest.

After the singing of the national anthems, loud music filled the air. Filipino official Col. Jeff Tamayo broke the ice and took the floor, doing a tribal dance.

He was applauded.

The delegates were then led off, and the Philippine delegation went straight to the McDonald’s outlet at the Olympic Plaza for snacks.

Romasanta and Tamayo presented the Athletes Village mayor with a scale model of the Philippine jeepney. They received gifts in return.

It was Romasanta’s idea for the Filipinos to come in their “barong.”

He said he noticed that in recent flag-raising ceremonies, whether it’s in the SEA Games, Asian Games or the Olympics, Filipinos would come as they were, some in track suits, others came in suits.

“It’s like we were not treating the event seriously and formally. It’s the raising of the Philippine flag and we should represent our flag the way we should,” he said.

The Filipinos, who arrived here on July 23, were formally welcomed.

“It started officially the entry and participation of the Philippine delegation in this Rio Olympics,” said Romasanta.

“Now everybody knows that they’re a part of it – from the athletes to the officials. The next thing now is for them to compete,” he said.

“Definitely we made an impression in treating this as something very important. We showed everybody our national costume,” said Romasanta.

Romasanta said he knew that Tamayo was up to something good.

“We were very formal and at the same time we were festive,” said the chef-de-mission.

“We stole the show,” he added.

The Filipinos stood tall.

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