The Philippines' delegation to the 30th Southeast Asian Games makes its entrance.
STAR/Kris John Rosales
30th SEA Games ushered in to grand rites, fireworks
Dante Navarro (Philstar.com) - November 30, 2019 - 9:52pm

BOCAUE, Bulacan – The 30th Southeast Asian Games unveiled in a not-so-surprising “pre-taped” crackling burst and explosion of fireworks and the flashing of the much-awaited, much-hyped lighting of the cauldron at the New Clark City in Capas, Tarlac on the giant screen here as the Philippines welcomed sporting countries from the region to herald the start of the biennial meet at the 55,000-seater Philippine Arena.

Boxing legend Manny Pacquiao passed the torch to world women’s boxing champion Nesthy Petecio before the duo lit the cauldron on the screen as if it was done all the way to the NCC Sports Complex which is 90kms away from here, ushering in the Games and capping a night of glitz and pomp watched by a packed crowd and many more at the comfort of their homes.

After the cauldron was slit onscreen, a bar on the ceiling lit up and began bursting fireworks on to the stage, drawing cheers from the crowd.

Organizers had promised a “surprise,” exciting opening number to be capped by the cauldron lighting marking the official start of each SEAG competition. It turned out that the "lighting" had been pre-taped with a video of a pyrotechnic display from the NCC Sports Complex done in one of the pre-event fireworks tests.

Still, the grand rites opened, with dance routines showcasing the cultural diversity of the Philippines, and ended without a hitch or glitch that had marred the run-up to the games with President Duterte, who arrived at the venue via chopper at 6:30 p.m., practically the same time the gates of the vast arena were opened to accommodate the non-ticket holders, declaring the Games open in what could be the briefest speech by a head of state in such opening rites.

“I declare the Southeast Asian Games open for the 30th time. Mabuhay kayong lahat!” said the President after which eight of the country’s sports icons came in with the South East Asian Games Federation flag before it was hoisted by the honor guards.

Earlier, two buses carrying athletes from Laos and Vietnam collided on their way to the arena via NLEX. Windows were shattered but no one was seriously hurt in the accident.

Former Asian track queen Lydia de Vega-Mercado led the country’s former sporting gems, who included seven-time SEAG gold medalist Akiko Thomson-Guevarra, 15-time SEAG gold medal winner Eric Buhain, four-time PBA MVP and SEAG gold medalist Alvin Patrimonio, four-time world bowling titlist Bong Coo, four-time world 8-ball champion Efren “Bata” Reyes, Olympic boxing silver medalist and two-time SEAG gold medal winner Onyok Velasco and six-time world bowl champ Paeng Nepomuceno.

“We live in a world filled with poverty, a world where lies and fake news take center stage, a world where corruption, crime and illegal drugs are destroying the next generation. Yet we look at our athletes and we see strength and wisdom,” said organizing PHISGOC chair and House Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano.

“Today, we stand tall and tell the world that in Southeast Asia, we are disciplined, believes in teamwork and we firmly believe that everyone deserves our respect. Because we believe in God,” he added.

For his part, Philippine Olympic Committee president and Rep. Bambol Tolentino vowed a historic SEAG staging as he joined the whole nation in welcoming the Games delegates, saying: “After 14 years, we are again hosting the SEA Games. With the unwavering support of President Duterte, we are now opening the best and the biggest SEA Games in history.”

Softball’s Francesca Altomonte, representing the athletes, and E-sports Daren Vitug from the judges’ delegation, delivered the oath of sportsmanship.

Hostilities fire off at the break of dawn today in Subic with the Pinoy triathletes fancied to duplicate their 1-2 finishes in both the men’s and women’s divisions in the 2017 Games in Kuala Lumpur.

Forty-seven gold medals are up for grabs in 13 sports in Day One with many sports resuming their preliminary stages at four cluster venues in the event also bracing for a weather disturbance in the next two or three days.

PAGASA said Typhoon Kammuri, which entered PAR (Philippine area of responsibility) Saturday, is expected to gain strength after landfall between Monday evening and Tuesday morning in the Bicol region.

But organizers have assured that contingency plans have been laid out to ensure the continuity of the games, particularly sports scheduled on those days outdoors, including baseball and softball in The Villages in Mabalacat, Pampanga, cycling in Tagaytay, football in Binan and Rizal Memorial stadium, lawn bowls in Tarlac, obstacle race sports in Muntinlupa, polo in Calatagan, Batangas, sailing and windsurfing in Subic, shooting in Lubao, Pampanga, surfing in Olongapo and beach volley in Subic.

All the rest are held indoors.

The typhoon is expected to make its exit on Thursday.

It was an electrifying atmosphere in anticipation of the program’s start with the huge crowd cheering as they saw performers taking position and the honor guard with the Philippine flag walking onto the stage.

The cheers turned into roars as the President and Games' guest Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah of Brunei were introduced, signaling the start of the opening proper that also featured different dances from Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao.

Cellphones captured videos and snap shots of ethnic performances in an instant, appreciating difficult dance moves and the tinikling dance amid a backdrop of colorful native-inspired videos on the giant screen.

Lani Misalucha led the singing of the Philippine National anthem followed by a series of production numbers showcasing the Filipinos’ diverse culture and heritage.

After the countdown, the 11 nations came in alphabetical order (Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Singapore, Thailand, Timor Leste, Vietnam and the Philippines, as host, last to enter, each led by former Filipina beauty queens.

Expectedly, the loudest cheers were reserved for the hosts, who entered the stage with Miss Universe 2015 Pia Wurtzbach, and who came in gyrating to the tune of song “Manila,” written by Filipino band Hotdog in 1976 about love for the Philippine capital with the President gladly accompanying the beat by clapping then waving to the Filipino athletes in a gesture of good luck as the 1,094-strong athletic delegation brace for battle with their regional counterparts in various fronts in the next 11 days.

As the classic song was played many times over, all the others followed suit and danced to the beat, including Sen. Bato dela Rosa, in a highly emotional, inspiring moment for the Filipinos hosting a sporting event of this magnitude for the first time in 14 years.

Robert Seña then sang the award-winning Kay Ganda ng Ating Musika in English version with some fiddling in the chorus part, stressing the beauty of the Philippines with lines of invitations to the Games’ guests to visit the country again in the future.

Other performers were Aicelle Santos, Iñigo Pascual, KZ Tandingan, Elmo Magalona, Ana Fegi, Christian Bautista, Jed Madela, the TNT Boys and Apl.de.ap.

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