THOUSANDS OF PEOPLE roamed around the grounds of Ciudad de Victoria, Bocaue, Bulacan as early as noontime on November 30, 2019. They were there not just because it was a regular holiday, but because they anticipated the 30th Southeast Asian (SEA) Games grand opening ceremony held at the 55,000-seater Philippine Arena.
Despite controversies in the Philippines’ fourth hosting, this year’s marks its first-time being held inside an indoor arena. Filipinos and foreigners both lauded it as historic and memorable.
The show exhibited the Filipino pride through native dance performances by the Ramon Obusan Folkloric Group and students from different universities and colleges across the country. Philippine musical artists including Apl.de.ap, Christian Bautista, KZ Tandingan, Iñigo Pascual, Elmo Magalona, Jed Madela, The TNT Boys, Robert Seña and Ana Fegi also rocked the stage with song numbers, including the 2019 SEA Games theme song We Win as One.
One of the highlights was the parade of athletes from the 11 Southeast Asian countries: Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, East Timor, Brunei, Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar (Burma), Thailand, Vietnam, and the Philippines.
When it was Team Philippines’ turn, Miss Universe 2015 Pia Wurtzbach walked down the stage as muse, leading the 1,868 Filipino athletes and officials. The large Filipino crowd cheered and waved their Philippine flaglets while singing along with the OPM classic Manila.
Alongside Brunei’s Sultan and Prime Minister Hassanal Bolkiah was President Rodrigo Duterte who surely enjoyed the vibe when he admirably danced to the music and waved to the athletes with a fatherly gesture.
Another remarkable segment was the appearance of eight Philippine legends in the sports industry. Efren “Bata” Reyes, four-time Eight-ball world champion; Mansueto “Onyok” Velasco, two-time SEA Games gold medalist for boxing and Olympic silver medalist; Bong Coo, four-time Ten-pin Bowling world champion; Rafael “Paeng” Nepomuceno, six-time bowling world champion; Lydia de Vega Mercado, Asia’s Fastest Woman for eight years; Akiko Thompson-Guevarra, seven-time SEA games gold medalist; 15-time SEA Games gold medalist for swimming Eric Buhain; and Alvin Patrimonio, SEA Games gold medalist for basketball. They all took the center-stage to carry the SEA Games Federation flag in the flag-bearing ceremony.
Saving the best for last, the 2019 SEA Games officially unfolded as Manny “Pacman” Pacquiao passed the torch to world boxing champion Nesthy Petecio, before they both set the 50 million peso cauldron aglow together on a pre-recorded video. Upon the cauldron-lighting ceremony, a huge fireworks display illuminated the sky in New Clark City, Capas, Tarlac.
Witnessing this historic event brought the feeling of immense Filipino pride. It brought the same nostalgic feeling whenever families and friends gather around to watch Manny Pacquiao’s boxing match—the strong desire for the Philippines, our own country, to win. And in the 2019 SEA Games, with its hosting and medals collected, the Philippines indeed won again.