MANILA, Philippines - Gilas Pilipinas’ Japeth Aguilar will lead the Philippine contingent as flag-bearer during the opening parade of the 17th Asian Games in Incheon in September.
The 6-foot-9 cager has been tapped by the chef-de-mission of the Philippine contingent to the quadrennial games.
“If it’s okay with him,” said Philippine Sports Commission chairman and chef-de-mission Richie Garcia yesterday.
But any athlete in his right mind would jump on the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to carry the flag in an international event as huge as the Asian Games.
Bowling icon Paeng Nepomuceno and equestrian champion and now International Olympic Committee representative to the Philippines Mikee Cojuangco Jaworski carried the flag in the previous Asian Games.
In the 2008 Beijing Olympics, boxing superstar Manny Pacquiao served as flag-bearer and in the 1972 Munich Olympics it was basketball player Jimmy Mariano who played the role.
“It’s a rare opportunity. It’s like being the chef-de-mission,” said Philippine Olympic Committee chairman Tom Carrasco.
Aguilar, who played college basketball for Ateneo (2003-2005) and Western Kentucky (2007-2009), is now with the Ginebra Gin Kings in the PBA.
He is part of Gilas Pilipinas which will represent the country in the Asian Games and the FIBA World Cup scheduled later this month in Spain.
Aguilar is currently in Miami with the Gilas squad as they gear up and prepare for the two international events.
Garcia said Aguilar was high on the list when they started looking for the athlete who will carry the flag in the Asian Games opener.
Also considered was Junmar Fajardo, the reigning MVP in the PBA who stands a couple of inches taller than Aguilar.
“I asked a lot of people about who will be good and Japeth’s name keeps on coming up,” said Garcia, who has the blessings of POC chief Jose Cojuangco in making the final choice.
No athlete passes up on this chance.